Henry and Connie Chang.
© Jen Pottheiser/USTA
By Jenna Higueras, USTA.com
Indian Wells, Calif. – Sometimes a tennis match can resemble a marriage. Many of the greatest matches of all-time have gone five sets.
Henry and Connie Chang, who captain their respective 2.5 Northern California USTA section teams, have been married for nearly five decades having celebrated 49 years of marriage.
The Changs are at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden this weekend competing with their teams in the 2009 2.5 USTA League National Championships.
Henry, originally from China, and Connie, a California native, met while attending the University of California at Berkeley. Henry has been playing tennis since high school, but Connie had a bit of a later start at the age of 35.
“We have 4 children. I was going nuts, and I needed a break,” Connie said. “So I started with my friends and we began playing on our own on high school tennis courts.”
His wife’s new hobby reignited Henry’s love of the game. Never one to be left out, he said, “I better go back to play tennis, too. She is having so much fun with her girlfriends that I wanted to be a part of it.”
Connie transitioned her game from an escape to a career as she went on to become the tennis coach at Skyline High School in Oakland, Calif. Henry also promoted tennis through his position on Oakland’s city council, which he was a member of for 14 years. He helped fund the construction of tennis courts at Oakland’s Laney Community College.
The separate paths of their tennis journey finally came together as Connie and Henry joined forces to make tennis accessible to the Oakland community.
They recognized the lack of affordable playing opportunities in the area and decided it was up to them to create a friendly and open environment for people to learn the game they loved.
Henry recommended they use the courts he had helped build at Laney College and Connie offered up her skills as coach. Together they created a free community tennis program. What started off as venue to teach a small group of friends how to play tennis, has now grown to more than 130 members.
“We just take in anyone who wants to learn how to play tennis and work with them,” Henry said. After their group had learned the basics, the coaching duo decided it was time to create teams and introduce the players to USTA Leagues. Henry and Connie each created and captained their own men’s and women’s team and after years of hard work, have reached the 2.5 USTA League National Championships. They credit their success to the family-friendly environment they have created with their community tennis group.
“We call it the Laney Tennis Family. All our players are really close to each other, because every weekend, they all play together. Everyone has a lot of fun,” said Connie.
The Northern California women’s team prevailed in their first match on Friday morning, sweeping Florida 3-0.
The men’s Northern California team dropped their first round to a tough team from Puerto Rico, 3-0.
Henry hopes Connie’s team can share a little knowledge with his team. “I want to send my guys to talk to the girls’ team. Maybe they can teach us how to win,” he quipped.