Akli, Scotty named to USTA

Junior Leadership Team

May 18, 2018

Ayana Akli and James Scotty have been named to the third annual USTA Junior Leadership Team, which recognizes America’s finest junior tennis players who exhibit leadership, sportsmanship and character on and off the court.


Akli, of Silver Spring, Md., and Scotty, of Annapolis, Md., are among more than 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 players are our future leaders, and the values they’ve shown to embody both on the court and in the community are evidence that our future will be in good hands,” said Lew Brewer, the USTA’s Director of Junior Competition. “They are the perfect role models for that represent our nationwide Net Generation efforts, and they truly deserve to be recognized with the USTA Junior Leadership Team.”



Akli, 16, has been ranked in the Top 100 of the USTA Girls’ 16s national standings and in the Top 200 of the 18-and-under national standings. She’s earned a number of accolades in both USTA national and varsity competition and was the 2017 Maryland high school girls’ state champion, as well as Wheaton High School’s Athlete of the Year. Akli has also won sportsmanship awards across multiple USTA junior tournaments, earned Outstanding Achievement honors in Principles of Engineering and Introduction to Engineering Design as part of Project Lead the Way, is a member of National Honor Society and National Science Honor Society and has volunteered in multiple service projects. 


Scotty, 18, has been ranked near the Top 100 of the USTA Boys’ 18s national standings, and was the No. 1 player in the Mid-Atlantic section to start 2018. He’s won multiple sectional championships in singles and doubles throughout several age groups, is perennially ranked in the Top 5 in doubles in the Mid-Atlantic section and represented Mid-Atlantic in the USTA Boys’ 18s Team Championship in 2017. Additionally, he’s been a member of the National Honors Society and a volunteer for the Special Olympics for two years. He’ll begin playing tennis at the U.S. Air Force Academy in the fall. 


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.


In their own words:


Ayana Akli: Tennis is the sport for me because I love the competitiveness of the game and the intelligence you need on the court to win. A moment that really resonated with me was when I went to Mexico for Team USA with the Junior Tennis Training Center. We played three different teams (two from Mexico and one from the Bahamas) and in the process we got to play new people and make new friends. We also did community service during our stay there. I enjoyed giving back to the community because it made me realize that I really enjoy helping others and coaching other players.


Sportsmanship played a large role in our time there because we weren’t just representing ourselves and the club; we were representing the country. The sportsmanship our team showed was one of the reasons for our success. It gained us respect, built relationships and strengthened our team to be unified. For example, due to the change in altitude and weather we were not adapted to this new environment, so each day felt really long. However, fighting through each point while playing fair led to our team overcoming these struggles. This experience really showed me the positive outcomes of sportsmanship. It also helped to strengthen my love for the sport, because I got to travel to places I have never been before and I was able to do something I love while giving back to the community.


James Scotty: A few years ago, the summer after my freshman year of high school, I almost quit tennis. I was frustrated with my progress and thought that I was not improving as quickly as many of my peers. I also became extremely frustrated with players who would cheat and manipulate their way to victory. Even though I was working hard and playing honestly, I was not getting results. I thought it was unfair and no longer wanted to be a part of the sport. Thankfully, my parents encouraged me to stick with it. They told me that life is full of trials and that it is important to learn to endure, that I was improving and results would come, and the struggle would help me discover something about myself. Since then, I’ve come to realize that tennis was shaping my character and that I was learning lessons that would be applicable in my future.


A few years ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Special Olympics. It was an eye-opening experience. These were tennis players who just enjoyed the game, regardless if they won or lost. I realized that by focusing so strongly on results, I was losing sight of why I played tennis. I learned a great lesson, that results should not always be the focus. Months later I played in a tournament and lost in the final round of qualifying in three tough sets. I was discouraged by the loss, but was fortunate to receive a lucky loser position into the main draw. Rather than worrying about how I was going to play or my opponent, my mindset going into the main draw was to simply enjoy the experience. I had already lost once, so there was nothing for me to lose. I ended up winning two rounds in the main draw and played some of the best tennis of my life. By changing my focus from results to enjoying the competition and working hard, both my play and my results improved.


By participating in tennis, I saw that it is important to work hard and to remember that results do not happen instantaneously. Across all sports and careers, there are ups and downs. It is important not to get discouraged during the downs, but to keep working diligently and enjoy the process. I found that by consistently working hard, I was starting to get better results. In fact, I was able to pass many of the players who may have taken shortcuts and sometimes cheated their way to victory when we were younger. Working hard and focusing on the process has helped me in other areas, especially in school. Doing things the right way, rather than the quick or easy way, has paid off down the road.


Tennis has taught me to be independent and to work diligently. It has also shown me to be honest and to respect those around me. I will remember to work hard and do things the right way, even when no one is watching. I will always be honest and show others respect. Finally, I will show good sportsmanship in all aspects of life. Sportsmanship should not be reserved only for athletics. These skills, sharpened from my participation in tennis, will help me as I move forward to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy. I am grateful to tennis for helping me to meet some amazing people, gain memorable experiences and impact me in such a positive way.


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