In their own words: USTA volunteers on Hispanic Heritage Month

Compiled by Peter Francesconi | September 14, 2021

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 2 of the series here.

Bea Luna Vida

When I was 13, I played in a USTA Nationals event, and the umpire ruled against me for speaking Spanish—my native tongue. I was confused, angry and hurt. After the match, I phoned my mother. She told me through my life, I’ll meet many others like that umpire, but that I had a choice: to be mad and fight, or to be the better person and show the beauty that comes from my multilingual diversity and rich culture.


I chose the latter, and as I grew and matured, I learned to embrace my diversity and see it as an advantage, helping others understand that the best ideas and solutions come from diverse points of view and experiences. I believe inclusivity is at the core of human evolution, and I’ve chosen to be an ambassador to a true global culture—one that brings together different points of view and leads with innovative ideas for the good of others; one that focuses on being inclusive, and one that feeds from its diversity. 


Our Hispanic heritage and culture is as vast, rich and diverse as the 22 countries (from three different continents) that comprise it. For example, I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. My mother is from Cordoba, Spain, and my father from Lima, Peru. We come from three different continents, have three distinct cultures with language variances and accents, and embrace different foods, drinks, music, customs and history. Our diversity makes us more tolerant and understanding.


In tennis, it is an honor to serve as a volunteer helping promote the sport that has given me so much. I’m currently on the Board of Directors for the USTA Caribbean Section and a member of the USTA National Diversity & Inclusion Committee. In the past, I’ve served nationally as a member of the Collegiate Committee, Junior Competition and Hispanic Engagement Advisory Committee.

I have a special focus on helping Hispanics and Latinos all over the United States see tennis as a school for life. Tennis helps the individual learn about strategy, hard work, discipline, focus, how to learn from failure, resilience, the importance of a strong network, sportsmanship and so much more. It’s not just a sport, but a way of life. The skills and insights that tennis provides prepare kids and young adults for every day life and, in my experience, success in the corporate world. I started playing the sport at age 9, encouraged by my father. I ranked No. 1 in the Caribbean and top 40 in the U.S. as a junior, played on Puerto Rico’s first Fed Cup team, played several WTA events as an amateur, and played NCAA Division 1 varsity college tennis on scholarship at Georgetown University, where I received the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award and Big East Academic All-Star. Currently, I’m a senior executive at a Fortune 100 financial services company.


I live in Alexandria, Va.., and travel frequently to San Juan; I’m a very active tennis player and volunteer in both locations, playing USTA Leagues in both San Juan and Washington, D.C. In both places, my network and group of friends continue to expand, thanks to tennis. This sport continues to change my life in many wonderful ways, and I’m thrilled that I can help bring that to others.

Eddie Gonzalez

I’m extremely proud of my Hispanic heritage—my father was from Bogota, Colombia—and I’ve been thrilled to help in any way I can in supporting the growth of tennis for Hispanics in this country. The Hispanic community is the fastest-growing population group in the U.S., and I do feel that, while clearly making strides in the right direction, our national governing body can still improve to better target and address this major group, so that we can grow this sport for everyone.


Tennis continues to enrich my life, both personally and professionally. I grew up playing tennis in Rome, Ga., then went to North Carolina State University, where I was a former captain and MVP for the Wolfpack. I still love to play today, and play as often as I can, including USTA League matches.


I’m currently the tournament director for the Truist Atlanta Open presented by Fiserv, the ATP Tour 250-level event held in July in Atlanta (where I live), and the first hard court event in the US Open Series leading up to the US Open. But beyond “the job,” I love volunteering in this sport and helping it to grow.


I’ve been a longtime USTA volunteer at the national, section and district levels, currently serving as a presidential appointee to the USTA national board and also as a presidential appointee to the USTA Georgia board. I’ve also served on the USTA National Nominating Committee, the USTA National Hispanic Task Force and USTA Southern's Board of Directors.


As someone who’s been in this industry for a long time—both on the recreational side and the professional side—I know there are a lot of moving parts to this sport. But one thing we all can continue to focus on and support is bringing in players of all backgrounds—as players, teaching pros, fans, administrators and more. I’m pleased to be a part of this ever-evolving and growing industry, and look forward to continuing to contribute.

Laura Jackson

Hispanic Heritage Month is a great opportunity to celebrate the diverse backgrounds of people in sports. Many, like me, may not present as Hispanic, but the way we are brought up through our cultural values and celebrations and even our life through sports very much shapes us to feel a strong connection with our Hispanic roots. 


I was born and raised just outside of Washington, D.C. My grandmother, a retired P.E. teacher and avid athlete, moved from Bolivia to live with us. She received her American citizenship in her 30s but preferred speaking Spanish to English. Luckily, watching sports supersedes language. She taught me to love sports by watching the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.


Bolivia was always home to her and she went back around the time I joined my first soccer team. The transition from watching to playing sports felt natural because the coach in our heavily-Hispanic neighborhood spoke to us in Spanglish. I remember during one game, he yelled that we all ran slower than his “abuela” (grandmother)! 


In 2003, my family made the move to Tucson, Ariz. To make friends, my mom enrolled us in tennis clinics. I started to follow professional tennis and thought it was so cool that the two top players on the men’s side were Spanish and Swiss, heritages I could trace back from my mom and dad’s sides, respectively. Talk about seeing yourself in the sport!


I felt like it was meant to be, and it started my obsession with tennis. 


I made a friend from Nogales who would drive up to the round-robin tournaments at the Reffkin Tennis Center. Our moms would sit next to each other and speak Spanish while we played. Her heritage was Mexican, not South American, but we still found plenty of cultural similarities that brought us together. She and I became very close in college on the University of Arizona club tennis team and are still friends today.

When I graduated undergrad, I started working for USTA Southwest in Scottsdale as the Community Tennis Coordinator. As a small section with a limited staff, two of us oversaw all of the community programs that didn’t fit under the adult comp or junior comp umbrellas. My biggest accomplishment during my time at the section was winning Racquet Sports Industry Magazine’s 2015 Adult Program of the Year for “Sets in the City Southwest.” We were at maximum capacity of more than 100 players 18- to 39-years-old coming out to play on nine resort courts each Thursday. 


Today, I no longer work for the section but I am on three league teams, I co-captain one, and I play Sets in the City in Scottsdale every season. I am the chair of the USTA National Tennis on Campus Committee, and my goal is to keep TOC players in the USTA pipeline post-college. TOC is a very diverse program, with many stories just like mine. We love who we are and where we came from, and we love that tennis has brought us together to meet and learn from others with cool, diverse backgrounds, cultures and traditions intertwined with their journeys of growing up playing tennis.

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