June 20th, 2019
Broward Non-Profit Provides Social, Competitive Tennis for LGBTQ+ Community
Organizations around the state are using tennis as a vehicle to bring the LGBTQ+ community together — not just for Pride Month in June, but year-round. The South Florida Tennis League (SFTC), a member of the worldwide Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA), is one of the largest gay-organized organizations in the world with roughly 200 members.
Founded in the 1980s, the SFTC was created out of need for a safe place to play tennis by a group of friends who had experienced discrimination, fear, and homophobia in the midst of the AIDS crisis.
The organization has now been fully operational for more than 30 years and offers a diverse array of offerings including tournaments, competitive ladders, casual play, and social gatherings. In addition, they have a number of teams participating in USTA Florida Leagues in South Florida that are often made up of club members recruited by someone within the organization.
The SFTC has made a significant impact on the lives of its members, both socially and recreationally. “For me as an individual, SFTC forms the core of my social life,” says SFTC President, Rob O’Connor. “I’ve played tennis my whole life, but it’s nice to have a regular group of friends that I can call — or just show up and play — where I can feel 100% comfortable being myself and sharing my whole life.”
Natasha Torres, a member who moved to Fort Lauderdale from Puerto Rico 20 years ago, found a sense of comfort within the SFTC. “SFTC accepted me with open arms and made me feel comfortable playing with the members,” she says. “They were very nice and caring. To the members, tennis and friendship are the main focuses.”
In addition, Torres found herself joining a USTA League because of an invitation from a fellow member. “I have been playing USTA for four weeks now and I love it,” she says. “The players on the team are very kind and fun. The USTA team is full of diverse players. We have become a tennis family enjoying the sport we love to play.”
Maria Romo is the USTA Florida Diversity and Outreach Coordinator assisting in promoting LGBTQ+ tennis across Florida. This includes providing sponsorships for the Orange Blossom Tennis Association Championship, Art Deco Tournament (Miami Mavericks), and the Gay Pride Parade in downtown Orlando along with the USTA National Campus.
“USTA Florida is dedicated to supporting organizations such as the SFTC in their mission to provide safe, fun and affordable play opportunities for all in the state of Florida,” Romo says. “Given that June is Pride Month, it is a vital time for us and our local communities to recognize organizations like the SFTC who are changing lives.”
For more information on how you can support, participate in, or find tennis play opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community, visit USTAFlorida.com/Diversity.