Taking Tennis Above and Beyond

October 05, 2022

It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month and to celebrate, USTA Mid-Atlantic is honoring players, providers, and coaches of Hispanic Heritage who are making their mark on tennis in the Section. Every year from September 15 to October 15, the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month provides the opportunity to appreciate and recognize the importance of  Hispanic and Latinx cultures in American History. We honor the contributions and centuries of rich history encompassing those with heritage from Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean, and South and Central America. This month, we are highlighting Hispanic and Latinx individuals making contributions in the Mid-Atlantic and within the tennis community. 


USTA Mid-Atlantic is celebrating with Victor Cortes, a coach for the Girls Rule the Court™ program and P.E. teacher at Sugarland Elementary School in Loudoun County, Va., who has paved the way for hundreds, if not thousands, of children learning tennis with his initiative to incorporate tennis into his P.E. classes and curriculum.


As an avid tennis player both competitively in his younger years and recreationally now, Victor Cortes holds the sport near and dear to his heart.  He jumped at the opportunity to bring tennis to the school where he teaches, capitalizing on the resources and support USTA Mid-Atlantic provides to help teachers and schools introduce tennis programs in the classroom. 

Now Victor not only teaches tennis during the school day, he’s helping youth after school - especially girls - develop their tennis skills and love of the sport for the long term. An after school tennis program is something Victor had longed to provide to his students and now with USTA Mid-Atlantic he’s making it happen and making a big difference in the lives of many young girls. 


USTA Mid-Atlantic had a chance to connect with Victor Cortes to learn how tennis has made an impact in his life, and how he continues to pay it forward here in the Mid-Atlantic.


USTA Mid-Atlantic: Tell us about yourself, and how you got involved in tennis?

Victor Cortes: I was born in Connecticut and attended elementary school on Long Island , NY.  When my father retired from the U.S. Coast Guard we moved to Puerto Rico to learn his culture.  Learning Spanish was easy for me since we heard it a lot at home, but we also learned many Puerto Rican traditions, about our history, and it was easy to understand why we are a proud people. I have 22 years of teaching experience including 16 at the elementary level and 3 wonderful years teaching at the University of Puerto Rico. As an athlete, I have participated in many sports, such as: tennis, racquetball, soccer, paddleball, football, wrestling and baseball. I picked up my first tennis racquet right before heading to college. Tennis was the first individual sport that took me to other cities and I met people with similar interest in the sport. However, coming from a poor family myself, at times I felt out of place. I showed up with a racquet and a towel and noticed the other players arriving with their huge tennis bags full of racquets, balls, grips and more. I was always very competitive but now I was playing to prove that I belonged. I’m certain it made me a little stronger.


When did you start teaching tennis in PE and what has the impact been like on your students? 

While participating in a VAHPERD Conference, I came across a USTA representative that announced the USTA was offering tennis equipment for schools interested in bringing tennis to their physical education programs. Sugarland Elementary School is a Title 1 school. Therefore, bringing tennis to my school community was an opportunity to introduce a sport that they would otherwise not have access to, mainly due to financial costs. From the very beginning I offered a PE tennis unit to my 5th graders all the way down to the kindergarteners. Seeing the students eyes shine when they are able to perform a tennis challenge or skill, told me everything I needed to know. They were excited and came back the next day enthusiastic and ready to play again.


Why do you teach tennis in PE?

I teach tennis in PE, first and foremost because I am a big fan! It’s something I want to share with the Sugarland Community. Tennis is a very challenging sport to play. For most kids, the “hard part” is what they like. It draws their interest because they want to get better at it. My goal in PE is to stimulate that interest in the sport with the hopes that they may make it a lifetime activity. 


Why is celebrating Hispanic Heritage month important to you?

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage month is important to me because it gives us a chance to tell our story. When I was 11, my father retired from the military and we moved to Puerto Rico to learn his culture.  At first I felt that the way of life on the island was different but in a few short years I knew that it was my culture, I felt at home. During my college years and my time in the military I met people from all over Latin America who were just as happy and proud of where they came from. We shared our experiences, we talked about our food, our clothes, our music, our holiday traditions and more. That’s what we want to share during Hispanic Heritage Month.


How would you like to see tennis grow in the Hispanic community?

I would like to see more opportunities on a consistent basis for the Hispanic Community. When the opportunities and space become available, the Hispanic community will be willing and eager to try this new sport. A good place to start may very well be in the schools at the elementary school level.


Why is it important to see tennis grow in the Hispanic community?

It’s important to see tennis grow in the Hispanic community because there are not many Hispanics in the college ranks or higher. Children will be eager to try tennis if they see someone, with their background, playing the sport. 


What is your involvement in Girls Rule the Court™?

I am currently a Coach in the Girls Rule the Court (GRTC) program at Sugarland Elementary School. In May, we had 20 third, fourth, and fifth grade girls and we held our program on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. With a majority of our participants being Hispanic, we immediately realized that the GRTC workbook needed to be in Spanish as well. I was able to translate it into Spanish and the workbook is already being used in my school and others. We have just begun the program again this September. 


Why was it important for you to get involved in Girls Rule the Court and bring it to the school you teach at?

Although we do have a tennis unit in PE, GRTC is giving our students a more in-depth look at the sport and more time to develop their skills during the several weeks [of the after school program]. This program also gives our girls a chance at a sport in a world that seems to give more opportunities to boys. The girls can play sports just as well as the boys, and sometimes better.


As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we will focus, uplift and amplify the voices of Hispanic and Latinx tennis players, providers, and coaches from the Mid-Atlantic region. Make sure to check out all the spotlights on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and we encourage you to share and join the conversation.

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.

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