Halina Nguyen is taking it all in stride. Selected to play at Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center’s second annual UTR College Showcase, the sophomore from Boston Latin School got a first taste of playing for college coaches alongside a select roster of high school tennis players from New England and Washington D.C.

“I was not as pressured as I thought I would be, considering that I was aware that coaches were watching. I kind of just let myself play as normal, and I think I played pretty well,” Nguyen said.

The December 2nd event platformed players from USTA National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) programs, alongside other local players aspiring to play at the college level and beyond. The showcase provided a rare opportunity for diverse rising stars to demonstrate skill and potential for 13 coaches from nine DII and DIII college tennis programs.

Halina Nyugen winds up forehand Halina Nguyen attended Sportsmen’s College Showcase in December.
“I first started playing tennis when I was eight years old, and I kind of just liked being around my friends. But then I started to like being active, because I didn’t play any other sports. I also realized I like competing, and that made everything a lot more fun,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen discovered the sport through Volley Against Violence, Sportsmen’s highly lauded weekly Police/Community Engagement program, which brings together city youth, Sportsmen’s coaches, and Boston Police Officers for free tennis and mentoring. She now trains at Sportsmen’s for more than half of the week, and regularly spends weekends competing in tournaments.

“It’s difficult to balance a schedule heavily filled with tennis and academics. Especially because I go to a particularly rigorous school. And, the work on top of, like, hours of tennis, makes it difficult to have a good social life. But I try my best.”

While hoping to strike a balance, she’s clear and confident about life on the courts. “I won both my singles, but I lost both my doubles. I was able to hit through all my shots, even though the players that I played were a lot different from the kids at Sportsmen’s. It was definitely a big change, but I was able to adapt and still find a way to push through.”

Nguyen’s Coach, Marton Balla, admires her smart play.

“When people talk about talent in tennis, most would think of having a good touch and feel on shots. I think of Halina’s talent as being very analytical on the court and being able to come up with various gameplans depending on her opponent and her environment,” Balla said. “She understands her own strengths and weaknesses, and she can quickly analyze her opponents strengths and weaknesses. Then she puts all the information together and comes up with a gameplan with the understanding that things can change quickly and she will have to adjust her plan. She has a very high tennis IQ.”

College tennis is definitely the plan for the 16 year old, but now, she’s enjoying staying in the moment.
“At the showcase, we had an opportunity to listen to some coaches talk to us, and tell us about some of the recruitment processes. And that was definitely good to know. Some coaches came up to me and gave me advice on my game, and I was able to ask a question or two. I haven’t really gone to visit college campuses or anything yet, so I’m not sure what to expect, or what I’ll like. But I know I want to play competitively in college,” Nguyen said.

And Coach Balla has high hopes for her future.

“Halina is one of Sportsmen’s very impressive high school players, and I think many college coaches from top schools will want to recruit her,” he added. “She juggles an impressive academic and athletic schedule, besides her other extracurricular activities such as music and languages. Not to rush the process, but I can’t wait to see where she lands in a couple of years.”

Original Article:
USTA | February 7, 2024