A Lifetime of Building Tennis in the Asian Community
Tennis is a lifetime sport. In fact, most of us either know players who have been playing for decades, or we ourselves have been playing for years and years. These players, with a passion for tennis that span a lifetime, offer a unique perspective on the sport and their community. As we close our Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration, our spotlight turns to Le Pham, a player and USTA League Captain with a 40-year history of tennis in the Mid-Atlantic.
USTA Mid-Atlantic caught up with Le to hear more about his life in tennis and the impact he has had on the Asian Community.
Tell us about yourself.
I moved to the United States from Vietnam in 1975 and have lived in Annandale, Virginia since 1976.
When did you start playing tennis?
I was a decent Ping Pong player but had trouble finding someone to play within the States. So, I transitioned to tennis in 1977 and have not looked back.
How often do you play?
Weather permitting, we play up to four to five times a week. I mostly play on the public courts in Fairfax, Virginia where I recruited players for my USTA teams of various levels.
What level are you?
I entered the league in 1988 as a 4.0, then moved up to 4.5 in 1991, and finally moved up to 5.0 in 1992 when my team made it to the USTA National Championship. I played at the 5.0 level until 2000 when most of my players moved away. I stopped playing USTA for two years but came back in 2002 to captain a 4.0 team. Since then, I have captained 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, and 4.5 men teams.
Tell us more about your history with organized tennis and USTA Leagues in the MId-Atlantic?
In 1989, I formed the first 4.0 Vietnamese team in the previous incarnation of the USTA league, the Volvo/USA league. The team has been consistent participants in USTA leagues since then; at times, we had multiple teams at different levels.
Additionally, I formed the Vietnamese American Tennis Association (VATA). We had our own league with approximately 80 members and played every Tuesday and Thursday night around Fairfax County, Virginia.
Also, my team participated in the Asian Games Group where Asians from different countries and ethnicities competed as teams against each other. Team Vietnam made it to the finals four out of five years and won the title three times.
What does it mean to be a leader in the tennis community?
I don’t think of myself as a leader. I’m just trying to bring the community together and help them have fun with tennis. Tennis is one of the few opportunities to bridge generations, genders, and cultures. For example, I have won a tournament with my son and then coached him to an undefeated season. He became the #1 singles at the 2013 USTA 3.5 National Tournament. Also, I captained my daughter’s summer team to first place… what other sport or activity allows you to achieve such accomplishments with your kids?
What’s your perspective on diversity & the Asian Community in tennis? Nationally? In the Mid-Atlantic?
Tennis is one of the few sports that is very diverse. Many Asian families that I know have someone that plays tennis in some capacity.
How would you like to see tennis grow in the Mid-Atlantic?
I believe the Mid-Atlantic is one of the fastest-growing tennis sections. I think it is at max capacity now. To continue growing, the section needs more courts and facilities.
Le’s love and commitment to tennis and his community have had a lasting impact on players across the Mid-Atlantic region. More importantly, Le proves that tennis creates community.
As we conclude our celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, make sure to check out our previous spotlights from Alex Chan here, Chris Tran here, and Anbo Li here or on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and we encourage you to share and join the conversation.
USTA Mid-Atlantic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that helps people and communities grow stronger, healthier, and more connected through tennis. Learn about our impact in the Section and how you can help bring tennis to more communities throughout the region.
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