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Meet the Slovakian Exchange Student Who Excels At (Boys’) Tennis

Not a Misprint


Lenka Zalinska was really good at tennis in her native Slovakia. She attended a school devoted to athletics in Kosice, the country’s second-largest city. Now, she goes to an American high school in Brainerd, Minnesota as an exchange student where she still plays tennis — on the boys’ team. You might be wondering why she isn’t on the girls’ team, and the answer is simple: she missed tryouts. Fortunately, the school’s rules allow girls to try out for the boys’ team, where Zalinska continues to amaze.

By the time Zalinska arrived in America this past January, the girls’ tennis team’s season had already ended. And this avid athlete was not about to waste all her time at the Mall of America (as fun as that place seems — there is a roller coaster, I hear!). Instead, she found out that according to Minnesota High School League rules, she would be allowed to try out for the boys’ tennis team. Those rules states the following:

“Girls must be allowed to try out for boys teams, contact or non-contact sports, even if a team for girls exists. Schools are required to offer single-sex teams for girls in certain circumstances as a means to remedy the past and continued discrimination against girls in sport.

“However, these teams must be offered on a completely voluntary basis, meaning that girls have the right to play on the all-girls team or to try out to play on a boys team.”

And not only has she been embraced by the rest of her team, on which she plays No. 2 singles, but she has also more than earned their respect and proven her place on the team — after four meets, she is undefeated. She’s also teaching everyone some Slovakian, but that’s just for fun. When she’s on the court, she is there to play tennis and provide a good showing for the Brainerd Warriors. That kind of focus made it easier for all the boys on the team to adjust to having a female teammate, and now, she’s just another strong tennis player. Says teammate Reno Fussy, who plays doubles, they’ve “never played with a girl before in [their] season, but she’s really good and she’s an asset to the team.”

More like a “kicking asset” … sorry. Rock on, Lenka Zalinska!

Pic by Steve Kohls, Brainerd Dispatch

(via Brainerd Dispatch)

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