Six-time National Champion and Hall of Fame Inductee Mary Doten retires
By Cynthia Maquet
Photos by Marcello Rodarte
“Humble,” “passionate,” “kind,” and “loyal” are just a few of the words used to describe Mary Doten, known to many as the GOAT of Paddle Tennis. Three decades of coaching and competing in paddle tennis have ended because, according to Doten, “it’s time.”
“My job has been a gift. I feel blessed to do something I love and call it work. Now it’s time to pass it along. I would not have stayed this long if I did not love what I do,” said Doten of her decision to retire now. Doten believes the lyrics by the country singer Jordan Davis say it best: “Find the one you can’t live without…find something you love and call it work.”
A Little History
In 1961, Doten was born in Oak Lawn, Illinois, the youngest of four girls. Her family moved to Western Springs two years later and has been there ever since. She started playing tennis at age eight and continued her career at Lyons Township High School, playing singles all four years.
Doten’s successful career in high school led her to play tennis at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. It was there she met her husband, Gary. They married in 1984 and returned to Western Springs to raise their two sons and daughter, and many yellow labs along the way. Now their family is expanding, with one granddaughter and another grandchild on the way.
Champion times Six
Picking up a paddle for the first time in 1993, Doten had no idea how it would change her life forever. “I was hooked from the very first time I played,” said Doten. The more she played, the more fun she had and the better she got. Along with fellow paddle players, Doten competed in the North Shore because there were no leagues in the western suburbs. Doten soon changed that.
In 2003, Doten and her doubles partner, Susie Keane, stunned the paddle world by winning the American Platform Tennis Association (APTA) National Title. What was the secret to their win? “No pressure,” said Doten. “We came in with no expectations of us and managed to beat five out of the top eight seeds to win the event.”
The next seven years of play led to five more National Titles, and little did Doten know, she would change the world of paddle right here in the western suburb of Hinsdale. Doten grew the sport of paddle, especially for women, and her program more than quadrupled in size during this time. It was the start of a new paddle era.
The Hinsdale Paddle Movement
Hinsdale Paddle Club (HPC) is busy with paddle players at any given time and during any given weather. Even on the coldest days of the winter, preferably snowy for many avid players, the courts will be filled with lessons, drills, and matches, most of which are led by Doten.
Twenty years ago, only two courts were available for play at Byrnes Park in Hinsdale. But now, with the following Doten has brought over the years, six courts are available at HPC, and two more will be added this fall.
Doten is most proud of “growing the program from 200 to 600 people, over half of them being women.” During the 2022- 2023 season, she coached nine women’s teams, along with coaching non-league drills, small group, and private lessons. If you were looking for Doten, you knew exactly where to find her.
“Whether it was during a team drill or a private lesson, I learned something new from Mary every time I stepped on the court. During my matches, I often ask myself ‘What Would Mary Do?’” said Katie Ramoley, a series five player for HPC.
Doten plans to spend most of her newfound time with her husband and her yellow labs at their second home in Sanibel Island, while also coming back to visit her grandchildren. What does she look forward to most? “Not teaching in the 10-degree and rainy weather,” she laughed.
Pickle Ball and golf are “hobbies” she plans to pick up during her retirement. “I do not like to sit around all day and definitely am always up for a challenge,” said Doten.
The Dotens also plan to continue to sponsor children through the Common Hope organization and have already planned a trip to Guatemala this winter.
The Future Success of HPC
Doten would like her legacy to continue to carry on at HPC and see the program’s success continue both on the courts and behind the scenes. “Mary Doten has been instrumental in the explosion of women paddle players. They come to HPC because of everything she brings to the court,” said Kelly Kelly, a series nine team player and current board member of HPC.
Doten has always been an advocate for women and would like to see more women become involved off the court. “Mary encouraged me to get involved, and help represent our women’s membership, which continues to grow day by day,” Kelly added.
What best advice can Doten leave to beginner and advanced paddle players on the court? “Patience. Always be willing to hit one more ball than your opponent.”
Is this really the final goodbye to Mary Doten and her paddle career? “It is not a goodbye, but see you later,” said Doten, and always, “Paddle on.”
Photo Caption: **Picture of Mary being inducted in Hall of Fame
In 2014, Doten was inducted into the Platform Tennis Hall of Fame for her achieved distinction in paddle play, her contribution to the growth and development of the game, and giving back to the greater good in Guatemala.