“My dad played — he was on the Harvard tennis team. My uncle was on the Yale tennis team. My other uncle was at Berkeley,” said Josh Pompan, a senior who is now serving in his second year as a Penn men’s tennis team captain.
“So, it runs in the family, I guess you could say.”
Pompan has been playing competitively since the age of twelve, when he participated in United States Tennis Association tournaments regularly. When it came time for his college search, he knew he also wanted to go to a place that was “strong academically and athletically.” He was courted by other Ivy League schools, but a meeting with Quakers coach David Geatz changed everything.
“I talked to [Coach Geatz] about the program, fell in love with the program without even seeing the school, and I committed a week after that,” Pompan recalled. “I knew I wanted to go to Penn, and that was the best decision of my life.”
The California native wasted no time demonstrating his star power. In his freshman season, playing mostly at positions three through five, he notched 24 overall wins over the course of the fall and spring seasons, most on the team.
Perhaps the highlight of his sophomore season came on an early April day at Brown. With the teams tied at 3-3, Pompan stared down a 5-1 deficit in the third set of his singles match, with everything on the line. Not good. What’s worse? He was sick. But he nobly fought through the illness and demonstrated to his teammates that he might just have what it takes to be their leader.
“I was sick that day — I actually threw up on the court. So, I said to myself that I was just going to give it my heart and soul, and I think that type of leadership is what’s my style,” he said.
Oh yeah — Pompan booted and rallied from four games down to win his match and seal the victory for the Quakers.
He was elected as team captain the next season, which came as no surprise to Geatz, who saw leadership in Pompan from the first time they met.
“About thirty seconds into the first conversation I had with him,” he said, recounting the same story as Josh, “I just thought that this guy is so enthusiastic and had such a great attitude that I knew he was going to be a team leader right away.”
As a captain, Pompan strives to lead by example.
“He doesn’t demand anything of his teammates that he doesn’t do himself,” Geatz said.
Pompan certainly rose to the occasion in his new position of leadership in terms of his individual performances, amassing an impressive resume for the season: second team All-Ivy and a 17-5 singles record. But beyond his contributions in competition, he played perhaps a more significant role outside of match play, bringing boundless positive energy to the team atmosphere.
“He brings a lot of enthusiasm,” remarked Geatz. “Every single practice he comes to is better because he’s at it.”
Unsurprisingly, Josh was again elected as a captain for his senior year.
Two of his biggest role models for Pompan as a tennis player are his father and Roger Federer. His father once told him to treat tennis “like golf — improve it one stroke at a time”, which stuck with him, and Federer is “the best sports man on the court … he loses gracefully, and I think that’s important.”
“I also love Bruce Springsteen,” Pompan noted. “Every show, he gives it his all.”
With just a few weeks of college tennis left, Pompan is ready to give this season his all, too.