By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — McAlester senior Parker Tidwell had played singles tennis at Puterbaugh Middle School. But once she got to McAlester High School, Tidwell switched to doubles.
That move has led to three straight trips to the state tournament and a three-year spot on McAlester’s varsity.
“Her game’s more built for doubles,” McAlester tennis coach Chad Waller said Wednesday. “She has a better serve and more of a forehand.”
Born in Ardmore, Tidwell said she spent two years there, then moved to Madill. She came to McAlester at the start of third grade and began playing tennis at Waller’s summer tennis camp after her fourth-grade year.
“We just decided to try it out,” Tidwell said.
“I liked it.”
Tidwell became a mainstay at those summer tennis camps, then started playing competitively in the seventh grade. She made the junior high state tournament as a freshman, then made her first varsity state tournament as a sophomore.
“Every year it’s exciting just to be fighting it out at Regionals and finally winning that last point and getting to go to State,” Tidwell said. She added that making the second day of State is her goal for this season.
“We got close last year,” she said.
Trying to find the right doubles pairings, Waller tried several combinations during Tidwell’s junior year. He paired Tidwell with Sydney Creager for the McAlester Burn Out Tournament in April 2013, and the two won the two-doubles competition.
Tidwell and Creager also made State as a two-doubles pair, and they’ve played together all this season.
“We clicked pretty fast,” Tidwell said of Creager.
“We just both know how to bring each other up. If I’m getting down, she’ll bring me up. ... You have to be able to trust that your partner is going to go here, and if you think they’re going here, you have to trust that they’re going to move without you actually saying ‘switch.’”
Tidwell said being able to let bad shots go without getting down on herself has been the key to her success.
“I’m seeing her doing the right things that she needs to do to be a better doubles player,” Waller said.
“She’s practicing really intense, and she’s been working on the weaknesses in her game, like her serve and a little bit of her footwork. She’s actually really focused on it the last few months a lot harder, and I feel like that’s really helping her game, (along with) her aggressiveness and ability to change the style that she’s so comfortable with.”
Though Tidwell ran cross country as a junior and played basketball as a sophomore, she skipped cross country this past fall to focus on tennis. She said once the season ends, she’ll miss being around her teammates, who are some of her best friends.
“I love playing tennis,” Tidwell said.
Once she graduates McAlester High School, Tidwell said she plans to go to Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton for two years, then go to pharmacy school. Her father, Darren Tidwell, owns pharmacies in Wilburton and Eufaula, and Tidwell said she’s grown up be around pharmacies and pharmacists.
Oklahoma has two major pharmacy schools: the University of Oklahoma in Norman and Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. Tidwell said she’d prefer to go to OU.
“My mom went to OU, and we’ve watched OU football,” Tidwell said. “My aunt went to OU. I’ve seen the campus and I just really liked it.”
When she’s not playing tennis, Tidwell is a three-year Diamond Doll, providing snacks for and cheering on McAlester’s baseball team. She said Diamond Dolls each pick a player to support, and for her that’s fellow senior and third baseman Brandon Green.
“Since we moved to McAlester, we’ve had babysitters that picked me and my brother up, and they were always Diamond Dolls,” Tidwell said.
“So we were always there with Diamond Dolls, and I always wanted to do that.”
Tidwell is also an active member of Life Church in McAlester.
“I go up there every morning,” Tidwell said. “I go up there, sometimes I just do homework, sometimes I help around the church. ... Like the youth pastor and the children’s pastors, I might set up different sets or get their classrooms ready.”
A tennis team’s two-doubles squad is sometimes thought of as the weak link, with the team’s best players having gone to singles or one-doubles.
But with Tidwell and Creager, the Lady Buffs have turned a weak point into a strength.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.