In their own words: USTA volunteers on Hispanic Heritage Month (Part 2)
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. With more than 350 national volunteers from all 17 USTA sections, it would be difficult to recognize every Hispanic leader here. But 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. Read Part 1 of the series here.
As a doctor specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, I manage the medical care of individuals with a variety of conditions, such as spinal cord injury, stroke, limb loss, multiple sclerosis and other neuromuscular conditions. (I’m currently the Medical Director of the Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility at Confluence Health in Wenatchee, Wash., and Vice Chief of Staff for our hospital.)
I’m also an avid tennis player, and my ultimate career goal is to incorporate my medical expertise with my tennis background, so I am grateful for my opportunities to use my knowledge to help others.
Currently, I serve on the USTA National Sports Science Committee and am a wheelchair classifier for the International Tennis Federation. I’ve also been a member of the USTA National Wheelchair Tennis Committee.
I have experience with adaptive sports and injury prevention, helping to develop wheelchair tennis programs as well as coaching wheelchair tennis. In February 2020, I served as the Neutral Medical Doctor for the Fed Cup event (now Billie Jean King Cup) that was hosted in Everett, Wash. In addition, I’ve volunteered at the National Veterans’ Wheelchair Games and with the Outdoors for All adaptive recreation programs.
I’m blessed to have an incredibly supportive family that has helped me pursue my goals throughout my tennis, my education and my career in medicine.
I received the Presidential Rector Scholarship to attend DePauw University, where I served as the tennis team captain, was a two time All-American in tennis, and was named an ESPN Third Team at Large Academic All-American. After college, I completed my residency at the University of Washington in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Throughout my training, I continued to play tennis and help coach wheelchair tennis.
I certainly recognize the challenges my family faced. Whereas I wanted to learn Spanish so that I could communicate better, my Dad did not learn to speak Spanish—even though it was spoken at home when he grew up—because he wanted to “fit in.”
But my decision to learn Spanish has helped me, and my patients, immensely. I work at a rural hospital, and I care for a large number of migrant workers. I enjoy being able to connect with them, and my ability to speak Spanish enhances our communication.
Unfortunately, it has been devastating to see the disproportionate number of patients of Hispanic heritage who have been impacted by Covid-19, relative to the general population. Seeing the effects of these social determinants of health every day reminds me of the importance of promoting health equity for all people, and I’m glad that I’m able to help contribute to this endeavor.
My tennis journey started as a junior player in Caracas, Venezuela; I became good at an early age. In fact, when I was 14, I reached the semifinals of the Venezuela National Championship—in the men’s division. I played Davis Cup for Venezuela when I was 15 (one of the youngest Davis Cup players ever), and I won the country’s national championship when I was 16. In all, I represented Venezuela in Davis Cup for 18 years (serving as captain for two years)—and that was incredibly special to me. I’d jump at any chance to represent my country through tennis.
At age 17, I came to the U.S. to go to college at the University of Corpus Christi (now part of the Texas A&M system). My professional career on the ATP Tour spanned three decades, from 1968 to 1982, and I reached career-high world rankings of No. 61 in singles and No. 69 in doubles. [Editor’s note: Along the way, Andrew had singles wins over Rod Laver, Guillermo Vilas, Dick Stockton and Raul Ramirez.]
Since then, my passion has been in spreading the word about tennis and helping as many people as possible play this great sport. For the last 20 years, I’ve been the Director of Tennis for the Lexington County (S.C.) Recreation & Aging Commission, managing two large facilities: the Cayce Tennis & Fitness Center, with 30 courts, and the Lexington County Tennis Complex, with 21 courts—both of which host major national, sectional and state junior, adult and ITF tournaments.
In 1999, I was honored to be named one of the original eight PTR International Master Professionals, and in 2003, I became a USPTA Master Professional—becoming only second person in the world to attain the highest level in both teaching pro organizations. I also felt honored to serve on the PTR Board for 11 years and as president from 2012 to 2015, and in 2016, I received the International Hall of Fame Education Merit Award.
But I’m also an avid and long-term volunteer with the USTA. Currently, at the national level, I’m on the Local Play & Competition Committee, and I’m on the Southern Section’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee and USTA South Carolina’s Awards and D&I committees. During the previous term, I served on the National Nominating Committee (I had also served on the Nominating Committee for 2009-2010), and I’ve held various volunteer positions at all levels going back nearly 20 years.
Now, while I look forward to retiring this coming January from my job as director of tennis in Lexington, I know I’ll continue to work to promote and drive this great sport—for players of all ages and backgrounds. Tennis has been a part of me for more than 60 years. It’s brought me to places I couldn’t have imagined, and it’s provided so many wonderful opportunities and friendships. How can we not try to share that with as many people as possible, throughout our lives?
[Editor’s note: In January, Andrew will enter the USTA Southern Section Tennis Hall of Fame, his fourth hall of fame induction. In 2019, he was inducted into the USPTA Southern Hall of Fame, 2016 the Texas A&M–Corpus Christi HoF, and 2012 the USTA South Carolina HoF. He also received the 2009 Tennis Industry Association Service Award and the 2008 USTA South Carolina Lucy Garvin Volunteer of the Year Award.]
