In their own words: Manuel Moreno, Jr. on Hispanic Heritage Month

Compiled by Peter Francesconi | October 11, 2022

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the USTA also celebrates those in the Hispanic community whose dedication to the sport as USTA volunteers helps to keep our game growing strong. There are more than 350 national volunteers from all 17 USTA sections, and while it would be difficult to recognize every Hispanic leader here, we’re thrilled to be able to highlight these volunteer leaders, in their own words, whose contributions, influence and enthusiasm continue to push this organization and this sport forward. In this installment, inaugural USTA National High School Committee member Manuel Moreno, Jr. reflects on what tennis means to him.


Tennis has been so good to me. It’s created many great opportunities over all these years. And it all started when I was 13, when my mom got me involved in the sport. In fact, she made me my first pair of white tennis shorts. I attended a summer tennis program offered in the Galveston, Texas public parks. (I’ve lived in Galveston all of my 66 years; I’m a BOI—“born on the island.”)


When I started tennis, I didn’t think much of the sport. I was into baseball and other team sports. But once I went out there and realized it really challenged me, I started getting hooked. That’s when I met my high school tennis instructor, Vince Stiglich, Jr., and it was his infectious passion for the sport that made me fall in love with tennis—a passion I carry to this day.

Coach Stiglich convinced me that I could get a scholarship to college if I worked at the sport, and that’s what I did, first for two years at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas (where we were nationally ranked for both years), then at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. I played at Lamar for two years, then was an assistant tennis coach there for two more years, working for Coach Ron Wesbrooks.


Now, I’m into my 39th year as a high school tennis coach, and 41st year coaching overall. After college, I went back to O’Connell High School in Galveston for 13 years, then to Clear Lake High School for two years, and now, this is my 24th year at J. Frank Dobie High School in Houston, where I coach varsity, JV and freshman teams. I run no-cut programs and I’ve had as many as 100 kids on my teams. I really believe that if a student wants to represent their school, they should have every chance to do so. That’s where you’ll find the diamonds in the rough. (Editor’s note: Moreno received the Starfish Award in 2014 for his work with no-cut high school tennis.)


But also, remember that Galveston Parks & Rec summer program I took part in when I was a teenager? After my senior year in high school, I helped Coach Stiglich run that—and this year, I just finished my 49th year with that program! Also, with the help of the City of Galveston, my high school has hosted one of the largest, if not THE largest, high school tennis tournament in Texas—the popular Beachcomber Classic, now in its 35th year.

I’ve been honored to have been named, eight years ago, to the first-ever USTA National High School Committee, which I’m still a part of. All of us on the committee are very involved in high school tennis, and if I might add, we all very much miss our late chair, Laurie Martin, and the passion she brought to promoting and improving high school tennis.


I’ve also been on the USTA Texas High School Committee for the last six years, and I’m involved in the Texas Tennis Coaches Association, most recently as a regional vice president in the Houston area. In 2020, I was honored to receive the USTA Texas Lloyd Sessions Educational Merit Award, given to coaches in junior tennis. (Editor’s note: Moreno has also received the TTCA's Class 5A (now 6A) High School Coach of the Year (2005); the Carey Caldwell Character Award (2010); the Loretta Hrncir Dedication Award (2019); and was the first recipient of the Holly Ford Sportsmanship Award in 2020.)


One of the most amazing times for me was in 2002, when I was one of the coaches selected to travel to Paris for a week for the U.S. vs. France Davis Cup semifinal to help chaperone 240 kids that Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale sponsored. Then there was the time, many years ago, I played in the Lipton Tea mixed doubles tournament, and my partner Suzanne Schwab and I advanced to the national tournament in Jacksonville—and we got to be in a national TV commercial with Stan Smith and Bob Lutz promoting Sawgrass Resort.


Tennis has been such a key in my life, and I have so many people to thank for helping me along this journey. I was a shy kid, and the sport helped me open up, as I’m sure my mother probably suspected it would. I learned how to play the sport from Coach Stiglich. From Coach Wesbrooks at Lamar, I also learned so much about family and its importance in creating the person I am today.


It continues to be a pleasure working with the USTA Texas and national staffs to promote not only tennis, but also the opportunities for Hispanics and everyone in our diverse society. And of course, with my own family—my wife, son and daughter—I’m so thankful for their support, and even involvement, in tennis.


In fact, nothing makes me prouder than to see my son, Mitchell, who is now an assistant tennis coach—at a rival high school! He is truly following in my footsteps, already directing a toy-raising Christmas season tournament in Galveston—“Toys for a Claus”—for the last five years, benefitting the island's Ronald McDonald House.

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