Despite having LDS friends and teammates since the age of eight, BYU tennis player Nicolette Tran Poulsen’s own catalyst for conversion came from within. After three years at BYU and extensive exposure to the faith, she got baptized and is now preparing to be sealed to her husband in the temple.
BYU student Kendl Hansen grew up playing tennis with Nicolette and her sister Desiree Tran. Hansen said Nicolette knew that Hansen and his family were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but that was the extent of what she knew about the church.
“To be honest, it didn’t come up that often,” Hansen said. “They knew we were LDS, and her dad would throw these jokes out every now and then just to tease me.”
Hansen and his family moved to Texas his senior year of high school and lost contact with the Tran family. After Hansen’s first semester at BYU, he was surprised to see Desiree playing for the women’s tennis team as a transfer student. The next year, while serving a mission for the Church, his mother “shocked him” with an email about Nicolette’s commitment to play at BYU as well.
“They’re competitive players, there were lots of places they could have signed with,” Hansen said. “I’m sure lots of California schools wanted them. I thought ‘What is going on?’ when I got the email. Being the wilder one (of the two sisters), I thought Nicolette would want to play at a super crazy school like San Diego State or something like that.”
Nicolette grew up with BYU women’s head coach Lauren Jones-Spencer and teammate Mayci Jones and said they were a part of why she chose to play here. After two years at BYU when Nicolette decided to take the missionary discussions, it seemed logical to have them at Lauren’s home.
“I’ve known (the Jones family) since I was 12,” Nicolette said. “I grew up with them and we would hang out. It wasn’t weird to have it at (Lauren’s) house. If anything, she was one person I felt really comfortable having them with.”
Having only attended sacrament meeting before, Nicolette decided to “try out” all three hours and go to church in October 2014.
“I had been going through a rough patch and wanted a different lifestyle,” Nicolette said. “I liked how I felt when I went to sacrament meeting once over the summer. I felt peace and I felt relaxed. It was a different feeling for me.”
She had been dating now-husband Danny Poulsen for about a month at this point, but wanted everyone, including herself, to understand she was completely self-motivated.
“I don’t think anyone ever pushed her to get baptized,” Danny said. “When she would start to talk about it someone was always there, whether her coach, a teammate or I was there just to fill her in on what she had questions about.”
“Everyone’s always like, ‘Who helped you? Who pushed you?’ and I’m like ‘No one!’” Nicolette said. “I had people who supported me and wanted to help me, but no one ever pushed it on me.”
She said she tends to push back when forced to things, so taking things at her pace and in her own way was what made everything click.
“I learned about (the Church) myself and wanted to do it on my own time,” Nicolette said.
On Jan. 29, 2015, Nicolette was baptized. Having reconnected with Hansen a few months prior to meeting with missionaries, her “first Mormon friend” was a logical choice to be the one to baptize her.
“I was apparently the first Mormon she ever met,” Hansen said. “I put Mormons on map for her, as well as BYU. It was pretty cool.”
Now preparing to be sealed in the Provo City Center Temple on April 9 of this year, Danny says Nicolette has “exploded” since converting.
“She’s better at doing things than I am, she’s more on top of when we need to read scriptures, say prayers, attend church meetings,” Danny said. “She keeps me in line. She’s a good girl.”
Nicolette said sometimes she wishes she had found the Church earlier, but learning from her mistakes was God’s way of effectively teaching her.
“People will try and tell me what’s right from wrong, but it’s better for me to learn for myself,” Nicolette said. “I feel I’ve become a better person in that way and know what’s right from wrong.”