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Northern California

Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Geoff Martinez

October 15, 2021

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, USTA NorCal is celebrating local players and professionals around Northern California. This year we wanted to highlight one of our NorCal greats: Geoff Martinez. 

 

Geoff has been playing tennis for over five decades and is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. He recently took second place at the Level 1 - USTA National Men’s 65 Grass Court Championships in August. Not to mention, Geoff recently retired from coaching at Marin Tennis Academy, where he coached for over 25 years.

 

Despite having an accomplished tennis career, Geoff knew that he was very privileged to be able to make a living from playing and coaching the sport he loved, especially since there were very few Hispanics doing either.

 

“My parents both immigrated from Mexico and I’m first generation,” Geoff said. “When I first started playing tennis, I stood out quite a bit. I noticed there weren’t a lot of Hispanics playing or a lot of people of color. Especially when I started playing at the prestigious Jack Kramer Club in Rolling Hills.”

Geoff grew up in Los Angeles and began his career at the age of 16, after switching over from basketball. The transition wasn’t seamless, but he was able to adapt some of the footwork over to tennis.

 

Later, he earned a scholarship to play tennis at Long Beach State. Despite him not making the top six in the lineup his first year, he continued to work and eventually became the number one player on the team. After college he began playing tennis competitively in 1972 and was able to get a world ranking by 1978.

 

“I didn’t really have the money to travel, I wish I could have traveled more. I would have probably played professional tennis a little bit longer had I had the money.” the Long Beach grad said. “I’d go out and play for a couple of months, but then I’d run out of money and have to come home.” 

 

Geoff soon began to realize the socioeconomic disparity within tennis and the lack of diversity. 

While playing professionally, he didn’t see many Hispanics playing and he believes it was because of the overall expense.

 

“Growing up, I had like one racquet and I didn’t take any lessons because tennis was expensive,” he said. “Tennis is still expensive and even when some people are really into playing, they don’t have the opportunity to continue playing.” 

grad said. “I’d go out and play for a couple of months, but then I’d run out of money and have to come home.” 

 

Geoff soon began to realize the socioeconomic disparity within tennis and the lack of diversity. While playing professionally, he didn’t see many Hispanics playing and he believes it was because of the overall expense.

 

“Growing up, I had like one racquet and I didn’t take any lessons because tennis was expensive,” he said. “Tennis is still expensive and even when some people are really into playing, they don’t have the opportunity to continue playing.” 

 

After he stopped playing professionally, Geoff made his way up to Northern California where he began coaching at Marin Tennis Academy. He coached there for 25 years before retiring earlier this year.

One of the things Geoff really appreciated about Marin Tennis Academy was their willingness to diversify their community

 

“They do have their own diversity program in place,” Geoff said. “I was always looking to get involved and I still am. A quarter of the student body population are people of color, but a lot of them opt for sports like cross country because tennis seems unattainable to them.” 

 

The retired tennis coach wants to volunteer at USTA NorCal in the near future in hopes of attracting more Hispanics to the sport. In the meantime, Geoff is looking forward to continuing to play National Tournaments. 

 

“If I do well in the Clay Courts starting Oct. 24th in New Orleans, I hope to get considered for the USTA International  Team next year. We will see!”

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