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Archive for May, 2012

PostHeaderIcon LGBT Tennis Takes Over Taube: The USGO Descends On Stanford This Memorial Day Weekend


While most people are relaxing this Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of tennis players from all over the United States (and internationally) will be participating in one of the oldest gay and lesbian sporting events in the world.

For over thirty years, the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Federation of San Francisco (GLTF), a USTA NorCal Community Tennis Association, has hosted the United States Gay Open (the USGO) over Memorial Day weekend. What began as one of the only competitive outlets for gay and lesbian tennis players is now one of North America’s largest all-inclusive LGBT tennis tournaments. This year’s event will take place at Stanford’s Taube Stadium.

I served as tournament director in 2004 and am well-acquainted with the logistics involved in running a successful USGO. It’s a massive undertaking. Tennis courts, balls, water, trophies, volunteers… everything associated with running a large tournament, must be accounted for months in advance. It’s a rewarding task, but not for the faint of heart.

This year’s tournament director is Alex Lin, who also ran the 2011 event. Though his schedule before the tournament is “crazy busy”, I managed to grab him for a few questions about his involvement with the tournament, and what we can expect from the 2012 edition.

alex_linHow long have you been a member of the GLTF? Were you involved on the board prior to becoming the USGO tournament director?

I’ve been a member since 2002. And no, my first USGO experience was as a volunteer in 2009.  I helped (then tournament director) Dave Campbell run the consolation matches.  I guess I did too good of a job, and ended up getting recruited to handle the registration portion of the event in 2010.

Why did you decide to take on the challenge of the USGO?

I did it because no one else wanted to do it. (Joking) Really, I did it because I enjoy event planning. And planning a tennis tournament was something I never thought I would do. So it was a good opportunity to challenge myself to see what I could bring to the event.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of running such a large tournament?

Meeting so many different people – whether it’s face to face at board meetings, or the email exchanges with players on a different continent followed by an eventual meeting at the tournament.

Conversely, what’s been the most challenging aspect?

The same as rewarding – meeting and dealing with so many different people and personalities, and trying to solve people’s issues related to the tournament.  People who haven’t been in this position really don’t understand that this is a full-time job for the entire month prior to the tournament. And it’s done by a volunteer.  Each person with their different issue only sees that little part the concerns him or herself, while I must keep the entire picture of the tournament in mind.

For those not familiar with the USGO (United States Gay Open), can you give me a quick rundown on the tournament (number of events, participants, etc.)?

We have 17 events this year with 240 players.  It’s a four-day tournament, during which players could have as many as 4 matches in a day. So it’s quite exhausting on the body. My goal is to provide as much for the players as possible so that all they have to worry about is their tennis.

What are the highlights of the 2012 tournament?

We’re featuring night matches on Friday, taking advantage of the great courts at Stanford University’s Taube Center.  One of our new events is doubles consolation, which is rarely seen at other tournaments.  Doubles players often get the short end of the stick compared to singles players, so I wanted to make it a satisfying event for everyone.

Lastly, what’s been your funniest moment as the tournament director?

Reading this question, and trying to come up with an answer.
Tournament play starts at 8AM each day over the Memorial Day weekend. Everyone is invited to come out and cheer on the contestants. Visit http://www.usgotennis.org for more information.

PostHeaderIcon Tennis, Love, and Overcoming Adversity: A Chat with Alan Chin, Author of Match Maker

Back in college, I read a book that had a profound effect on me: both positive and negative. The book was The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren.  At its’ core, The Front Runner is a story about the love affair between a coach and a runner.  And back in an era that was rife with tragic stories of what happened to gay men who attempted to love and be happy, I was swept away by this seemingly positive narrative.

Sadly, my sense of happiness was short-lived. One of the primary characters, the runner, was shot and killed as he surged toward the finish line ahead of his rival. After two days and many tears, I was finally able to finish this bittersweet tale of yet another tragic gay love story.

It’s against this backdrop that, almost thirty years later, I received a copy of Match Maker from its’ author Alan Chin.  Match Maker is the story of an ex-pro/tennis coach who takes on the job of coaching a talented, but undisciplined, player in the hope of helping him reach the top of the professional game.  Though Match Maker is set against the backdrop of professional tennis, I immediately drew parallels between the two books because of the relationship between the gay coach (Donald) and his star-athlete tennis player (Connor).

