Community Spotlight: Grant Chen
Being a part of Team USA this summer and coaching at the World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan, had extra special meaning for current UCLA associate head men’s coach Grant Chen.
Chen traveled with four UCLA players – Logan Staggs, Martin Redlicki, Terri Fleming and Jada Hart – and the Bruins represented the United States admirably, with Staggs and Hart taking home the bronze medal after falling in the semifinals to Slovakia, 10-7, in a super tiebreaker after splitting sets. Staggs and Redlicki advance to the Round of 16 in singles and doubles and Fleming and Hart won two rounds in singles.
“I was very proud of how our players represented themselves and country—on and off the court,” Chen said. “While tennis was why we were there, the trip also gave them an opportunity to experience a different culture.”
It was also meaningful for Chen, whose family is from Taiwan, it represented a home away from home.
“It was very special for me because I have family in Taiwan,” Chen said. “My mom came out to practice the first day and I had dinner with my cousins. My uncle is a physician and was in charge of the sports medicine for the entire 20-sport event.”
The World University Games are held every two years and are a mini version of the Olympic Games. Chen said experiencing the Opening and Closing Ceremonies were the highlights, as each of the countries marched into the stadium in front of 40,000 or so fans.
“When the guys and girls weren’t playing they watched table tennis, basketball, baseball and softball,” Chen said. “We stayed in the Athlete’s Village and were roommates in the dorms with other athletes. The athlete dining area was the size of two football fields and you got to dine with other countries and other athletes who have excelled in their sport. So that was pretty fun.”
Chen is a familiar face to UCLA tennis fans as he has been associated with the program now going on 17 seasons having entered the program as a freshman in 2000. In fact, Chen has attended the NCAA Championships all 17 season’s he’s been a part of the program. As the student manager as a senior in 2005, the Bruins won their first NCAA team title under longtime Coach Billy Martin. Elevated to assistant coach by Martin five seasons ago, Chen watched as the Bruins fell to the University of Virginia after holding championship points in his first season as an assistant.
“I had no intention of coaching college tennis,” Chen said. “But Billy took me under his wing as a mentor, and we’ve maintained a friendship and working relationship that we hope and think is helping these student-athletes grow as players and men.”
Chen has helped coached two Bruins to NCAA national singles titles the past few years in Marcos Giron and Mackie McDonald. “I’ve been very lucky to work with some tremendous student athletes at UCLA. Former players who are now competing for Grand Slams and many from our own backyard of Southern California,” Chen said. “To be able to be a part of this tennis journey with these players and helping them reach their dream of playing collegiate and eventually professional tennis has been very rewarding for me.”
The Bruins finished No. 5 in the nation last season and are loaded up once again this year, including four incoming freshman from SoCal. “I am a product of So Cal tennis having grown up in Santa Barbara. We’ve been able to keep a lot of the SCTA kids close to home,” he said. “It’s been great to recruit in our own back yard.”
Chen called the two weeks at the World University Games, held every two years , an “unbelievable experience and one of the most amazing multi-sport events I’ve ever been a part of.
“It’s something the athletes will remember forever.”
As will Chen.