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In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, held Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, USTA Florida will recognize members of Florida’s rich Hispanic community whose talents and dedication help to grow the great game of tennis every day — at every level. We applaud them all for making tennis a better and more inclusive sport, and for making the face of our game more accurately reflect the dynamic diversity of our country.
Javier Arias has been playing tennis for more than 35 years and is a tennis teaching professional at the Saint Johns Tennis Academy in Jacksonville. Arias is a certified USPTA, PTR, and ITF Level 1 pro, who taught for more than 18 years in Puerto Rico before moving to the U.S. The jack-of-all-trades was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and now lives in Saint Johns.
When and how did you start playing tennis?
I started playing tennis in Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the age of 15. I also practiced soccer and BMX competition. I began playing tennis with a wooden tennis racquet.
What role has tennis played in your life?
Tennis has been extremely important to me. I received a full scholarship at Pontificia Catholic University of Puerto Rico and completed my bachelor’s degree in business administration. My degree has allowed me to work and provide for my family. Tennis has also taught me to believe in myself, to work hard for my goals, to grow from defeat, to keep the focus on the goal and to get results under pressure.
Can you share some of your history in the sport?
As a player, I maintained a top 20 ranking in the Caribbean sections and represented Puerto Rico in international events during my junior years. As a college player, I played the number one position on the tennis team for Pontificia Catholic University. As the sport began evolving, I began to get interested in teaching. I truly enjoy watching a person evolve as a tennis player. I first worked on my PTR certification and then on USPTA and ITF Level 1. As a coach. my biggest satisfaction is guiding students through the process of developing into tennis players and above of all into well-rounded human beings.
You worked in tennis in Puerto Rico before relocating to Florida – can you talk a bit about that?
As a tennis instructor, I worked in different communities in Puerto Rico such as: Ciudad Jardin de Bairoa, Caguas PR; Sabanera de Gurabo, Gurabo PR; and Caguas Real, Caguas PR. As a Tennis Director and Head Professional, I provided and organized 10 & under group lessons; red, orange, and green ball group lessons; junior and adult private and group lessons to beginners, intermediate, and advanced players; and summer tennis camps for young players.
You’re a new addition at the Saint Johns Tennis Academy in Jacksonville. Can you share a little about what you do there?
Joining Saint Johns Tennis Academy has been a blessing. Relocating to Florida came with its challenges but SJTA has helped me settle in and be a part of the local tennis community. At SJTA, I help developing junior players, beginners, intermediate and advanced players. I also provide adult group lessons.
What is your heritage?
I was born on the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico. As a Hispanic, I am very passionate and enthusiastic about what I do. We value discipline, perseverance, commitment and believe in teamwork to achieve a common goal.
How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?
My Hispanic heritage has helped me develop my instincts about overcoming life challenges and obstacles. To raise up after we fall. That on every win and every loss there is always a lesson and with God in your life, you will always reach your destination.
Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in general, as well as in tennis?
Hispanic Heritage Month gives an opportunity to honor and celebrate Hispanic contributions to this melting pot. On a personal level, I want more people to learn about us, our music, our sports and our culture to achieve diversity and better social integration.
If you had to share your message of unity, what would it be?
We can be physically and ethnically different people, but we are all human beings. With virtues and defects, we should focus and highlight the best of each other to achieve a common benefit.
To learn more about USTA Florida’s diversity initiatives, click here.