Zareena Mann up to the dual challenge

Two-sport athlete in soccer, basketball commits to play the beautiful games at Brandeis University


Photo courtesy of Amar Mann

Zareena Mann tries to dribble past defenders while playing for the Pleasanton Rage club soccer team. She will be playing for Brandeis University in Massachusetts next year.

Managing not one but two sports at a high level would be an obvious challenge for anyone.
But senior Zareena Mann has risen to this challenge these past few years, and now prepares to take her talents to the collegiate level after graduation.
Mann plays both club soccer for the Pleasanton Rage and basketball on Cal High’s varsity basketball team. Her love for both sports ended up leading her to be successful in the two sports and successful enough in soccer to recently commit to play for Brandeis University in Massachusetts next year.
“I’m looking forward to it because in college, it’s a new environment, and you don’t really know anyone,” Mann said. “If I have a soccer team, I already have built-in friends and a built-in community. So I’m just really looking forward to already having friends in my first year.”
At the age of five, Mann’s parents wanted her to play a sport, especially soccer. She also had an interest in basketball, so she tried both.
It worked out well as she has received praise from teammates and coaches from both teams.
Mann has a large effect on her teammates at Cal, where she has played on the varsity basketball team since her sophomore year as a forward and center. Senior Mia Ziblatt who plays alongside her, said Mann is very funny, hard-working, and committed, really contributing to the team’s positive energy.
“[Mann] always knows what’s best,” sophomore Trinity Chu said. “[She] brings good energy and is a good teammate.”
Varsity basketball coach Jeff Rodriguez said Mann brings such unique qualities to the team.
“Zareena has got a competitive spirit, the best I’ve ever seen,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t really see a ceiling on Zareena, I really don’t. She never seems to ever get tired, which I don’t understand yet.”
Mann also has a large effect on her club soccer team. The team dedicates so much time to this sport, that during club season they train three days a week, with one or two games every weekend.
Pleasanton Rage coach Mike Herman sang Mann’s praises as much as Rodriguez.
“She’s an ultimate hype girl and likes to see her teammates succeed,” Herman said. “She has a big personality and wants to win all the time.”
When asked what he thinks Mann will do in the future Herman replied, “Zareena can be the driving force in a company”.
Karlee Lywandowsky, Mann’s Rage teammate for four seasons, said Mann has an undying spirit that is essential to the team.
“Zareena brings her sense of humor and her best game play every time she’s on the field,” Lywandowsky said. “Off the field, Zareena is one of the funniest people on the team. She always knows how to make someone laugh or bring up their spirits after a bad game.”
When Mann’s father, Amar Mann, has watched his daughter play soccer for about a dozen years and has really seen her grow as a player and person.
“She is someone that has strong values, lots of confidence, and is a very caring person,” he said.
All these years Amar Mann has watched his daughter compete and work and seen how she interacts as a teammate.
“She’s a very supportive teammate and a good people person,” Amar Mann said.
Mann is able to juggle both sports because the Rage, like most club soccer teams, take a break in the winter so players can compete for their high school teams. This break allows Mann to suit up for the Grizzlies on the court.
Mann balances being competitive on the basketball court and soccer field with being in a happy mood and always cheering on her teammates.
“She really understands people well and can work with them.” said Amar Mann.
Mann’s father said she has many great life skills that can help her with future career opportunities. He said that Mann has an ultimate competitiveness to her that has come from an early age.
“She has always enjoyed competing,” Amar Mann said. “We can be playing ping pong, Super Mario Kart, or a family monopoly game, it doesn’t matter.”
With such aptitude in both soccer and basketball, one would wonder how Mann chose one over the other. But it ultimately made more sense to commit to soccer since Mann didn’t play with an AAU basketball team and wasn’t getting the exposure in front of college coaches like she was in soccer.
“It was convenient because the recruiting season was happening and I was on a team where we were getting in front of college coaches for soccer, ” Mann said. “At the time, I just put more work into soccer and I realized I was more committed to soccer to begin with than basketball, and my love for soccer was growing quicker than my love for basketball at the time.”