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The couple that plays together stays together

Connie and Henry Chan.
Sue Levine, special to USTA.com

Connie and Henry Chang are a unique husband and wife team. They have been married for 50 years, and they each have a team in the Northern California Section competing in the 2.5 USTA National Championships this year in Rancho Mirage, CA.

This long partnership got started at UC Berkeley.  Henry was looking out the window and saw Connie in one of the dorms.  He walked over to talk to her, and one year later they were married, in 1960.  

Henry got into politics and was on the Oakland City Council and went on to become Vice Mayor of Oakland.  Connie stayed at home to take care of their four children.  She says she was "climbing the walls and getting flabby." So at age 35, she started playing tennis for the first time with some girlfriends.  When Henry saw how much fun she was having, he decided to play too.

Several years ago, they started a league out of Laney College in Oakland.  Now they have about 200 members, men and women at every level of play, from teenagers to people in their 80's. Every weekend they have 8 courts filled at the college starting at 8:30.  The teams even chipped in to buy a ball machine.

The Changs say the key is to recruit beginners with good basics.  Connie Chang explains, "other places don't pay much attention to the 2.5 players.  We really work with them." They match them up against more experienced players, and with that type of competition, by the end of the season they have some really good players.  

The strategy paid off.  This isn't the first time the Changs have had a mens' team and a womens' 2.5 team in the USTA National Championships.  In fact, it’s the second year in a row this husband and wife team has done it.  Henry Chang doesn't think any husband and wife have ever done that before.

Connie Chang is 72, and she works on Child Care at UC Berkeley and the State Commission  Aging,  Henry Chang is 76 and claims he is retired, but he's still working for his players. In less than 3 weeks, he arranged for about 30 of them to head to a tournament in Shanghai, when the Shanghai ATP Masters 1000 wraps up.  They will play at the same stadium, with the same staff, used by some of the top players in the world just days before.

The Changs say their partnership on the court has helped their partnership off the court.  Henry Chang thinks the key is that "it keeps you healthy, and you're doing something you both like to do."


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