By Karen Ronney

Tennis was never on Thelma Sepulveda’s radar. Growing up in San Ysidro, she had never seen the sport until it was introduced to her at age 11 in a low-cost after-school program. She gave it a chance and it changed her life. Her passion pushed her to ask per parents for lessons. She joined local park and recreation classes and her talent blossomed. She couldn’t afford private lessons but was given access to higher level training and clinics at Barnes Tennis Center.

“Growing up being one of the only Hispanic players was hard,” Sepulveda said. “Tennis is so expensive and it’s not easy for kids to have an opportunity to play. I know if more had the chance, they would love it like I do. I’m lucky to have been introduced to tennis when I was little.”

Sepulveda’s passion led her to become the No. 1 player at San Ysidro High School, where she was a four-time Metro League Singles Champion and Player of the Year. She was also named her school’s Athlete of the Year in 2020.

From 2016 to 2018,  she received a the Kramer Future Champions Scholarship Grant from the SCTA Foundation to support her training.

“We are so proud of Thelma because she embraced her opportunities and worked hard to realize her dreams,” said Linda Milan, the Executive Director of the SCTA Foundation. “We are honored to be a part of her success and our mission is to help more kids just like her.”

Because of her dedication and hard work, Sepulveda received a tennis scholarship to attend for Point Loma Nazarene University. In the past three years, she has excelled on and off the court earning All-Academic and All-PacWest Third-Team Honors. On Feb 14, 2022, she was recognized as the All-PacWest Player of the Week. She finished her junior year with an impressive 20-2 record, including a 15-match winning streak.

“I wanted to stay close to home and I really love Point Loma Nazarene,” said Sepulveda, named the MPV and Team Captain at PLNU. “It’s a small school yet it feels big enough. The team is very competitive, and it was the right fit for me.”

Next year, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science and a Teaching Credential. Her future plans include seeking a master’s degree in Education at a university in the United Kingdom.

“My dream is to become a high school PE teacher and a tennis coach,” said Sepulveda, who also enjoys running. “I want to share my passion for tennis and for fitness. I think PE is just as important as any other class kids take in high school.”

Sepulveda’s passion for fitness extends to long distance running. She finished the San Diego Half Marathon and the Rock n’ Roll Marathon. Her goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. She says running is like tennis because it’s an individual sport. You can go at your own pace. “I love being outdoors and challenging myself,” she said.

Looking back at her life and tennis journey, Sepulveda said she feels blessed. She plans to volunteer to teach tennis to kids in elementary schools in low-income areas to give them exposure to the sport.

“It’s crazy, I never thought this would happen the first time I played tennis,” she said. “When I get the chance, I want to share my story and help other kids dream big. If given the opportunity, anything is possible.”


About the Southern California Tennis Association Foundation:

We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization and is the charitable arm of USTA Southern California.  The Foundation’s mission is to “Change lives and build communities through tennis.” Since 2020, the SCTA Foundation has had a community impact of giving over $1million in tennis grants and tennis scholarships to deserving youth, adults, tennis organizations, tennis facilities and tennis programs to make tennis an equal opportunity sport, accessible to all, regardless of age, ability, ethnicity, or economic background. Visit us on Social Media on Instagram and Facebook. To learn more about the SCTA Foundation go to:  To donate go to: or