Marian Hanson with her 3.5 Adult women's team at Districts this year.
Marian Hanson, 55, of Burlington, Conn. has been playing USTA League tennis for over 20 years and has been captain of a 3.5 Adult team called ‘The End’ since 2009, a team she founded on the principle that they were going to incorporate physical workouts as a group of women committed to fitness and raising the level of their games. The dedicated group of women works out in the early mornings with their trainer, Brian Gallagher, a decorated Marine, before heading to work with team members ranging in age from 25-65. Hanson, originally from Cleveland, is married with one daughter, Eliza, 20, who also plays tennis, and is a media marketing consultant as president of Balor, LLC, working with clients on programming, marketing and content opportunities after spending 12 years as an executive at ESPN.
For her efforts, she has been named the USTA League Captain of the Month for December.
USTA.com: What teams do you currently captain? Have you captained?
Marian Hanson: I captain a 3.5 Adult team called ‘The End’ with my co-captain Debbie White. It was founded in 2009. I was a captain of a team 20 years ago but the USTA League tennis was not as competitive or as pervasive as it is now so it was very casual. I had been playing USTA League tennis for 20 years but I just hadn’t been captain of a team.
USTA.com: How did you first become a captain?
Marian Hanson: What brought me back as a captain was the team I had been playing on disintegrated and I had an opportunity to step up and create a whole new team. The team was created on the promise that we were going to incorporate a physical workout with intense drilling and put together a group of committed women who were interested in getting fitter and raising the levels of their games. It was a 3.5 team but we looked at it as a 4.0 development team. I am proud that we have had a lot of players bump up to 4.0. We have really been able to deliver on our promise that this is a competitive group of women. The first year we were in business, we went to districts and made it to Saturday night, the second year we went to districts, made it to Sunday morning and then Sunday afternoon and then this last year, in districts, we were tied in the finals. Three teams stood with their fingers crossed and were tied at the end of districts and they had to take all the scores and input them and the winning team won by two or three extra games. We came so close to going to sectionals.
It has been a really, really fun and rewarding opportunity because of the fact that we have a committed, interested group of women. At Farmington Farms Tennis and Athletic Club, we work with our coach Cristina Walters, who has been a huge part of our success since we formed the team three years ago. Recruiting has been great as well. Our club also has a good 3.0 team, so we have been able to bring players from 3.0 up 3.5 and some have gone on to 4.0, so there is a nice feeder system.
USTA.com: What do you enjoy most about USTA Leagues and being a captain?
Marian Hanson: It is nice to compete. I played in high school and played in college (Middlebury College) and in your 20s, it is hard to find time to play tennis or join a club, you are still trying to figure out who you are. When I moved to Connecticut and had more time on my hands and the opportunity to join a tennis club, it was nice to get back into the game. The most rewarding part of playing USTA Leagues is you have the opportunity to get together with a group of women who range in age from 25 to 65, who you might not otherwise interact with. I’ve been a working mom forever and you meet so many people doing so many different things.
USTA.com: What does your team do together to stay in shape?
Marian Hanson: We have a group that works out in the morning before work. We get to the club around 6 a.m. and work out from 6 – 7 a.m. We do a pretty intense workout and the morning group we call ourselves Seal Team 1. Our trainer, Brian Gallagher was a decorated marine. We are there with a bunch of men; we are picking up each other and running around the periphery of the club with weights or people on your back. You wake up at 5 a.m. thinking, is this a good idea? And you leave at 7 a.m. feeling like a million bucks.
USTA.com: How did you first start playing tennis? Why do you love to play?
Marian Hanson: I was playing when I was 7. It was something that I wanted to do. I still have my first racquets. When I was 12 or 13, I was a table girl for Chris Evert at the Wightman Cup when she played in Cleveland, Ohio. They didn’t have ball girls (they weren’t allowed), but girls sat next to the players when they crossed and handed them a towel or water. And you couldn’t say anything. I think she was only two or three years older than I was. It was a big thrill.
USTA.com: Who is your favorite tennis player?
Marian Hanson: My late uncle Harry Heher from Princeton, N.J.
USTA.com: If you could choose any doubles partner, who would it be?
Marian Hanson. For women's doubles it would be Mary Carillo and Andy Roddick for mixed doubles.
USTA.com: How did you feel when you found out you were Captain of the Month and that your team nominated you?
Marian Hanson: It was wonderful. I was so surprised. All I can say is I would like to nominate my team for team of the year. You can’t enjoy being a captain if you don’t have a good team to work with. I guess my reaction is wow, that was so kind of them but back at you. I nominate all of them for team of the universe.