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Hart tennis: Hart’s Dam Dynasty

The latest member of the Dam family, Lauren, comes from a long line of tennis talent

Posted: September 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hart High sophomore Lauren Dam is the seventh member of her family to play varsity tennis for the school, but the first one to play on the girls team.

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The history of Santa Clarita high school tennis is full of interesting storylines and tremendous accomplishments.
But any book written on the subject would require multiple chapters to tell the story of the Dam family.

Five brothers passed through the halls of Hart High School from 1976 to 1987; all played tennis, and three were coached by current head coach Chris Mansfield.

In 1985, 1986 and 1987 Hart won three league titles in a row with Tuan Dam leading the team in ‘86 and ‘87 and finishing his senior year with a 59-1 overall record and a 29-0 league record for the undefeated Indians.

His brother Loi played for the team from 1982 to 1985 and brother Hoi played on the team from 1983 to 1986.
And that’s not even where the story of the Dam family begins.

Tien Dam played tennis for the Indians during the 1976 and 1977 seasons and Thomas Dam played from 1976 to 1978, when the Indians were in the Golden League.

Now, over 35 years since the first of those brothers stepped on the court to play for the Indians, the next generation has taken its place on the Newhall campus.

Thomas’ son Brandon Dam will be a junior next season on the boys varsity tennis team, taking his place as another member of the “Dam Dynasty,” as Loi calls it, on the boys team.

But this season brings a new storyline to the storied history of the Dam family’s impact on Hart tennis.

Brandon’s sister, sophomore Lauren Dam, has taken her place as a starter on the girls varsity tennis team and is the first member of the Dam family to play on the girls side.

And with a family with tennis in its blood, and a coach who also trained her uncles, she’s ready to pick up the mantle.
“It’s really nice because I’ve seen all my uncles pass through and have an opportunity to play for Mansfield and I feel honored to have that opportunity also,” Lauren says.

And as the Indians No. 3 singles player this season, she’s been given that opportunity as the Indians try to improve on last year’s third-place finish.
For some players, the pressure of living up to the titles and accolades her family members have racked up might be too much to handle. But for Dam, if the pressure has ever gotten to her, she makes sure no one around her notices.
“I think on the contrary, it actually helps her,” says Hart co-captain Shannon Cholakian. “Her uncles have come back and played with our coach after practice and it just makes the environment so much better for her knowing she has that support in all these areas.”
That support includes growing up in a tennis-oriented family; always able to practice with her brother, talk with her uncles at family gatherings, and learn from her father.

“I’m kind of like a guiding light for her,” says her father, Thomas. “I tell her what’s out there and at the same time I like to leave her to make her own decisions for what is best for her. ... I want to make sure I’m there to help her to guide her in the right direction.”

But her father is more than just a guide in her tennis life, always there to help her improve and learn the game they both love so much.

“If something goes wrong I just call him up and since he knows my game so well he can just go through a checklist and check this, check that, ‘Are you doing this correctly?’” Lauren says. “He knows me so well, not only as a daughter, but as a player.”

And as a player, Lauren is known as aggressive by both her family and teammates, and admits to liking to take chances on the court.

“She hits a heavy ball when it bounces off the court,” Mansfield says. “She’s got a very good serve and a very good ball.”
But her talents on the court aren’t the only positives she brings to the team.

For all her aggressiveness on the court, the 14-yeard-old is as kind as they come off it.

“You can’t be mad at her,” says her uncle Hoi. “It’s the way she is. If you see her you’ll see she’s always smiling, even if she’s mad she’ll control it inside and she’ll smile.”

And that’s an attitude that has become pervasive throughout the Hart team, helping them to battle through the tense situations that pop up during matches.

“She brings a positive attitude to every match, she’s a good team player,” Mansfield says. “She truly is very supportive of everybody. It adds to (the team). She brings an attitude that is infectious throughout the whole team.”
But this story would be wrong to suggest Lauren is carefree in anything she does, as she shares many of the qualities her father and uncles used in the past to succeed both in tennis and in life.

“The determination, the frustration when she’s not doing well, but mostly the desire to win is very strong in her family,” Mansfield says. “I knew right away (she was like her uncles).”

And that determination is something she’ll use as she tries to achieve her goal of one day playing tennis in college.
“Right now (the goal) is good grades and I definitely want a college scholarship. That’s what we’re training and processing and working hard for,” she says.

But despite the similarities she shares with her family members, Lauren isn’t content to be known as just daughter and niece to former Hart tennis greats.

She’s determined to write her own chapter in the history of Hart tennis, a chapter about the next great in a storied Hart family.

“I would love to be known as how I play, for my game, and known for my shot and known overall for how I play,” she says. “It’s definitely a start from (my father and uncles) but it would also be good to be known as apart from them.”
But as is her style, any story about Lauren can’t end with talking about herself.

“I’d like to say something about my coach,” she adds. “He’s my mentor and he’s always encouraging of me and my game and especially for him to be here and taking his time off in retirement to come and coach us, it’s definitely a great privilege.”

Lauren Dam, as aggressive as they come on the court, as kind as they come off it.

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