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.
Jonathan Collazo is the owner and director of JC Elite Tennis in Tampa. He’s been involved with the sport in one way or another since he was six years old – as a recreational player, a competitive player, a coach and a tennis teaching professional. Collazo was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., raised in Puerto Rico, and currently lives in Tampa.
When and how did you start playing tennis?
I started playing tennis at 6 years old with my dad because he wanted to share his love for tennis with me. I played recreationally with my dad until I was 14 and took lessons at the Hyatt Cerromar in Puerto Rico with Charlie Rivera.
What role has tennis played in your life?
Tennis has impacted my life professionally and personally due to the lifelong friendships and relationships that have been made along the way. It has allowed me the opportunity to grow my business as well as continue to push myself mentally and physically. The ability to travel and see other countries while playing and coaching has been an amazing experience.
Can you share some of your history in the sport?
I started as a hitting partner working for Peter Burwash International (PBI) when I was 14 and played in the USTA Juniors Caribbean section. In the early 90s, I was traveling as a hitting partner on the WTA Tour with Florencia Labat, who was ranked 17th in the world. I went on to work for Joe Brandi Tennis Academy in Bradenton, where I started my coaching career. At this time, I also traveled with Kristina Brandi and coached her at her first US Open. I returned to Puerto Rico for 7 years to begin my own tennis program and was selected to help coach all levels of the Puerto Rico National Junior Team. From 2002-2004, I was assistant coach of Women’s Tennis at the University of South Florida and was Co-Captain of the Puerto Rico Fed Cup team.
I continued to coach at local Tampa high schools and then decided to open my own tennis program in Tampa where I am a USTA High Performance Coach. Currently, I compete at the 4.5 level men’s doubles for the Hillsborough County team.
Can you share a little bit about JC Elite Tennis?
I focus on developing strong fundamentals, keeping interest in the sport and making it a fun learning experience. I coach children and adults of all ages and abilities.
What is your heritage?
Both of my parents were born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was born in New York but raised in Puerto Rico in a bilingual household. My parents taught me the importance of celebrating the Puerto Rican culture and our family history. Every Sunday we had large family dinners with extended family with our favorite meal of rice and beans, pork chops and green plantains (tostones). Growing up on a small island, I was a part of a close community and all the challenges our country faced made us resilient and proud of being Puerto Rican.
How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?
My heritage has influenced me by teaching me to work hard, care for others and make friends everywhere I go.
Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in general, as well as in tennis?
I think it is important because in a country with a variety of cultures and languages, we can celebrate what makes us alike and different. Spanish is a language that is spoken in many countries but each region has a different culture. As a child, I looked up to Francisco Gonzalez and I think it helped me see fellow Puerto Rican tennis players be successful in the sport.
If you had to share your message of unity, what would it be?
It doesn’t matter what you have, everyone deserves to be respected and treated with kindness.
To learn more about USTA Florida’s diversity initiatives, click here.