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    Former Model and Tennis Pro Chris Trepte Brings Star Power and Skill to Multiple Bay Area LGBTQ Teams

    By John Chen–

    From turning down a potential spot on the U.S. Junior Olympic Soccer Team, to competing on the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) Futures Tournament Tour, to posing for one of the most prestigious modeling agencies (Ford Models), Chris Trepte is an LGBT elite athlete who has seen it, been there, and done that.

    Hailing from a successful tennis family in Southern California, Trepte started playing tennis at the young age of four, just one year older than Andrei Agassi who started at the ripe old age of three. The family matriarch Dorothy (Dottie) Head Knode, Trepte’s grandmother, was the most accomplished player, reaching a career high world ranking No. 5 twice in 1955 and 1957 respectively. During those two years, she also reached the French Open singles finals. With such a pedigree, how could Trepte not be on track to becoming a world class tennis player?

    Chris Trepte

    “Actually, soccer, not tennis, was my first passion,” Trepte told me for the San Francisco Bay Times. “Yes, I played tennis. But that was because everyone in the family played. It was our identity. It was who we were as a family.”

    “I loved soccer and played all the time,” he added. “I was mainly a defender because I was fast and confident that no attacker could score on me one on one. When I was 15, I attended the U.S. Junior Olympic Soccer Team tryouts, but played as an attacking forward. Incredulously, I somehow scored two goals. Honestly, I didn’t even know how I scored those goals. I basically kicked the ball, and it went in, twice!”

    As accomplished as he was in soccer, Trepte eventually had to decide on a sport to focus on. And ultimately, he chose tennis. “Because I come from a tennis family, and playing tennis was the best way to bond with my father, I quit soccer,” he explained. “At the time, being able to spend quality time with my father was more important than anything else.”

    He continued; “A little more than halfway through my freshmen year in high school, I took the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Exam) and received my diploma. I did so because I felt I needed a change and moved to Fresno where a well-known tennis coach, Francisco Gonzales, saw my potential and took me under his wings. Not too long after, Fresno State University offered me a practice spot on their nationally ranked tennis team because I was only 16.”

    Through the vast majority of his early teenage years, Trepte never really thought about his sexuality. He was too focused on his athletic endeavors to notice. “I never really had an inkling that I was gay growing up,” he explained. “I even had a girlfriend at the beginning of my freshmen year in high school. The problem was she always wanted to ‘touch’ and I did my best to ‘reciprocate’ but it was abundantly clear that I had no idea what I was doing, which was both awkward and hilarious. I just assumed I was straight until an out of the blue, coming out of nowhere encounter that [awoke] my true sexual desires and identity. I was 15 at the time. [That one experience] motivated me to explore my sexuality more. I got on AOL and waited minutes for a photo to download. That kind of patience and motivation created a whole new world of excitement and anticipation. At the same time, I was welcomed into a world full of anxiety, fear, and lies.”

    “At 17, I moved back to Orange County to further my budding tennis career where I got a chance to play against the No. 1 singles player for UCI (University of California, Irvine), whose claim to fame was beating Andy Roddick,” he said. “So, in essence, beating him was like I beat Andy Roddick, a future No. 1 player in the world and a Tennis Hall of Fame inductee.”

    He continued: “Over the next couple of years, I steadily improved and started winning multiple matches in Open level tournaments and eventually reaching some semifinals. I also kept an eye out for other gay players while lying about girls, relationships, and sex in the locker room. I eventually competed in ATP Tour Futures Tournaments, where all the top players in the world got their start. Meanwhile, I still couldn’t [identify] anyone like me and skirted all questions fellow players had regarding girls and women.”

    “Shortly after starting my budding pro tennis career, I injured my rotator cuff,” he added. “At the time I didn’t understand how to take care of it, how to rehabilitate, or how to seek help. My shoulder never healed properly and that pretty much ended my tennis career. It was disappointing, but also a relief because I don’t have to lie and hide anymore. I always felt that I couldn’t devote all of myself to tennis because it took a lot of time and energy to create and mask all the lies.”

    Interestingly enough, while playing tennis several people told Trepte he should be a model because of his boyish good looks and athletic build. Intrigued, Trepte sought advice on how he can be a model, and soon after, Wilhelmina, a large modeling agency in Los Angeles, showed strong interest. Trepte through various trials, errors, and tribulations eventually landed a contract with an internationally renowned agency, the Ford Models.

    “Modeling was brutal,” he said. “Even though I was an elite athlete, I was still too fat. I was told I had to lose 30 pounds, be toned, but not overly muscular. I couldn’t have large pecs because it made me look too old. The list of body image changes and maintenance was never ending. After a couple of years, I walked away from modeling because of the pressure and I wanted to eat again!”

    Fast forward to today: Trepte lives in Marin County teaching various subjects, such as cross fit and yoga, while helping to care for his parents. There’s a strong sense of peace within that Trepte didn’t have during his competitive and modeling days. Nowadays you can find him playing tennis at the local clubs and USTA (United States Tennis Association) Leagues, hitting homeruns in SFGSL (San Francisco Gay Softball League), recording kills with the Balls of Furry LGBT volleyball group, and catching touchdown passes at SFGFFL (San Francisco Gay Flag Football League) games.

    Although he sometimes wishes things would have turned out differently with soccer and tennis, Trepte is happy just being an average weekend sports hack like you and me.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball, and football teams.

    Published on October 21, 2021