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Tennis.com Podcast featuring Michael Parks: A family's unconventional trip to the tennis mountaintop
Alycia Parks is one of the most dynamic young players in world. Meet the father who would not let her dreams be denied.
Published Sep 23, 2023
There is no singular blueprint for a tennis parent. The terrain is filled with likeminded people who want the same goal for their children, but the odds are slim of reaching the summit. Michael Parks knows all about the cutthroat life of competitive sports. The former pro basketball player understands what it takes to get to that level, and just how hard that chosen path is. He raised two children with his wife Erica, and they took a liking to this foreign game with a racquet.
Several decades later, one of those girls grew up to be a Top 40 tennis player in the world, with a lot more potential in her future. Alycia Parks has arrived on the scene like a shooting star, and her father joined Kamau Murray on the Tennis.com Podcast to discuss the parts of the journey that the world did not witness.
The first logical question that Murray asks Parks, a man of athletic prowess, is how the family caught the contagious tennis bug. Was it a Richard Williams situation, where a visionary sees the potential for glory and wealth through the sport?
Not in the slightest, the patriarch explained.
“They played everything. Basketball, swimming, they were good at pretty much any sport,” Parks recalled. “They made As and Bs (in school), and so my wife took them to the toy store. And Alycia, of course, it takes her forever to find out what she wants. So when she made good grades, my wife went there and bought tennis racquets.”
It was a simple case of love at first sight, as both Alycia and her sister Mikayla were hooked.
Both girls showed promise early, but it was Alycia who showed the potential for greatness. She grew to be over 6-feet tall, had the desire to improve each day, and never grew tired of the effort it took to pursue her dreams.
But as Murray and Parks both point out, it always takes a village to raise a tennis player. Just as Serena and Venus Williams had each other, all members of the Parks family had a crucial role in the development of the future pro.
"I think that was the biggest thing for Alycia to become a professional. Because you had Mikayla to hit fast, Erica [her mom] to switch it up, and we got out there and sometimes played three against one," Parks explained.
The entire family, Alycia especially, gives credit to the sister that was always there for her as a hitting partner and best friend. And their proud father summed it up best: "With a sibling, it means the world."
His daughter’s entry into big time tennis was not easy, and Parks is very open about the roadblocks and adversity faced along the way. Yet in that same vein, he is quick to praise the people that helped and offered advice. Coaches like Rodney Harmon, Scott Beard and Rick Macci devoted their time when they didn’t have to, and for that Parks remains grateful.
Despite the difficulties in the journey, Alycia Parks is still just 22 years old, with a singles and doubles title to her name and closing in on more career milestones each week. The family has more financial freedom as a result of her success, which will enable the unit to really put valuable resources into that special game.
Faith is a common bond that every member shares, and where the elder Parks directs all of his credit.
“God will provide you everything that you need. If you pray, if you put him first, I guarantee you he will line people up for you to reach where you’re at," he said. "But if you try to think you’ve done it yourself, you’re in trouble. Especially in this game.”
Michael Parks continues to be a driving force in his daughter’s life, and his commitment to her best interests remains unmatched. He’s dedicated his life to her career goals, while also allowing some true tennis experts to transfer knowledge without impediment.
This podcast features some tremendous insight into how the Parks family, as unified group, has joined the elites of the tennis world. By the looks of it, they’re not going anywhere.