“The funniest one is Jesus Minjares — he is the one that wears super-hero shirts under the team shirt.”
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), USTA Florida Diversity & Marketing Coordinator Maria Romo spent an afternoon with the South Miami-Dade USTA League 40 & Over men’s 4.0 team that was victorious at this year’s USTA Florida League Sectional Championships. They will represent the USTA Florida Section at the USTA League 40 & Over National Championships in October in Las Vegas.
The team says it represents the best of players of various Hispanic-Latino ethnicities coming together for the fun, competitiveness and camaraderie of USTA League tennis.
“I started playing tennis here at this club with the guys,” says team captain Eli Parnell, originally from Puerto Rico, who after a long lay-off picked up a racquet eight years ago at the Tamiami Tennis Center in Miami. “I was looking for an activity to stay in shape, and started back then and have kept on playing since.”
Additional team members hail from Cuba and Guatemala, with multiple players from Venezuela and Puerto Rico, and even a Spanish-speaking player from Finland.
“It does not matter that we are all in this country or have become citizens, this country has allowed us all to celebrate our roots,” Parnell says. “It does not matter if you are Hispanic, African American, Irish, etc. We should always remember where we can from and celebrate our heritage.”
Team members are lawyers, computer and industrial engineers, sales vice presidents, work in mining, management and other fields. Off court they go to dinner and take annual trips to the Miami Open. Where they differ from your average USTA League team is the rich influence of their Hispanic cultures — from praying together to enjoying widely-varying food and beverages.
“We like to pray, keep a positive mind which brings us all together before we get on the courts,” Parnell said. “We get in a circle and finish the prayer by saying, ‘God is good all the time.’
Team member Noel Barengo is from Finland, but is fluent in Spanish after living in Argentina and Colombia.
“The club was one of the first contacts I made since I live in the area, and that is how I started playing and made friends,” he says.
How is their team different from a typical USTA League squad?
“Maybe the Hispanic-Latino team is not on time,” he jokes, “but as far as tennis, it is about the same. Maybe we scream more! We are very close because we have spent a lot of time together preparing for sectionals, going there, then having a good time afterwards drinking a beer. The friendships I have made is the best part.”
Armando Cabane, a 19-year USTA League veteran from Guatemala, also says the friendships made from USTA League play are invaluable.
“Comradery — it has been the main reason, especially since I do not have family in the U.S.,” Cabane says. “My teammates have become like my family, and the competitive spirit, there is no comparison to that. I like how well the USTA Leagues are organized. I have been part of the team as a captain or co-captain [since knee replacement two years ago]. Being part of the team has kept me going and has helped me mentally. These guys have been an amazing support to me throughout this time.”
Cabane agrees the Hispanic-Latino teams have a great deal of…volume. And spirit.
“We are a very happy team,” he says. “You notice after meetings or after practice or even after winning main events at the sectionals how loud we are. Our Latin flavor is undeniable and those who are not, have learned a lot from it. [During Hispanic Heritage Month] I think we must be very thankful to this country which has allowed us to come and live the way we live, but we cannot forget where we came from, and that diversity is what gives flavor to this country and to life. It is very important.”
Click below to hear team members share their backgrounds, thoughts on Hispanic Heritage Month and their USTA League team as they prepare for USTA League Nationals:
The South Miami-Dade 40 & Over Mens 4.0 team captured the Sectional Title this year and credit their strength to players of various Hispanic-Latino ethnicities coming together. Watch and find out more about their story.
Posted by USTA Florida on Wednesday, September 19, 2018