Going into his high school junior year Edgardo was not an athlete, he was barely a student passing high school and no big college intentions. He was a happy child, however, and part of a very close knit family that watches "Everything Chile".
Chile was playing the USA in Davis Cup at Mission Hills Country Club in California when his aunt and uncle took him to watch. "That was what inspired me to play tennis. I watched Gonzales beat Blake in 5 sets on the grass," said Edgardo.
Edgardo went to his local park, Sunset Park, and signed up to play tennis with Leon Vernon, a long time NJTL pro who gives lessons based on what a child can afford.
Thanks to his program Edgardo learned the game, and the more he played, the more he loved tennis. He wanted more, and Leon, who works closely with VegasTenniscom's Marty Hennessy Tennis Foundation, called founder Ryan Wolfington asking if Ed could join the foundation's elite "Leadership program".
At their first meeting Edgardo told Ryan "I want to play college tennis, I will do anything it takes." Skeptical of a child just starting tennis as a junior in high school and thirty pounds overweight going straight into the elite "Leadership program", Wolfington questioned this child's passion and dedication." The leadership program is designed to give a child the ultimate environment from tutoring, training, mentoring, positive social life and leadership opportunities 6 days a week," explained Wolfington.
Wolfington continued, "We give them all the tools they need to get a college scholarship. But it is hard work, reserved for the top level children and meant to be a carrot for those in our recreational programs to strive for. His passion was convincing, so I gave him one month to prove himself. I demanded that he get straight A's, be the hardest worker on the court and spend his weekends in our work program to keep him away from his 'Jack Daniels friends.'"
Edgardo worked hard and never missed a day of training or cleaning the courts. He improved his grades. The Saturday after his junior year prom, the elite team went for a run and Edgardo had to stop mid way through. He admitted to partying again with his friends and was shocked by how much it affected him. It was the last time he ever drank again.
Edgardo spent his junior year training hard, working hard and studying hard for the first time in his life. He ended the year with a 2.8 GPA, the best he had ever done.
His senior year started by having a goal of going on the foundation's "East Coast Leadership Tour" to see colleges. He did not understand that the East Coast trip is generally reserved for junior students looking to finalize their college decision. This process happens long before your senior summer. In addition, this trip is always reserved for students with a 3.5 GPA or higher. The trip includes motivational speakers from CEO's, Senators, and even a US President! "I was in the foundation van when Ed called asking if I was going to his graduation that night. I was tired and not up for going but his excitement was so intense that I couldn't say no. I had 6 of the foundation children in the van with me because we just finished a run. When I told the children that we were going to Edgardo's graduation, they all cheered," said Ryan. He graduated his senior year with a 4.0 average; the first time in his life he got an A. In fact, he got all A's so he could go on the East Coast Trip." As he walked across the stage all the children yelled and cheered for him. It was a great moment. His family invited everyone to dinner at Buca Di Beppo, and his parents were so happy. "I can't believe he did it, he got straight A's" his mother cheered. But this was not enough for Ed who was slated to go to local college in the fall.
At dinner he said with a huge grin "Mom, I want to take a year off and train so I can play college tennis." Had it not been his graduation night it would have been met with disdain by everyone.
"We tell the children that if you have a great attitude and do the right things, anything is possible. And sometimes they challenge that philosophy. I used to show the children the movie 'Rudy' all the time, and I would tell them the winner is the person with the best attitude, not the best player. I knew if Edgardo really wanted to play college tennis and work hard, it could happen," explained Ryan Wolfington.
On the East Coast Leadership tour all the speakers tell the children to give everything 100%, never quit and good things will happen. Edgardo came back determined to train for a year and play college tennis. "He was not a talented tennis player. He started so late and was not a natural, so it took twice as much work for him than the others," explained Marty Hennessy. Edgardo had not won or reached the semi finals of a local tournament or won a match at a sectional tournament. According to those around him, the idea to play college tennis was impossible. He convinced his parents he would take one year off to train and work at the USTA-Nevada office as a volunteer to stay busy. He promised his parents he would get a scholarship to play college tennis.
Every day, 4 hours in the morning, he trained, then from 1-6pm he worked in the USTA-Nevada office, now run by his mentor, Ryan Wolfington. It was here that Edgardo found his passion. "We do a city wide raffle in partnership with the Marty Hennessy Foundation that allows children to sell raffle tickets to learn how to present themselves, deal with rejection and gain confidence. Ed proceeded to sell 6 times as many raffle tickets as any other child and discovered his natural talent in business," explained Wolfington.
Six months later Edgardo's training was paying off. He improved his ranking from #24 in the state in 2006 to #2 in 2008 and from #89 in the section to #29 in the section. But February came around, and Ed had no visible shot at a college scholarship. He proceeded to get on the phone and call 200 college coaches, send emails and relentlessly chase his dream.
By March, Edgardo Ureta had nine offers to play college tennis on scholarship, and in May, signed a scholarship offer with the University of Hartford in Connecticut, a division 1 school. Two weeks later, Edgardo Ureta won his first District tournament. "The Foundation changed my life. I went from partying, to training and working hard. From being a wise guy to a wise person, and it helped me discover one of my natural talents, business," said Edgardo. "Who would have thought 3 years ago I would get a college scholarship to play tennis, a sport I never even played?"
Ed says The East Coast Leadership tour was the highlight of his life. "It was the biggest life-changing experience I have ever had, and I will never forget what I learned there. I can't explain it. Listening to people like Brian O'Neill made me realize I can do anything," said Edgardo.
A few days after he got his scholarship letter from Hartford University, he met his old mentor Ryan in a parking lot to go to a meeting he assumed would be like all the others he did this past year working for USTA-Nevada. They drove to a nice office building 45 minutes away and when Ed sat down at the table in front of him was another man who dreamed the impossible and made it happen on sheer desire alone. His name was Rudy, the real "RUDY" from the blockbuster movie. Each year the RUDY Foundation chooses one tennis athlete who through hard work and a great attitude makes the impossible happen. This years RUDY AWARD winner was Edgardo Ureta.
Edgardo Ureta is the 19th child that has gone through VegasTennis.com's Marty Hennessy Jr. Tennis Foundation, a USTA-NJTL, and received a scholarship to play college tennis. The Foundation mentors children through tennis, academics and leadership training. Children are required to have a 3.5 GPA to be on the travel team and maintain all A's to attend the East Coast Leadership Tour.
The Foundation has programs on: nutrition; life lessons; college placement; SAT prep; one on one mentoring; leadership breakfasts; an annual awards banquet; novice, district and national tournaments; and, a leadership program that trains and tutors students six days a week. This program stresses tennis, academics and the importance of a positive social life which allows the children to have fun and love life while achieving great success.