Favorite athlete: Roger Federer
Favorite team: 76ers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Getting first place at zonals with my team
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Whiffing a serve in front of the entire team
Music on mobile device: Rap and Pop
Future plans: Become a doctor
Words to live by: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
One goal before turning 30: Graduate from medical school
One thing people don’t know about me: I eat ice cream really fast
By Ed Morrone
In two weeks, Andrew Tran will participate in his final state tournament as a high school tennis player. Regardless of how that turns out, Tran will be able to hang his hat on the fact that he made history by accomplishing something nobody else in the SOL American Conference is believed to have done.
Last month, Tran became the first tennis player in conference history to win four consecutive league singles titles. Not only that, but he has been Wissahickon High School’s No. 1 singles player since he was a freshman, maintaining a four-year level of consistency and excellence that few others attain.
“I think I’m still absorbing that fact,” Tran said when asked about his accomplishment. “I guess it goes to show that I’ve continued to put the work in and never took my foot off the gas. I really wanted to do well for myself, and the only way to do that is to put in the time to continue improving. It’s funny, when I won my first singles title freshman year, my coach and one of my teammates said, ‘Oh, you won it as a freshman, maybe you can win all four.’ I just laughed it off, because it wasn’t in my head until this year’s tournament when I realized that it could finally happen.”
Tran’s continued excellence on the tennis court, both at Wissahickon and on the tournament circuit in which he competes year-round, have paid immense dividends. Not only will he continue his career at the collegiate level, but he will do so at one of the world’s most-renowned academic institutions in Johns Hopkins University.
Tran began playing tennis at seven years old. Coming from a family of tennis players, it was only a matter of time until he picked up a racket himself.
“As a kid, I was always kind of sitting off to the side, watching them hit,” he recalled. “I wanted to jump in. As I got older, I started to play more. I started taking lessons when I was seven, and eventually my parents thought I might have the potential to play on the tournament circuit. I played my first competitive tournament at 11 and it stuck. I just enjoy competing against other talented players.”
As a freshman, Tran found instant success on a very strong team. The pressure was tight, as Tran earning the top singles spot bumped an incumbent senior to the second slot, one who had played number one singles for three years prior. On the tournament circuit, Tran was used to focusing on his individual game, but now, his success or failure would be tied to a team. This was nerve-wracking, but also showed Tran how important accountability is when working as part of a group that depended on him.
Despite any adjustments or growing pains, Tran earned and maintained his spot as a freshman, resulting in Wissahickon’s best season — the Trojans qualified for the state tournament as a team, in addition to Tran making it himself as a singles player — a defining moment in his life, and his reasoning spoke volumes about his unselfish character.
“Us doing that as a team, I’ll take that with me for the rest of my life,” Tran said. “As a school, Wissahickon hadn’t made it to states in a long time. When we finally realized we were going after districts, I never felt so happy about something, and I think it was because it was an accomplishment that wasn’t only about me. It was for our group. One of my teammates won the clinching match, and we were successful in accomplishing a goal we had been chasing for months. That will go with me forever.”
As a sophomore, Tran failed to make it back to the state tournament, but that didn’t matter to Wissahickon head coach Mark Daniels; what mattered was the growth Tran had shown between his freshman and sophomore campaigns, and after the season was finished, Daniels felt his star player was ready for another challenge.
“Some players at his level, they don’t even go out for the high school team,” the Trojans’ coach said. “At the district tournament when he lost in the state qualifying round, we were talking, and he asked me if I knew who was going to be captain next year. I told him I was hoping he would step up. He said, ‘I’m not a senior,’ and I told him that didn’t matter. He said, ‘Could I be a captain? I’d love that.’
“He’s been such a great leader, a coach’s dream. The other kids respect him for his tennis ability, and when he says something, they listen. He’s really grown as a person. Being a captain helped him not only for the tennis, but also the leadership aspect. It’s neat seeing him develop as a person. He’s the kind of kid where a couple of times at practice this year he was helping the jayvee kids who are way down in the lineup. What a nice person.”
Becoming a captain was an eye-opener for Tran, a quietly intense person who doesn’t skirt on responsibilities when they are placed at his feet, whether athletic or academic.
“It was a real high honor for me, because I knew that I had earned the respect of my coaches and teammates,” he said. “I had never had a leadership position where I actively had to help a large group. Coach approached me and I looked at it as a new challenge to embrace. Having a bigger role was something I really enjoyed, because now I had an entire group I could try to help collectively improve, instead of just myself.”
As a junior, Tran again made it back to the state quarterfinals as a singles player, and while he did not qualify as an individual this year, Tran will head to Hershey in two weeks to compete on the doubles circuit for the first time, along with his senior co-captain, Vidit Makwana. The two had never played doubles before as partners, but were still able to win three matches together before falling in the championship round of districts, good enough to punch their ticket to Hershey.
The doubles tournament will be the last competitive action for Tran at the high school level, but his career is far from over. Tran, whose mother is a doctor and his father works in the medical field, has his eyes set on medical school and becoming a doctor as well. Johns Hopkins has a solid tennis reputation as a Division III program, so the university checks both of Tran’s boxes in offering a world-class education that also will allow him to continue competing at a high level on the tennis court.
“I’d say my parents influenced my career aspirations in the sense that my mom is a doctor and I’ve seen firsthand that it gives you the freedom to put yourself in a good position in life,” he said. “At the same time, I always wanted to be a doctor because of my interest in the scientific field, as well as helping others. I’ve always been an academics first guy who has prioritized that over athletics. I think the two complement each other well and work in hand in hand, because I knew if I succeeded in class, then I could take the extra time to train for tennis.”
Tran knew Hopkins was the right fit after his first visit. He had read about the school’s cutthroat nature and assumed that it would be very isolating, the type of place where students were driven mad by ambition to the point where they would step over anyone else in their way. Instead, he discovered a collaborative, welcoming environment, in both the classroom and among the tennis program. It reminded him in a sense of Wissahickon, where he was a member of the math and science clubs and the Spanish National Honor Society, in addition to his academic and athletic responsibilities.
While Tran can’t wait to see what Johns Hopkins and his future have in store, he’d also be lying if he said he wasn’t going to miss Wissahickon. After all, the school helped mold him from a timid freshman into a four-time champion and leader, something he will take with him well beyond his final state tournament and graduation.
“Competing and spending time with all of my high school friends, I’ll miss that so much,” he said. “For months, we worked together to make it to districts and states; even if they were only 20- to 30-minute bus rides to away matches, they added up, and I’ll miss those too. A bond is created to the point where it becomes something you’ll really miss not being around.”