Middle States

A United Trio

In early 2020, a group of three USTA League tennis players came together with an idea: to captain teams as a group. 


Fast forward just a bit, and the trio of Chris Powell, Kathy Steinway and Quang Nguyen have jointly captained a total of seven mixed doubles teams out of the Upper Main Line YMCA (UMLY). They call the teams UMLY United. 


All three are relatively new to captaining USTA League teams, but have been playing tennis for years. Powell and Steinway were doubles partners who were both eager to get more involved. In early 2020, Nguyen joined them, which was the beginning of the three captaining together. 


The group entered their captaining roles with the mentality of improving a sense of community, friendship, and camaraderie at UMLY. These efforts, among others, also earned them USTA Middle States Captains of the Month for December.  


How do they make it work with three in charge? 


“Collaboration is the key word,” Powell said. “This has always been at the heart of what we do. No one person sits at the top, we discuss all the decisions we make, and are open to feedback and getting our opinions changed. If there are ever disagreements we always come back to the goals of the team: To do well, but never at the sacrifice of anyone’s development and involvement.”


Steinway echoed his comments. 


“Each of the three of us has different strengths and, similar to partners in doubles, we each play to our strengths in our captaining roles,” she said. “There are also some duties we share or split depending on the team. Being able to captain together, as a trio, is fundamental. It allows us to work through ideas, negotiate decisions and commit to ‘majority rule.’ Each of us agrees we would not want to captain alone.” 


Powell, Steinway and Nguyen got together weekly to talk about tennis, set up practices for their teams, and discuss how to help team members develop as tennis players, while not losing sight of the importance of community. 

“The UMLY United experience is more than tennis,” Nguyen said.“It is about building friendships and a community where we all support one another both on the tennis court and in life.”


The group recognized the support of the UMLY Director of Tennis, Don Draper, along with the assistance of USTA Middle States PATD Area League Coordinator, Sally Baird. 


“Sally’s leadership and guidance is the bedrock of the teams. By helping us learn the ins and outs of captaining, always keeping us informed of news and changes, taking time to answer questions, and making herself available, she makes captaining possible,” Steinway said. 


Their collaboration seemed to pay off with a successful fall season, having three of their teams placing first or second in their respective flights. Each team even supports one another throughout the season. 


“When one team does well, all teams celebrate in that success, and vice versa,” Powell added. “Understanding and appreciating that success is not only in the result of the match, but how the team is growing. A loss is not the end of the world, and a victory is not the only thing that matters.”


This trio has certainly made a mark in the Philadelphia tennis community and has established an even greater sense of community at UMLY. The support for each other through practices, development, wins, and losses, unites them as a team. 


“Most importantly, we want to say a huge thank you to all our players,” the group wrote in a statement. “A team is far more than its captains, the heart and soul of UMLY United is its members, and absolutely none of this would be possible without all of their commitment and friendship.” 


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