Middle States

Welcoming to All

Sam Van has been captaining the same USTA League team for nearly 15 years now. His team, the Philly Phighters, plays out of FDR Park in South Philadelphia and Van diligently coordinates match play every week for his players. He welcomes all who would like to play as well. We spoke to him about how he works with his team and what he enjoys about captaining. Take a look! 
Captain Sam Van (second from the right in front) and his team
How do you collaborate as a group to captain and coordinate your team?

This is the fun part of being a team captain. I must be super organized and know our players’ availability and flexibility for team practices and matches, as well as their playing style, strengths, weaknesses, and preferred doubles partner. We practice Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at FDR Park in South Philadelphia – across from the Sports Complex, and have our matches on Saturdays. Some of our players contact each other outside of these hours if they want to hit more; some develop friendships off the courts.


To be a good captain, I need to manage our players and schedule well – it’s like being a project manager – manage people to achieve the same goal, which is to advance to Districts and have fun. There is a lot of planning, nuances, and behind the scene activities that our players never need to worry about – their job is to show up, bring their racquets, and play. Leave all the drama and headache to me.


What do you enjoy most about captaining a team? 

Definitely the team spirit and support. We have many tennis enthusiasts in Philadelphia, and I truly enjoy coordinating all the energy and like-minded players together, see them develop, and watch them become better players – and human beings off the courts. 

What makes your area unique?

Our home court at FDR Park in South Philadelphia is quite unique. It’s a convenient location for folks from South Jersey, just across from the Delaware River; folks from Center City Philadelphia and the suburbs – very convenient if you need to drive using the 95 and 76 highway. The City of Philadelphia has recognized the longevity of our team - next year will be the Philly Phighters’ 15 year anniversary; they have always granted us a yearly permit to use these courts, so our players do not need to wait for court time.


Very often the general public would ask if they want to join our practices; we’re always welcoming, and if it’s a good match, they become part of our team.

When we play host on our Saturday matches, I always try to be hospitable to the visiting team by giving them clear directions to our facility ahead of time, make my introduction with a warm welcome, show them the water fountain, bathroom, and court assignment. If rain is expected, I am usually up by 6 a.m. to monitor the forecast, coordinating possible delays - and yes, asking our players to assist in drying the courts.


Anything else you'd like to share?

Being a Team Captain for the Philly Phighters  the past 14 years has been a pleasure and honor. The loyalty from our players —to see them grow, develop and become good human beings has been truly rewarding. Some have finished college, gotten new jobs, gotten married, and had kids – growing the game to the next generation.



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