Making Players Feel Welcomed on Court
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month (AAPI). To celebrate, this month USTA Mid-Atlantic is uplifting voices from the AAPI communities who contribute to our region’s vibrant tennis family both on and off the court.
Chris Lee’s passion for sports and team play is undeniable. His journey began with basketball, but as he got older he explored tennis and the competitive nature of the sport piqued his interest. “I traded in my basketball high-tops for tennis sneakers when I hit 40 and could no longer avoid getting crossed up,” said Lee.
A dedicated and passionate tennis player, Chris Lee captains multiple USTA League teams every year and is a member of the USTA Mid-Atlantic Board of Directors.
Ever since he picked up a tennis racquet his dedication to the sport has grown stronger. Chris Lee has built his community through tennis - so much so that his name is now synonymous with tennis in the Howard County, Maryland area.
Chris shared with USTA Mid-Atlantic how he turned his passion for tennis into a way of life, and how he is working to grow the game for generations to come.
USTA Mid-Atlantic: Tell us about yourself, where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Chris Lee: I grew up in Takoma Park, MD, and spent short stints in NorCal, NoVa, and MoCo before settling down in HoCo (Howard County). Specifically, I'm in Maple Lawn, home to dozens of USTA League players!
How has tennis become an important aspect in your life?
Best decision ever… tennis has given me an outlet for my competitive drive, kept me relatively healthy, and has expanded/improved my social circle. My closest friends now have the same passion for the sport and make competing with and against each other for local, Regional, Sectional, and National championships a blast.
What is your perspective on diversity in tennis? Nationally? In the Mid-Atlantic?
To be honest, I didn't see many faces that looked like mine in the local league I joined ten years ago when I started playing USTA. It didn't stop me from joining teams, but it was definitely a different environment than it is today. Once my wife and I started captaining teams in 2015, we sometimes have to make a conscious effort to add players who are not of Asian heritage to our rosters, for sake of diversity! It's important to make anyone who is interested in joining USTA League feel welcomed, and part of that is making sure new players see people who come from similar backgrounds or have shared experiences. I believe that in this part of the Mid-Atlantic, at least, we have made great strides in becoming more inclusive.
What three words would you use to describe tennis in the Mid-Atlantic?
Passionate. Plentiful. Social.
What do you think about the work USTA Mid-Atlantic is doing to make tennis more accessible through programs, services and grants?
Youth need access to courts, equipment, and instruction, and I think the USTA has done a great job working with communities to promote the sport.
Why is it important to have an organization such as USTA Mid-Atlantic working to increase access to tennis in all communities in the region?
Without a steady influx of younger players, tennis will be at risk of fading away. We can't let the perception persist that tennis is a sport for the elite and the entitled. We need to bring tennis to the people, and the USTA Mid-Atlantic organization is integral to that mission.
As a member of the USTA Mid-Atlantic Board of Directors, passionate player, captain, and supporter, Chris Lee is making tennis more accessible for ALL across the Section. Through the creation of accessible programming, emphasis on team play and sportsmanship, as well as the creation of grants to help grow the sport, Lee’s influence is changing the game.
USTA Mid-Atlantic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to promoting tennis and its physical, social, and emotional health benefits. Learn about our impact in the Section and how USTA Mid-Atlantic creates community, character, and well-being.