Skip Scarpa thinks he has solved the cumbersome tennis puzzle of converting courts from doubles to singles. He hopes to make "Reel Sticks" a worldwide standard.
The former College of Charleston player and current owner of a tennis court-building company already has a U.S. patent for his invention. Within the next year, Scarpa plans to apply for others around the world, or wherever he thinks a
professional tennis tournament might be held.
"There are one million or more tennis courts in the world, and all of them except for a few are made for doubles. People are playing singles on doubles courts," Scarpa said Thursday after showing off his invention at The Citadel during the
Southern Conference tennis tournament. Reel Sticks are being used by the tournament on the six primary courts at the Earle Tennis Center. Singles sticks usually are used for singles play in all major sanctioned tournaments.
Tournament head referee Pat Garren of Travelers Rest was ecstatic about having the Reel Sticks on The Citadel courts. "I've been an official for 17 years and this is the best thing I've seen," she said.
Instead of her umpiring crew having to lug singles sticks around and using a tape measure to make certain they are in the right location and are the right height, the crew can simply pull the Reel Sticks out from the net posts until the
retractable cable comes to a halt, or reel them back for doubles.
"Each stick is attached to a precisely measured steel cable, which is on a reel mounted to the net post," according to the literature on Reel Sticks.
In addition to the efficiency of switching from singles to doubles and back, a storage facility isn't needed to house the singles sticks because they're permanently attached to the net posts.
Scarpa, a nephew of legendary Furman coach Paul Scarpa, already has demonstrated Reel Sticks to many of the big tennis organizations. The invention was used on practice courts at the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla., where Scarpa said he
had a series of meetings with representatives of various tennis organizations. "You can guess which ones. We met with the tennis industry leaders and people who advertise toward the tennis demographic ... or people already in tennis," he said.
Four sets of Reel Sticks are being used on practice courts during the Family Circle Cup. One set is in use at the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department's Whipple Road complex. "And I've got one at my house," Scarpa said.
"That's all we had made in the first production run ... we're just using the mold. But we'll probably have 500 to a thousand available within the next 45 days."
The gadget is being built in Taiwan, where Scarpa's partner, mechanical engineer Nicholas Johannes of Mount Pleasant, has manufacturing connections. The project has taken three years to reach this point. Now, it's just a matter of signing with a
major company for the distribution of Reel Sticks.
"The first rule of tennis is court size," said the 48-year-old Scarpa, who owns Carolina Sport Surfaces and partners with Johannes in Tennis Ventures LLC. "Now everyone can play by the same rules."
The housing for the reel also has clear windows that can be used for advertising purposes such as company logos, event sponsors, court numbers, team logos. SoCon and Bulldog logos are displayed prominently on the reel housing at The Citadel.
The Citadel today, the world tomorrow. That's Scarpa's aim.
Reach James Beck at 937-5540 or email@example.com.