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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.

Lazaro “Laz” Alfonso is a tennis instructor at the Henry L. McMullen Tennis Complex in Clearwater. The 54-year-old Cubano teaches the game to adults and juniors alike. Alfonso was born in Matanzas, Cuba, and currently lives in Indian Rocks Beach.

Tennis is clearly a big part of your life. When did you first pick up a racquet?

When I was 7 years old.

What do you love most about tennis?

Anytime I step on the court I feel happy. I love the sport and I cannot imagine my life without tennis. 

What do you do at the Henry L. McMullen Tennis Complex?

I teach adult clinics five times a week. I have an advanced junior tennis group that meets three times a week, for a two-hour session. I also teach private lessons.

How has your Cuban heritage shaped the person you are today?

When my family is together in Cuba we roast a pig. Friends and family gather at my brother’s house for food, drink and music. When I get together with friends here in the U.S. we bring our instruments and play music and eat Cuban food.

You have some great stories about your Cuban heritage, could you share one with us?

When you attend middle school in Cuba, you pick sports that you want to learn to play. I wanted to be on the kayak team because all my friends went there, but the coach said I was too skinny. He pointed to another coach and told me to go talk to him. It was the tennis coach. As soon as I was hitting the ball, I was in love with the sport. As a side note: I haven’t kayaked since!

Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in general, as well as in tennis?

To keep the traditions alive and to never forget your roots. It’s a reminder that everyone – no matter what race, age or gender – tennis is for everyone. 

Why is it important to not only support and celebrate other cultures, but be inclusive to all?

So we can all learn about everyone’s cultures with more understanding. 

If you had to share your message of unity, what would it be?

Be kind to each other!

To learn more about USTA Florida’s diversity initiatives, click here.