Airman leads U.S. tennis team to international victory

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lauren Pitts
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehrust Public Affairs

The Olympics are known for bringing athletes from around the globe together for friendly competition. However, international competition and comradery doesn’t only occur every four years.


First Lt. Hannah Kabaso, the deputy sexual assault response coordinator for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst recently attended the NATO International Sports Competition in Sardinia, Italy, where she served as the captain and coach of the U.S. Tennis Team.


“I’m really competitive,” said Kabaso, who began playing when she was three years old in her native Minnesota. “Tennis is 90 percent mental game. You’re responsible for your own score.”


Growing up, Kabaso competed locally and nationally, and was recruited by several schools before committing to play for the Air Force Academy. She said she met some of her closest friends, made the best memories, and faced her greatest competition during her time as a Falcon.


“It taught me discipline,” Kabaso explained. “But it was also a team environment, and I really enjoyed that.”


Kabaso and her teammates competed in tournaments across the nation during her college career. However, once she graduated, she thought her tennis career was all but over.


“After college, I definitely didn’t play as much,” Kabaso said. “It got harder and harder to find real competition.”


That was until June of this year, when Kabaso received a notification from an official with the Air Force Sports Office, who was recruiting a tennis team to compete in the NATO International Sports Competition against teams from The United Kingdom, Germany, The Netherlands and Poland.


“I sent in my resume, which was a list of all my tennis records,” Kabaso said. “They liked what they saw, and they asked me to be the team captain – and also the coach.”


Kabaso worked with her leadership to coordinate her leave, which she explained was no hassle thanks to her incredibly supportive team.


“Having been selected as both a player and a coach, I knew it was a chance for her to highlight her leadership skills,” said Mary Kierstead, the Sexual Assualt Response Coordinator for McGuire. “She exemplifies the Air Force core values.”


As the newly appointed team captain, Kabaso sorted through the remaining applications and put together a women’s team of fellow collegiate-veteran teammates before mid-September, when the group traveled to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to train for four days before the competition began in Italy.


“Almost everyone had played at the Academy,” Kabaso said. “So it was easy for us to gel together as a team.”


The U.S. dominated the competition; sweeping the tournament as well as taking home the most valuable player award and a nomination for the sportsmanship award.


Kabaso explained that in the international environment, everyone’s eyes were on the Americans as an example of excellence.


“Going into this, we knew it was important to play well, but it was equally important to conduct ourselves well,” said Kabaso. “I was so very proud to be a part of this team.”