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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 30-year-old Alberto Fernandez, the Director of Tennis at the Weston Tennis Center. He began his career by introducing underprivileged children to tennis as a tennis pro with the Greater Miami Tennis and Education Foundation (now First Serve Miami), before becoming an accomplished tennis professional with the City of Miami. In 2011, Fernandez joined the Cliff Drysdale Tennis team and has worked various positions before becoming the Director of Tennis at the Weston Tennis Center. Fernandez was born in Sagua la Grande, Cuba and currently lives in Fort Lauderdale.
How did you get involved in tennis?
My cousin was the first to get involved in tennis at Bryan Park (City of Miami local park.) My cousin and I are pretty close, so I naturally picked it up as an afterschool activity. My coach Noel Cubela later became a fundamental mentor as he was not only the first person to give me a coaching opportunity but put tennis as a career pathway for me.
What do you enjoy most about the sport?
The realistic longevity: tennis is a sport that you can play well into an advanced age for a number of reasons. Reason one: you really only need one other person to play, so finding a partner is fairly easy which is not the case with most sports. Reason two: it is kind to the body… naturally as you get older, you can’t push the body as much. Tennis has a level for just about everyone and you can always play within your means.
What do you do in your role as the Director of Tennis at the Weston Tennis Center?
A Director of Tennis is really a chameleon at the club. A jack of all trades, able to participate, understand and steer the club with a tomorrow vision. The Director of Tennis must balance his on-court time with his off-court duties that require training staff, engaging with members and the community, staying current with many HR, marketing and accounting work. I believe the biggest objective in any Director of Tennis’ role is simply to grow the game of tennis. The more we can influence the growth of tennis in our community, the brighter our tomorrow vision looks.
What is your favorite part about working at the Weston Tennis Center?
Over my tenure here we have built a phenomenal community revolving around our staff, our members, our guests and the City of Weston. We all get to call Weston Tennis Center our home. The goal was to always make this place “the” place for the whole family. I am just happy that I can be a part of that.
What message do you have for parents about tennis?
I would tell every parent this: know how far to push, and that there is a slim distinction between obligating and encouraging. Understand your child’s passion and aspirations; once that is clear give them all the resources and encouragement within your power. An obligation just becomes work and tennis should be a positive activity.
Why is celebrating Hispanic heritage important to you?
For most Latino families, celebrating culture is not particularly difficult. Culture so often embeds itself in our lifestyle, it easy to understand why South Florida is so culturally diverse. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage provides an opportunity to dive deeper into my history, my parent’s history and that of all our Latin counterparts.
How has your Hispanic heritage inspired you in tennis, or, your life in general?
I’m an immigrant. I am your typical Cuban stereotype, a “rafter.” My parents decided to risk it all on a raft with a dream to make it to the land of opportunity. A few days at sea and 7 months as prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and we were finally here. Every day since, my parents worked tirelessly to give me the possibilities and resources that they never had. My parents are my inspiration; thanks to their efforts I am where I am today.
Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in general, as well as in tennis?
About one-fifth of the United States population is Hispanic. Hispanics or Latinos have contributed to American life for almost 400 years. Today Latinos are veterans, teachers, business owners, tennis players… amongst many other professions. Hispanic Heritage Month allows us to recognize their achievements and contributions to our nation’s, world and tennis history.
Why is it important to not only support and celebrate other cultures, but be inclusive to all?
We all come from different backgrounds, heritage and beliefs. The more we celebrate one another the more likely we are to know and understand each other. If I am willing to try your food, then I should be willing to listen about your culture – because it is the culture that is embedded in the food and not the other way around. We can’t just take one part of the story (and trust me I love food).
If you had to share your message of unity, what would it be?
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
To learn more about USTA Florida’s diversity initiatives, click here.