1970s SCA Alumna, 1980s Pro Tennis Star
Leslie Allen is a retired professional tennis player who was once ranked #17 in the world. In 1981, she became the first African American woman to win a major tournament since Althea Gibson, and later became an athlete development specialist, television broadcaster, tennis executive and served on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) board of directors.
Currently a resident of Morris County, New Jersey, Leslie grew up in Cleveland. As a teenager, she had yet to begin playing competitive tennis because “my school didn’t have sports for girls,” but, yearning to be part of a team, she joined an all-girl SCA trail crew at Vermont’s Merck Forest. “I’m reasonably sure that I am the only SCA alum who has played on center court of every Grand Slam tennis tournament,” Leslie jokes.
“It started when an SCA recruiter came to our classroom. I can still see his long hair and Earth shoes,” she recalls. “But I liked the fact that, early on, SCA was committed to offering outdoor experiences to a diverse mix of people, and I loved the idea of other girls from all across the country working together toward common goal.”
Decades later, Leslie applies many of those same philosophies through the Leslie Allen Foundation’s Win4Life program. “Many young people dream of becoming professional athletes but soon realize they may not ever play,” she says. To provide additional career tracks, her foundation helps youth develop life skills in business and social etiquette, public speaking, and other areas as a means of securing behind-the-scenes careers in pro sports and succeeding both on and off the field.
“Growing up, I understood the benefit of having superior life skills,” says Leslie, a real estate professional with West End Residential. “I could navigate from a castle to the projects, but as a WTA spokesperson I knew if I didn’t have command of the King’s English, wear the right outfit, or if I was late, I wouldn’t be there.”
Win4Life graduates are currently working in professional tennis, the NBA and Special Olympics, among other organizations. When one of her students recently spoke to a large group in Boston, “tears were streaming from eyes. She’d come so far!” Leslie exclaims.
“I operate from the premise of ‘what’s the point of knowing what I know if I don’t share it?’ The joy I get from that is far greater than any dollar value.”