When Parris Todd was not quite 6 years old, she asked her parents for a tennis racquet.
Charles and Angela Todd were surprised. The request seemed odd. Neither of them played tennis.
Yet there they were less than two years later, taking Parris to the prestigious Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida.
After a day of hitting there, the request suddenly seemed to make sense.
“The first night we came back, we had dinner and she was like, ‘OK, let’s go hit again,’” Charles Todd recalled. “I was like, ‘You trained all day, you want to go hit again?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go.’
“That was the time that I knew that she really wanted to do it. My whole thing was that I wanted to take her down there and kind of test her, and within the first day she had already passed the test and then some. I had a revelation — this is what this girl’s going to do with her life. At that point, I knew as a father, and as a family, that this is what we’re going to be doing with our child.”
Things have happened quickly for Parris, an Irvine resident who just turned 14 earlier this month. She is an alternate for the Orange County Breakers. That too came quickly for Parris, who was hitting at UC Irvine earlier this summer when Anna-Lena Groenefeld of the Breakers didn’t have someone to hit with.
Coach Trevor Kronemann asked Parris to step in. The next day, he called her on the phone.
“I just kept up so well that he asked me to be on the team,” Parris Todd said. “It’s a great experience, just seeing the level [of play] and being able to support them.”
Parris has been on the team for all of the Breakers’ home matches this season. They have three more this week at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center, starting with Wednesday night against Sacramento.
Yes, she is young. If she gets into a match, she would set a league record for the youngest participant in World Team Tennis history. But her job supporting her teammates, including former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, is no less important.
Prior to Monday’s match, Parris warmed up her teammate, the 2011 NCAA singles champion Jana Juricova. Juricova proceeded to win in women’s singles and doubles as the Breakers beat Springfield, 24-17.
Kronemann said he is impressed with Parris’ professionalism. After all, the Breakers are a professional sports franchise.
“She’s 14 years old, and she’s coming out here and acting like a professional,” Kronemann said. “At 5 o’clock, here comes the team, and Parris has been here 15 minutes warming up and getting ready to go. She may or may not get to play, but that’s what you want to see out of people.
“That’s really like five years of coaching, just to be around it and be involved with it. She’s hitting with Lindsay Davenport. Those are life-changing moments.”
How young is Parris? She said she doesn’t really remember watching Davenport play, because that was a bit before her time. Her favorite player growing up has been former Breaker Maria Sharapova. Parris has similar aspirations as both of those superstars; her ultimate goal is to be ranked No. 1 in the world one day.
Parris appears to be on that path. She is sponsored by Adidas and Prince, as well as her father’s sports drink company SportStix. She was ranked No. 1 nationally in the girls’ 12s when she was still just 11. In Southern California, she is now highly ranked by the United States Tennis Assn. in three age-group categories, as she’s No. 24 in the 14s, No. 27 in the 16s and No. 37 in the 18s. That 14s ranking is remarkable, especially when Charles said his daughter has not played in the 14s for almost a year now.
She also has won big tournaments. Three of them have been women’s open tournaments, including the Adoption Guild in Newport Beach last month. In the finals Parris took down a player several years older, Newport Beach native Mazy Watrous. Parris defeated the University of Colorado-bound Watrous, 6-3, 6-3.
Winning that tournament was exciting for Parris. So is playing for the Breakers.
“If you get an opportunity, then you have to take advantage of it,” she said. “I’m just so blessed.”
Her Christian faith is also a big part of her life. The family has created the Todd World-Wide Foundation, which supports pastors and leaders in areas such as western Africa.
“Those who are on the front lines, they’re feeding their congregation and their organization, but who’s pouring back into them?” Angela Todd said. “It’s usually take, take, take, but we’ve been positioned to pour back into them.”
Parris also gives back with her time. Next month she will again be participating in a youth tennis event at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center in South El Monte. The event for underprivileged children is put on by the Southern California Tennis Assn. National Junior Tennis and Learning program, and sponsored by the LA84 Foundation.
So if you make it out to a Breakers match this week, watch for Parris Todd. She is enjoying her first taste of World Team Tennis.
“It’s definitely different,” Parris said. “With all the music and everything, it’s kind of more laid-back, but you obviously still want to win. I think it’s really fun.”
There appears to be plenty more winning in her future, and the family is grateful for every opportunity.
“She was baptized in June, and in July she asked for a racquet,” Angela Todd said. “We never played tennis. When she asked, we were like, ‘What?’ We didn’t even know where at the sporting goods store we would buy something like that. It was completely Holy Spirit-led, and we have to give all the glory to the Lord, because there’s no way we would be here without that.”