USTA Florida’s mission is “to promote and develop tennis for all.” As a core value, we believe in providing opportunities for everyone to participate in the game of tennis, regardless of skill, age, physical ability, gender, ethnicity, economic background or sexual orientation. As Sept. 15 – Oct. 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the Florida tennis community.
We want to introduce you to 18-year-old Daniel Labrador, who was born and raised in Tampa. Labrador just started his freshman year at Clemson University in South Carolina as a member of the College of Engineering and the Clemson University Honors College. He is also a student-athlete, competing on the Men’s tennis team for the Clemson Tigers.
How did you get involved in tennis?
My entire life I have always been very passionate about sports, so I was playing multiple different sports at a young age. In my community in which I lived in Tampa, they would hold after-school tennis clinics for kids, so I decided to try it out. It was only about 2 hours a week of very recreational tennis, but I immediately fell in love with the sport and I eventually dropped the other sports that I was playing to focus more on tennis.
What do you enjoy most about the sport?
The thing that I enjoy the most about tennis is the complexity of the sport. It is an individual sport with technical, physical, mental and tactical aspects. Every time you step on the court you are faced with a different challenge, whether its practice or a match.
Does your family play tennis?
In short, no. No members of my family ever played tennis. I was the only person in my family to really pursue a sport competitively.
What message do you have for parents about tennis?
My best advice for tennis parents is to let your child be the one to drive how much they want to do. Many times (especially with parents that have played tennis in the past) the parents push their kids to go to practice, to play tournaments and to do fitness. If your child truly wants to play tennis, at whatever level it may be, let them decide how much they want to play and to what level. Many times, parents will force their kids to do these types of things and more often than not it will ruin the child’s passion. That is not to say that parents should not encourage their child to go practice, but at the end of the day, the child should never feel forced to do something.
What is your heritage?
Both of my parents were born in Venezuela, but my father’s side of the family is from Spain. Given this, I have a triple nationality/citizenship (American, Spanish, and Venezuelan). Being part of three different cultures is my heritage: the importance of family, traditions, values and food. I have learned to appreciate every culture. It has also opened my mind about the world, and I think will open many doors in my future as well.
Why is celebrating Hispanic heritage important to you?
Celebrating Hispanic heritage is important to me because it makes you feel loved and appreciated by your community. It is also a great opportunity, like this one, to showcase the great contributions that all Hispanics are making to our country. Think of any field out there and I am sure you will find a Hispanic person shining on what he/she does.
How has your Hispanic heritage inspired you in tennis, or, your life in general?
My Hispanic heritage has inspired me in my tennis and in my life in general because of the core values that my parents have taught me. Things such as responsibility, respect, discipline, humility and much more have been taught and influenced to me by my parents and their Hispanic culture, and these are all traits that have been essential for my development and success both on and off of the tennis court.
Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in general, as well as in tennis?
It is extremely important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month because it highlights the wide diversity found in our country. The American culture is a combination of many other cultures such as the Hispanic culture, so it is important that we reflect on this and celebrate it. Many brilliant professionals such as doctors, engineers, professors, farmers, athletes come from a Hispanic background and all of them contribute to make our country and each community better every day. For the same reason, it is important to reflect on the Hispanic heritage in tennis. Tennis has always had great Hispanic players and coaches and for me being able to be part of that is a great point of pride for myself and my family.
Why is it important to not only support and celebrate other cultures, but be inclusive to all?
It is extremely important to not only support and celebrate other cultures but to also be inclusive to all for many reasons, but the most important reason is that we are all human and we are all to be treated equally with respect and care.
If you had to share your message of unity, what would it be?
My message of unity would be that we are all human and we are all part of one big community. We must work together to be united and to treat each other with respect and care. We all have lots to give and lots to receive from each other; it doesn’t matter if you are Hispanic or part of any other culture.
To learn more about USTA Florida’s diversity initiatives, click here.