July 18th, 2015

Broward Tennis Blog: USTA’s Romo Sees ‘Se Habla Tenis’ in South Florida

Courtside Diversity
Maria Romo-Jackson

Maria Romo-Jackson

Storefronts across south Florida frequently carry signs that read, “Se habla Espanol,” which translates as, “Spanish is spoken here.”

If Maria Romo-Jackson of Margate has her way, we’ll soon see signs that read, “Se habla tenis” — meaning that tennis is spoken or played here.

That’s because Maria, the USTA Florida diversity and marketing coordinator, has been making major inroads to bring tennis to Hispanics in our community through Tenis para Todos (Tennis for Everyone).

Maria knows a thing or two about tennis and the Spanish language: Earlier in her life, she was the former No. 1-ranked junior in her native Colombia. She also represented her country internationally on the tour of COSAT (Confederacion Sudamericana de Tenis).

In her two-and-a-half years in this full-time position, she’s worked with a team of USTA Florida staff and volunteers to create partnerships with nine statewide facilities for Spanish-speaking players, three in our area. These programs are operating in two public Miami-Dade facilities: JD Redd Tennis Center in Homestead and Goodlet Park Tennis Center in Hialeah.

It’s also in Broward at Pembroke Isles in Pembroke Pines. The latter program, which is open to the public, is run by Gustavo Granitto’s GTC Tennis Consultancy. A fourth Hispanic program will begin later this year with the city of Miami at Henderson Park, in a largely Spanish-speaking neighborhood.

Tenis para Todos programs usually feature play days, round robins, clinics, tournaments, and festivals. The latter are daylong free events for beginners, juniors, adults, and players of all levels that include lots of tennis, food, drinks, and music (often Spanish, as well). The Tenis para Todos team uses Spanish and bilingual printed materials, and always points out that tennis is a sport for all income levels and all age groups.

Maria is quick to share the credit for the introduction of these programs with USTA Florida staff members Cathy Nordlund, tennis program coordinator, South Region 8 (Miami-Dade); Laura Bowen, director of marketing and membership who is headquartered in Daytona Beach; USTA staff in other departments, and a network of volunteers throughout the Sunshine State.

The diversity outreach of the USTA Florida is concentrating its efforts first on the rapidly-growing Hispanic population, but also sets its sights on other demographic groups, such as African-Americans and the LGBT community. According to the USTA Florida website, there are approximately 52 million Hispanics in the U.S. as of 2012. That number is projected to climb to 133 million by 2050, or some one in four Americans by then.

Hispanics in America spend about $1.6 trillion annually and, perhaps surprisingly, tweet twice as often as the U.S. average. Florida is the third most populous Hispanic state in the union: Miami ranks number 12 among all American cities for the number of Hispanics who live there.

USTA Florida hopes to spread its love of the game to all communities throughout the state. But there’s one guaranteed player for sure: Santiago, an adorable little boy who Maria and her husband — to whom she taught tennis — brought into this world in March.