As Ken Sumrow celebrates his 40th year as Director of Tennis for High Point Tennis Center this month, the former tennis coach for Plano Senior High School took a few moments to reflect on his career as the contracted tennis pro for Plano Parks and Recreation. Here’s what he had to tell us:
Plano PARD: When did you start working at High Point Tennis Center?
KS: I was hired in June 1977. At the time, I was a high school coach at Plano Senior High and in the summertime I would work for Plano Parks & Recreation offering summer camps (at the local high schools). There was a bond election in the mid-‘70s that included approved funds to build the tennis center. At the time I was hired, the facility was under construction. It opened on Feb. 1, 1978.
Plano PARD: Tennis has been an integral part of your life. What do you enjoy most about it?
KS: Tennis is a game that’s good for you—it’s good for you both mentally and socially. Racquet sports in general can be very beneficial for you as you age. It’s one of the best sports for mentally staying engaged as you age. However, it’s healthy and fun for people of all ages; it’s a very mental game.
Plano PARD: What have you enjoyed the most about being part of this facility and the Plano PARD family in general?
KS: One of the things I’m most proud of is the diversity of players we have bene able to attract over the years. We have a senior group of men play a couple of times a week, we have a lot of women who play here and we also provide instruction to kids of all ages. Our summer camps are coming up and those always attract a lot of families. The reception has been amazing really. Our courts are packed in the evenings and weekends.
I think our biggest strength here at High Point is our instruction—we introduce tons of people to tennis. We give them a path to develop as a player, from group lessons and junior development programs all the way to sectional and national rankings for juniors. For adults, we offer group and private lessons that can lead them to league, team and tournament play at all levels. That’s what over the years we’ve always tried to do and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that.
Plano PARD: In 1991, you and your wife started the Children Helping Children Junior Singles Tennis Tournament benefitting Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. How did that idea come about and how much of an impact has it had on the local community?
KS: Our son was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 5 and, after going through a long process of treatment at Children’s Medical Center, my wife and I felt like we needed to give back. Since Children Helping Children began we have raised about $3.2 million, which goes to the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Medical Center. This year the tournament will take place Sept. 23-24 here at High Point.
There are a lot of people involved—staff, players, parents—it’s truly a grassroots type thing. The main way we raise money, for example, is by encouraging kids to collect pledges. So I give much of the credit for the tournament’s success to all the people who make it possible. It’s a great feeling.
Plano PARD: Do you have plans for retiring?
KS: We will be starting a renovation project here, hopefully in late 2018 just in time for the facility’s 40th birthday. I would like to see that project through. I’ll retire in a few years, but I like to work and I look forward to coming to work. Plus, I love the game so much I know that if I retire I’ll probably be back here anyway (laughing).