Women’s History Month Spotlight: Jen Hunter
Empowering Women to Play AND be Competitive
If you’ve played USTA League tennis in Loudoun County, Va., or faced a league team from Loudoun County, you’ve likely encountered the magnetic and dynamic spirit of Jennifer Hunter, BSN, RN. Jen has made her mark in the tennis community as a player, captain, and Local League Ambassador (LLA) touching the lives of many tennis players both in the Mid-Atlantic Section and nationally. Since 2015, she has helped grow tennis in Loudoun County significantly as an LLA and with her guidance has taken teams to new heights including Regionals, Sectionals, and Nationals. She credits her success to a love for the game, personal connections made through tennis, and from her experience actively playing in leagues - sweating, learning, competing, and having fun like all the other players out on the courts.
It also comes from her competitive nature she cultivated while growing up with older brothers. Jen Hunter’s mantra was, “If my brothers can do it, I can do it too...and maybe better!” She learned from an early age that participating in sports was an important aspect of her life and that sports offered many life lessons.
“For girls, and for me, playing sports gave me a place to shine. It allowed me to play hard, be tough, sweat, get dirty AND win. It taught me about sportsmanship, perseverance, being a leader while also being a team player. It reinforced what I learned from my brothers and my parents that being competitive was not a “four-letter word” for a girl,” Jen stated.
From then on, there was nothing that could hold her back and Jen played sports competitively through her youth. Fast forward to 2008 and where her tennis story begins. Jen recently moved with her family to a new state (Virginia) and faced with new surroundings and a desire to connect with others picked up a tennis racquet for the first time and headed to a beginner tennis clinic.
“The first few months were definitely humorous, frustrating and loads of fun! But there was something else that was sparked on the courts in the early days. It was a familiar feeling of determination, excitement of challenging myself to become better at something, competition, teamwork, and female athletic camaraderie. I was hooked,” Jen said.
She soon began playing on more teams, and captaining teams and by 2014 was honored to Co-Captain the Women's USTA League 4.0 40&Over National Champions!
“I had no idea when I picked up a racquet in 2008 that tennis would become such an important part of my life. For me, it initially brought back the competitive drive and sense of achievement that I was missing from my youth. However, it has brought so much more to my life.”
Hunter adds that in addition to being able to find a tennis team for whatever type of player you are - from fun and recreational to more challenging and competitive - one of the most attractive parts of tennis is that as life changes off the court your tennis journey can change with you to match your current stage of life. She says playing tennis has lifted her spirits during difficult moments in life.
“From a very young age, I always knew that I wanted to be a Nurse. It is a career and vocation that I am proud of and grateful to be able to serve my community. During the height of COVID-19, I was working as an emergency room nurse and I am currently working as a recovery room R.N. with Inova Loudoun. Tennis has been a life-line for so many of us during this pandemic.”
When asked to reflect on Women’s History Month and the evolution of women’s sports, Hunter holds nothing back. She says that it is important to honor the strong and inspirational women that have blazed a trail for empowerment, but now's the time to take the baton - or racquet if you will. And now’s the time to truly become comfortable and accepting of women being competitive in sports. To Hunter, it is about changing the mindset and language used.
“I love being a part of USTA Mid-Atlantic because I have the opportunity to motivate and empower other women. As a Captain, I have tried to change the mindset about being competitive in tennis. Being competitive while embodying good sportsmanship is the goal. It is this innate competitive drive and inner strength that sustains and empowers so many women who I know have faced challenges in their lives. Tennis can be whatever YOU want it to be…sports can be whatever YOU want it to be. And if that means YOU want it to be competitive, aggressive, sweaty, fist-pumping, Gatorade filled, and leave it all on the court of battle mentality…THEN I say, YOU GO, GIRL!”
Hunter adds, “One thing that I have always believed in, is that when you make people FEEL like they are part of something bigger than themselves and when they can believe in the power of the TEAM, a bond is created and magic can happen. That magic can translate into National titles, but that magic can also be that small voice inside of us as women and young girls that says, “keep going, you got this, fight for it, dig deep, …work together, …never quit!” and that is priceless. Those are characteristics that will ALWAYS serve us well in life.
When outcomes do not seem to go our way on the court or in life, if we have given it our all and have done the footwork, if we lead with our hearts, with dignity, and with grace then we have already won. And the next time someone says, “you’re so competitive”… smile and say, ‘THANK YOU!’.”
To continue celebrating Women’s History Month we will be focusing on celebrating the inspirational women in the Section who use their leadership and passion for tennis to inspire future generations. Make sure to catch up on our first spotlight with Stephanie Evans, and you can find more spotlights like this on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and we encourage you to share and join the conversation.
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