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Celebrating Pride Month: Dennis Docil

Dennis Docil’s tennis journey began around the early age of 6, inspired by his father who introduced him and his siblings to the sport. Growing up, tennis was a family affair, as Dennis, his sister, and brother learned the game together. This early exposure helped grow the lifelong love and passion of tennis and Dennis hasn’t looked back. 


Playing much throughout his life, tennis helped push Dennis to meet new people and stay active in a new environment. As someone who didn’t know anyone when he moved to Fort Lauderdale, he was able to turn to tennis to help create lasting friendships and memories. “I knew if I went to the local tennis courts, I could find a pick-up game and make friends,” he said. “And that’s exactly what happened. I’ve made so many lifelong friends through tennis.” 



The LGBTQ+ community has also had a significant and positive impact on Dennis’s life, particularly through tennis. Years ago, Dennis wasn’t happy with his level of play and it was an everyday grind that was draining him. So, for about eight years he put down his racquets, but the LGBTQ+ community was able to rally back his passion and drive for tennis.  


“After a while away from the sport, I had heard about a friendly Sunday round robin that the local LGBTQ+ tennis organization holds,” he recalled. “I needed to exercise so I went one Sunday, and I met so many amazing people, got roped into a USTA team as well as a doubles ladder that I still play in. I credit the South Florida Tennis Club for my return to tennis and I couldn’t be more thankful.” 



Not only did the South Florida Tennis Club help bring him back to tennis, they helped him be his true self. “I was closeted when I first moved to Fort Lauderdale, but being a part of the South Florida Tennis Club made it very easy to be myself on the tennis court,” he said. “Fort Lauderdale in general makes it easy to be gay.” The inclusive and accepting nature of the club and the Fort Lauderdale community provided Dennis with the support he needed. 


Tennis has not only been a personal passion for Dennis but also a bridge connecting him to the LGBTQ+ community. Many of his tennis teammates are part of the LGBTQ+ community, forming a significant part of his social circle. “We have USTA teams that are 95% gay. I compete in the Clay Court Classic, which is hosted by the South Florida Tennis Club and it’s one of the biggest Gay tennis tournaments in the country, if not the largest one,” he said. “It attracts tennis players from all over the world and it’s played right here in my backyard.” 



For those in the LGBTQ+ community looking to get involved in tennis, Dennis offers some great advice. “If you have an interest in tennis, go ahead and sign up for a group lesson. There isn’t a better sport that you can play well into your later years in life,” he said. “Starting tennis will turn into a lifelong hobby and you will improve your health by doing it.” 


To those hesitant about coming out, Dennis offers hope, encouragement, and support. “Coming out is such a personal decision, everyone must do it in their own way and time. I do say that the air is so much fresher on this side of the closet and there are so many people that will love and support you when you do come out.” 


For Dennis, Pride means showing love and support to the LGBTQ+ community and offering hope to those still in the closet. “Show your love and support to our LGBTQ+ brothers, sisters, and anyone that needs support,” he said. “For people that may be scared or hesitant to come out, the Pride flag is a symbol of safety and hope. I know that when I was in the closet, seeing a rainbow sticker on someone’s car gave me so much hope.” 



Reflecting on his tennis journey, Dennis is filled with gratitude. “I owe so much to the sport of tennis. It has given me a lifelong passion and countless friendships. The memories I have on the tennis court from the first time I hit a good serve to the epic battles my husband and late mother used to have on the court, and the countless times my family would play tennis and laugh more than we hit a ball are my most precious memories.” 


Today, his passion for tennis is reflected in his participation in USTA teams and local doubles competitions, where he enjoys a fair share of victories and camaraderie with friends, while being his true self!


ML Staff. Content/Image courtesy of Jaret Kappelman Marketing & Communications Coordinator for USTA Florida

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