Junior returns to tennis after moving to America


Sam Findley

Junior Loc Pham prepares to hit a forehand shot in his match against Franklin.

Charlie LaRocca, Staff Writer

In Vietnam, tennis was an afterthought. While other people chose to play soccer and badmitton, Pham found his athletic passion in the form of a tennis racket.

His school, like most Vietnamese schools, did not offer a tennis team, so Pham, persistent in his love for the sport, perfected his skills in a tennis academy outside of school grounds.

Pham played tennis from the age of 10, and in the following years, the sport would become a significant part of his life in Vietnam. However, in 2020, Pham’s life would change forever as he moved from Vietnam to the United States. 

Shell-shocked by the differences in almost all aspects of life in the United States as opposed to Vietnam, Pham was forced to adapt to a new, even scary, environment. Cars replaced motorbikes and scooters as the primary form of transportation, the food and social practices stood in stark contrast to the way of life in Vietnam and, most exciting for Pham, tennis was offered in every single school. 

Disappointingly for him, Pham was forced to prioritize the more pertinent challenges facing someone who had just moved to a new country.

“I stopped playing tennis and focused on my studies and trying to learn a new language,” Pham said. 

Thrown into a whole new world with little knowledge of how it worked, Pham spent his first few months bashful and unsure. Learning a language was challenging enough for Pham, but learning a language while adjusting to an entirely new culture was an unfathomable task.

However, from his first day at Center Grove, Pham has had a support system to help him. Pham attributes his success in this new environment to his teachers, particularly his English language assistant, Jyoti Kartik, who from the beginning guided Pham through the struggles of his new life in the States. 

“When he started school, he didn’t know English at all. He was using his translator all the time, he wasn’t understanding us, his lessons, I mean everything,” Kartik said. 

Kartik was well aware of Pham’s passion for tennis, so she introduced him to the high school tennis team. Pham was apprehensive about going out for the team at first, worrying that he wouldn’t understand his coach’s directions without the aid of his translator, but Kartik insisted that he give it a shot. 

“I kind of pushed him at the beginning of his sophomore year, showed him the website, gave him contact information of the coach, and so on,” Kartik said. “After much thought, he went for tryouts and was so glad that he got onto the tennis team. It became a game changer when he started winning and everyone started noticing him.”

Familiarizing himself with the team was a challenge at first, but Pham quickly found comfort in the company of his teammates. 

“Loc was a little shy when he first joined the team,” junior Max Williams, Pham’s teammate, said. “However, it didn’t take long for him to find his place on the team and adapt to his new circumstances.”

Reigniting his love for tennis flipped Pham’s American experience on its head. Besides the general benefits of physical activity, like health and exercise, Pham gained a high level of mental strength and confidence, something he attributes to the friends he met through the team. 

His academic performance excelled as well when he started to play tennis again. The aspects of emotional control and patience that the sport preaches turned out to be the qualities Pham needed at this time. 

Since he decided to pick up the racket again, Pham has only seen positives.

“I’m getting better at communicating with everyone,” Pham said. “I feel more connected to the community.”

To his teammates, Pham has become an irreplaceable part of the team.

“Loc’s super close with the team,” junior Aaraw Agrawal, Pham’s teammate, said. “He has lots of fun and brings lots of fun. His friendly personality contributes to making us all closer.” 

Kartik remains one of Pham’s biggest supporters — in academic and athletic settings.

“To this day, she always encourages me and cheers for me when I win in my tournaments,” Pham said. “I really appreciate what she did for me.”

Pham hopes to carry on his love for tennis into his collegiate life, where he hopes to continue playing the sport. Looking past college, Pham has considered coaching tennis, passing on what he has learned about the sport to others.

“I want to inspire people around me,” Pham said. “Just like what my coaches, Coach David and Coach Ivan, do for all of us on the team.”

Outside of tennis, Pham hopes to live his best life in the United States.

“My expectation is very simple: enjoy my life every single day,” Pham said.