There are, however, several major differences between the two books.  Unlike Harlan, the gay coach in The Front Runner, Donald is partnered, albeit in a troubled relationship with a borderline alcoholic ex-professional tennis player (Jared).  And Connor is a straight tennis player, who is conflicted by his own desire to be a doctor and his father’s desire for him to be a top professional player.  Also, Connor is Asian, which adds other cultural layers on top of an already unconventional storyline.

Even with those differences, I still prepped myself for the moment when tragedy would befall their crew because of the sexuality issue (because that’s what usually happens).  Sure enough, the moment came when Donald was shot and paralyzed at a tournament as the crew was heading to practice courts amid frenzy surrounding their participation at the Miami Masters. As memories of my collegiate The Front Runner experience came flooding back, I hoped that this wouldn’t become another gay man overcoming tragedy “in spite of” story.

Happily, it wasn’t!

Match Maker turned out to be an inspirational story of how the attack caused everyone to reflect on their lives, loves, and choices. And inevitably, how they overcame and moved beyond such a horrific event.  The road getting to that point wasn’t easy, and there were a few unexpected turns along the way.  But the net effect was still positive in this story of love and of working through life’s toughest circumstances.

I emailed Alan to give him my impressions of the book (I liked it) and also to ask a few questions on Match Maker and discuss the parallels between it and The Front Runner.


Q – First item: should I use the Amazon link for purchase, or do you have a special link that readers should use?

A – Yes, the Amazon purchase link is good. If readers don’t like dealing with Amazon, they can go directly to my page at Dreamspinner Press.

(Author’s Note:  Links are at the end of the article)

Q – Before I begin I must tell you that it brought a smile to my face every time I saw familiar names of our mutual friends in the GLTF.  My initial question is one that I think I know the answer to regarding your inspiration for writing this book.  Was it inspired by The Front Runner?

A – My inspiration for writing Match Maker was two-fold. The first was a love of the game and a desire to write about it. The second reason was I had just finished reading The Front Runner for a second time, and I wanted to strangle Patricia Nell Warren. I hated the fact that The Front Runner, like most the other gay-themed books I’d read to that point, made the gay characters silly drag queens or gave them a tragic ending. I wanted to write a gay sports story where the gay guy hit rock bottom, but found the strength to overcome all odds and win in the end.

Q – Were you hesitant about writing this book given the obvious comparisons?

A – I wasn’t hesitant about comparisons with The Front Runner at all. I wanted readers to see the vastly different way I handled the story.

Q – Was the primary story behind Match Maker that of Donald and Jared, their story of love and redemption, or did you initially set out to focus more on Donald and Connor?

A – Yes, the A story is a story of love between Daniel and Jared, and their road to redemption. The B story is the symbiotic relationship of how Daniel and Connor help each other, give each other what they need to move on with their lives.

Q – What kind of research did you do, or first-hand knowledge did you have about the dealings with agents and such? This is a novel, but I’m sure you had some basis for the character of their agent J.D., yes?

A – The only first-hand knowledge I had about dealing with agents was from dealing with literary agents. I have never known a sports agent, and really know nothing about them. I simply tried to make JD an interesting character. Funny thing was, he turned out to be one of my favorite characters of the book. The old lady in Spain was another favorite. I really fell in love with her.

Q – I liked the unexpected way in which the story unfolded for both Connor and Jared. Especially given Jared’s early struggles with alcohol, this was really a story of redemption in many ways.  That’s a theme I tend to prefer in narratives such as this.

A – Yes, most of my stories are stories of redemption. It’s a favorite theme of mine.

Q – Also, it’s rare that I cry while reading a book. (Author’s note: slight spoiler alert) But I did cry when they unveiled the chair for Donald.  It was so unexpected and touching.  You really pulled one over on us.

A – I still cry when I read certain parts of it. So don’t feel alone.

Match Maker is available direct from the publisher (Dreamspinner) or on Amazon at the links below:

Dreamspinner:  http://tinyurl.com/7mxkeut

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Match-Maker-Alan-Chin/dp/1615815872/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1337582004&sr=8-2

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