Five Questions for…Gillian Khoo, GLTF Captain

Gillian Khoo began captaining 3.0 teams for the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Federation (GLTF) in 2019 and since then, she’s received the USTA NorCal Adult League Captain of the Year Award twice (2019 and 2022). The award honors captains who model high integrity, sportsmanship, and are positive ambassadors for USTA league play.

Gillian has been an executive consultant for the past 25 years and says as team captain, she’s been able to practice what she preaches by embracing the same leadership skills she teaches her clients. She says her goal at the start of every season is to help her players improve and set them up for success. She was happy to see that nine of her players got bumped up to 3.5 last year.

1.How did you first get into tennis?

After a breakup. I found myself with more time and energy and became curious about tennis. I was utterly terrible in the beginning and Peg Stevenson (TCSF Chair) used to hand feed me tennis balls during weekly practice.

2.What about captaining do you enjoy the most?

Building and leading a winning team and helping my teammates improve and elevate their skills. Nine of my players got bumped up to 3.5 at the end of last year, an unprecedented number and a testament to their skills and our team culture.

3.What about captaining do you enjoy the least?

Dealing with narcissistic divas from the other teams who create a toxic playing environment.

4.You’ve had repeated success as a captain, having led your teams to USTA NorCal Sectionals on several occasions. What’s your secret?

Ooh, is this kiss and tell? All joking aside, Aaron Walz and Mariel Fabio are two fabulous captains who taught me a lot. Over time, I’ve added the following to my formula:

Skills and Fit – We’re a scrappy team as we lack the resources of the private tennis clubs that are well resourced in terms of coaches and clinics. This is why we (my Co-Captain Diana Motseniat and our Master Assessor Suzy Sin) carefully vet new teammates who want to join our team. We’re competitive and also extremely supportive and respectful of each other. 

Inclusiveness and Caring Candor – We speak up, push back, and don’t avoid conflict, which makes for a healthy team culture. As captain, I have to be willing to give and receive tough feedback. 

Strategy and Tennistry – I design for a team win and not for anyone’s ego. We’re constantly experimenting and fine-tuning our line-ups. And then there’s tennistry (my made up word), the inexplicable chemistry between players.

5.What interests and hobbies do you have off the court?

Embarking on new food and travel adventures. Curating personalized, immersive experiences for kids in nature. Discovering new meditative spaces.