Jen Gaarder-Wang is an avid tennis player who can oftentimes be found in her “happy place” at Golden Gate Park, where she captained ten teams in 2015. Her women’s 4.0 team won the USTA National Championship last year, going 25-0 (see list of players). Her mixed and women’s tri-level teams both won the Northern California tournaments, and her three combo teams all made playoffs, with one headed to Districts.
1. When did you start playing tennis? How did you first discover the sport?
Growing up outside Chicago during the Michael Jordan years, I was all about basketball. Then in law school, this guy Matt "courted" me, wink wink. I asked him to teach me tennis--he had played in college. Matt stuck with me through all the balls I launched over the fences, taught me topspin, and now it is a huge part of our life together. We play mixed together, I captain his teams, and most importantly, it's a shared activity and community for us.
2. You are the parent of two young children. Do they play tennis? What do you hope they get out of it?
We hit with our kids sporadically, and try not to be formal about it. We want our kids to love sports and be active, but it doesn’t have to be tennis. Whatever sports they end up choosing, I hope they experience hard work, love of the game, camaraderie, and some big wins.
3. You are clearly passionate about tennis. What is it about tennis, beyond the exercise, that you find most compelling and satisfying?
My teams! I LOVE my teams and teammates, and love creating friendships and then battling together and for each other. October was the pinnacle of this—my USTA 4.0 team, which started practicing together in January, made it to nationals. By that point we were like family. Every match was a fight for each other, against bigger, badder opponents. We all gave everything we had. That was the ultimate satisfaction—giving everything I could for the people I loved, and reaching that summit together.
4. You captained a 4.0 team that won Nationals this year. What are some tips you learned that you could share with future captains?
Get players who love tennis, who love to improve at tennis, who will love each other, and who will trust you. Then try your hardest to make sure everyone has fun.
5. Who inspires you, on the court or off?
My teammates! I looked up the word inspire: “to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something.” I’m not great at following through on any personal ambitions, but I’m definitely on top of things for my teams and teammates, on and off the court. They are selfless, loving, accomplished, fun people, and I would do anything for them. I stand taller knowing they have my back.
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