The U.S. Tennis Association recently announced that Marlee Zein was named to the first-ever USTA Junior Leadership Team, which recognizes America’s finest junior tennis players who exhibit leadership, sportsmanship and character on and off the court.
A resident of Sugar Land, Zein is among nearly 30 players nationwide named to the USTA Junior Leadership Team. Each player was nominated by his or her USTA Section for their excellence in tennis and in the community.
“These are players whose achievements speak volumes about their character, both as tennis players and as members of the community,” said Bill Mountford, the USTA’s Director of Junior Tournaments. “With the USTA Leadership Team, we’re glad to have a way to recognize the tremendous examples they’ve set on and off the court.”
Zein, a sophomore at Dulles High School, was ranked the No. 4 player in Texas and the No. 9 player nationally in the USTA Girls’ 16s national rankings at the end of 2015. She’s been a doubles finalist at the USTA Winter National Championships (2014) and finished third at the USTA National Clay Court championships the same year.
She won the USTA Texas Chuck McKinley Award for highest nationally ranked junior in Texas in 2014 and earned the 2015 sportsmanship award at the Texas Grand Slam. She also volunteers for her local Sudanese American community organization.
“From a very young age I was surrounded by tennis, through my sisters and the many tournaments I was taken to,” Zein said. “I basically grew up with a tennis ball and racket in my hand, whether I was hitting on the wall or just running around. To me, tennis is a very special sport because it provides me with structure, stability and requires me to be more responsible than many of my peers.
“Not only has tennis kept me fit and healthy, but it has also provided me with many lifelong friends. Even though playing tennis may limit my time to participate in ‘normal’ teen activities, I am truly grateful for the many opportunities that tennis has presented me and will present me in the future.
“In addition, I believe this sport has brought my family closer through the numerous hour-long car rides and just the constant support my parents and sisters have given me. All in all, I believe the sport of tennis has helped shape the person I am now and will become in the future, and for that I am extremely thankful.”
Each year, more than 120,000 players compete in USTA junior tournaments. Players compete in levels of competition through earned advancement in the 10s, 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s age divisions. USTA junior tournaments help kids take their game as far as they want — high school, college or pros — or just have fun competing.