Tennis community rallies behind beloved coach Steve Parker

Tennis community rallies behind beloved coach Steve Parker

After the longtime Washington D.C. area instructor suffered a stroke, a GoFundMe campaign was soon launched to help with his severe, uphill battle.

For 34 years, Steve Parker has been a USTPA pro, with the bulk of that time spent positively impacting the Washington D.C. area through his tennis teachings and warm persona. Now, the people he’s touched over the years are rallying behind the beloved instructor, who is facing his biggest opponent to date.

On March 30, Parker enjoyed a friendly hit with his brother Collin and returned home, only to be unreachable for the next several days. After family members grew concerned, Collin and brother David discovered their sibling had collapsed, the result of a middle cerebral artery stroke. While there’s uncertainty surrounding when the stroke occurred, his family knows valuable time slipped away in addressing the damage, magnified by the fact the COVID-19 pandemic removed Parker from his normal teaching schedule due to local tennis court closures.

At the time of the stroke, Parker did not own health or disability insurance, and is receiving ongoing inpatient occupational, physical, and speech therapy at a rehabilitation center. Doctors first established that Parker had lost the use of his right side and was unable to speak, and with the current coronavirus climate, is unable to have visitors come by for vital encouragement during the recovery process. Gary Kessler, who has taken lessons with Parker, launched a GoFundMe page that has since raised more than $100,000.

“To spend an hour on the tennis court with Steve is to know him a lifetime. Students come to Steve to learn a game, and they leave with a lifelong friend,” Kessler wrote on the fundraising page, where he set a goal of reaching $150,000.

“No matter if you are Steve’s first lesson of the day or his last after many hours on the court, Steve meets you with a big smile and genuine interest in you and your family. Anyone who has played on a court anywhere close to Steve has heard his billowing laugh. It is as infectious as it is genuine.”

Steve Parker's GoFundMe page

Tennis Channel’s Brett Haber, who resides in the D.C. metro area with his family, echoed Kessler’s sentiment on Thursday.

“Steve is one of those guys you dream about having in your community. Everybody knows him and loves him,” said Haber. “When he’s teaching, you can hear his contagious laugh from like five courts away. His energy and positively are infectious to all the kids he teaches. I know this, because Steve has taught my son for the last four years.”

In addition to health expenses, the campaign’s funds will also aid in continued therapy, home help assistance and medical equipment.