Doan Makes Impact as League Captain
Huong Doan loves a challenge. When people tell her she can’t, she loves to prove them wrong.
Doan came to the United States from Vietnam with her family when she was nine-years-old. The ultimate challenge. Her family came to Springfield, Mo. as refugees after the fall of Saigon in 1975. She believes her strength and perseverance come from her family.
“I have to work hard and fight for everything. My family is that way. We all fought hard for everything. Our culture when we were growing up is a little bit different than here in America. We don’t take things for granted. We take everything as a challenge - anyone can get through a challenge if you work hard at it.”
Doan’s tennis journey began at nine or ten-years-old. Some of her 11 siblings enjoyed the game and she tagged along with them to the courts. She liked tennis so much that she joined her high school team in Springfield. She even walked on at Missouri State University, but when her academics suffered, she stepped back.
Being one of 12 kids pushed Doan to be a hard worker. She said the siblings always demanded the best from each other. It made them better people.
“When we are still in school, getting a 98% on a paper or homework, we would say to each other, ‘so what happened to your other 2%?’ We helped each other to be a better person.” Doan said. “We inspire each other to do just a little bit better. We never do anything half way. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. I heard that a lot growing up. This still holds true now as we are older.”
Doan is also pretty well-versed in persuasion - as evidenced by the number of folks she’s convinced to join or captain USTA Missouri Adult Leagues
Her power of persuasion also worked to convince the president of the company where she works to sponsor her teams headed to USTA National Championships.
“When we went to Nationals and we needed to raise money to go, I actually went to the president and asked him if he would sponsor us. And he did, twice,” Doan said. “It’s pretty exciting to have someone who would sponsor us when they don't know all the players, but to actually know me and that I’m coaching the team. It was pretty cool.”
Doan, a computer programmer for Prime, Inc. Trucking Company for the past 28 years, is a staple in the world of USTA Missouri Leagues. She has been playing USTA in some capacity since 1997.
If it weren’t for the players on her teams, captaining might be an arduous deal. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Her journey as a league captain began in 2006 when the captain of her team decided she wanted to focus solely on playing the game.
“Springfield is very small. We only have a number of players. If nobody stepped up to be captain, there wouldn’t be any teams. So I love playing. I love my teams. I don’t think I would be captain without the players I have on my team. We are good friends on and off the court,” she said
Doan is the type of person who loves competition - and a challenge. Being a captain - and at times, league play checks those boxes. Of course, tennis is a fun sport one can play for a lifetime. But the perks for those who are competitive like Doan?
She uses those perks to sell leagues to those who may need a little nudge to take part.
“Sometimes it’s hard just finding a way to convince people, ‘Hey, play USTA instead of just playing.’ I have to think of a way to promote that,” Doan said. “Lucky for me as a captain, I took a team to Nationals twice. It’s an introduction to people who have never heard of USTA. I give them a chance to say, ‘Hey, it’s not just playing. You get a chance to advance when you play USTA and make it more interesting.’”
Convincing people to play - and even captain - who otherwise may have remained on the sidelines has become old hat for Doan. She loves seeing the potential in people. She convinced a former basketball player who had never picked up a racquet to try tennis. She’s now a league player. That player learned the game pretty quickly. She’s also helped others learn how to be captains.
Doan has captained a pair of teams who have made the trek to USTA National Championships - in 2012 and 2014. Her 7.0 senior team traveled to Surprise, Ariz. and Indian Wells, Calif., respectively.
Doan’s attitude going into each season set the tone. The mantra was simple - why not us?
“The first time at Nationals was a great experience for us. We would never have thought we would make it to Nationals. I mean, we were lucky to make it to Sectionals, and then winning it and getting a chance for Nationals was great. It was a great experience for all of us,” she said.
When your team is as close-knit as Doan’s, being a captain is more like a labor of love. She loves seeing players start at lower levels and improve their game to move up. She also loves how her team can improve as the season progresses
Trust is also a huge component. She knows the folks on her team have total trust in her decisions. That makes it much easier to do what’s best for the team. She enjoys tinkering with the team line-up and finding just the right combinations to come up with the best result. Doan also really enjoys proving people wrong.
“Being a captain to me is not like a job really. It’s a challenge,” Doan said. “But because of the players I have on my team, they make my job easier. We get along really well. They know that whatever I do, they trust me to do what’s best for the team. They believe in me. It’s a good feeling. So it’s not that hard to commit to being a captain. That’s why I do it year in and year out.”
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