As a young immigrant from Sinaloa, Mexico, and not able to communicate in English, I found great comfort on the tennis court with my family. It was fun. Later in life as a I faced personal challenges, the tennis court provided me with the perfect refuge.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I took my first formal tennis lesson. Shortly after that, I discovered league play, and I became focused on growing as a recreational player. I fell in love with the competition—especially on the doubles court.
When I moved to New Haven, Conn., in 2013, I first learned about the National Junior Tennis & Learning network—and I was intrigued. I became involved in New HYTEs, an NJTL in New Haven, in 2014 and became its executive director. Today, I feel blessed to be able to combine my passion for tennis with my passion for helping to enrich the lives of youngsters—not to mention the joy I receive by simply being on the court with all levels of players, using red, orange, green or yellow balls.
In 2018, New HYTEs was honored to receive recognition as NJTL Chapter of the Year from both the USTA New England Section and, separately, from Racquet Sports Industry Magazine. What most people don’t know is that when New HYTEs received these honors, our chapter had just become homeless. It was surreal to have so many championing for our mission delivery, yet we had no facility to call home. Thankfully, the recognition helped convince Yale University to allow us to run our academic enrichment programs in their space at the Cullman-Heyman indoor tennis facility, while also providing access to the tennis courts. I remind myself every day of the impact our team accomplished that year in spite of all the challenges, and that experience has provided us with the tools and resilience to weather the challenges posed by the current pandemic.
In addition to my work with New HYTEs, I’m also an avid volunteer in this sport, as a member of the USTA National Advocacy Committee, on the board of directors for USTA Connecticut, and on the USTA New England Advocacy Committee. My favorite part of volunteering is cultivating relationships to advocate for our sport, and leveraging our network for positive social change.
I consider myself an ambassador of the USTA Foundation NJTL network. Like my peers in the network, I leverage the sport to positively impact underserved youth through academic enrichment, character development, and tennis. My specific goal is to introduce more Latino youth, especially young girls, to a sport that provides pathways to life-changing opportunities. USTA New England produces WITT—Women in Tennis Together, an event I’ve taken part in that provides female high school tennis players with an enrichment platform where they learn the lifelong impact that tennis can have on their lives, on and off the court. I would love to see this as a national initiative for a larger and more diverse female audience.
Tennis has had, and continues to have, an amazing, positive impact in all areas of my life. In fact, I met my husband Cliff thanks to tennis (he was playing for the U.S. in the Gordon Trophy competition in Cleveland at the time), and we recently were able to build our own Har-Tru tennis court at our home in Hamden, Conn., where Cliff offers lessons and we’re able to play with adults and children of all levels and experience.
My passion for tennis continues to be the catalyst in my personal and professional journey.
I was born and raised in Miami and grew up playing at the local public tennis courts, where I learned to love this sport so much that I went on to play college tennis, then eventually became certified by both the USPTA and PTR.
Playing college tennis is what initially got me started in my academic career. I went on to obtain my bachelor's and doctorate at the University of Miami in exercise physiology and psychology and a master’s from Nova Southeastern University. I furthered my academic studies by receiving research awards from the National Institutes of Health, which funded my postdoctoral fellowships in GIS spatial analysis, biostatistics and epidemiology at UC San Diego.
During that time, I published research, became a contributing author of Sports Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation (2nd edition) and Improving Exercise Adherence, and later published the book Sports Performance Measurement and Analytics, which catapulted into the world of pro sports and led me to hold the position as the Director of Sports Performance Analytics for the Los Angeles Lakers and former Director of High Performance for an MLB team.
Currently, I live and play tennis in Los Angeles and am an Assistant Professor of Clinical Data Sciences and Operations at the University of Southern California. In addition, I have the privilege of teaching in both USC Marshall’s School of Business and the Division of Biokinesiology. My research interests focus on sports analytics, exercise, sports methodology, sports performance, sports science, exercise physiology and reducing health disparities. In my spare time, I consult with professional athletes in the NBA, MLB and ATP Tennis tour to help them optimize their performance and reduce the risk of injury.
As a USTA volunteer, I’m able to put my background and professional experience to great use as a member of the National Sports Science Committee, as we evaluate technology, conduct research and garner educational materials to help the growth of the sport. I also volunteer on the SCTA Foundation, where board members are constantly seeking ways to support the growth of tennis and provide access to underserved and diverse populations. In addition, I volunteer for the SoCal Diversity & Inclusion Committee, working to engage minorities at the community level.
As a Hispanic woman involved in sports and statistics, I encourage other minorities to continue their passion in both fields if that is where their interests lie. Recently, I founded the Sports Science Diversity and Inclusion Association (www.sportssciencediversityandinclusionassociation.com) for such individuals to find support and mentorship and to collaborate in research. (If analytics or sports science resonates with your goals, I’d love to hear from you at email@example.com.)
For anyone looking to give back to this great sport, I encourage you to get involved with the USTA in some capacity. It’s an association that brings together people of all backgrounds and experiences who all have a shared passion for tennis. The camaraderie this forms among volunteers and recreational tennis players is inspiring on so many levels.