When we first met Dan Castillo, he was overjoyed to be back on the tennis court competing in his first USTA SoCal FLEX tournament. Like every other player eager to escape the restrictions of pandemic, Dan relished the outdoor activity, fresh air, and warm California sun. But this simple flexible format event meant more to Dan that we’d have ever expected.
“Tennis saved my life,” he told us.
Rewind to August of 2019. Just after SoCal’s 3.5 Sectionals, Dan suffered a debilitating Achilles injury and was mostly inactive for nearly six months before he was due to attempt a tennis comeback. Then, as the pandemic struck, that inertia was extended and compounded his health concerns. In June last year, Dan was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
“As soon as tennis was deemed as a safe activity during COVID, and following the diabetes diagnosis and my recovery from the Achilles injury, it was a no-brainer that tennis would be key,” he recalls.
It was suggested that he consider a walking or running routine of thirty minutes daily. But the pace didn’t fit his desire to accelerate his recovery and energize his active lifestyle.
“Tennis was so much more beneficial, because my weight and lack of activity made it too hard to actually do thirty minutes of straight running,” he says. “Tennis allowed me to have breaks in between points and changeovers, so it allowed me slowly build up my conditioning.”
Perhaps more importantly, Dan identified another factor that would help in his recovery, one that tennis would instantly provide.
“Tennis helped to give me motivation,” he says, “because there was competition attached to it. So playing it more meant I’d do better in competition. Eating better now had a purpose: dropping weight so that I’d have better movement on the court so that I’d also improve my chances of doing better during competition.”
Today, Dan plays a few times a week with family and a group of close-knit friends, always maintaining COVID recommendations to remain healthy and continue playing when possible.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing more tournaments and team tennis,” says Dan, a former high school standout who now coaches both tennis squads at Banning High School in Los Angeles. “The kids are actually what inspired me to get back into playing competitively, after both the Girls’ & Boys’ teams were finalists in the CIF LA City Section team playoffs during the 2018-2019 school year.”
Like all other sports programs, the teams’ seasons have been disrupted in the past year, but fortunately tennis had remained a viable and healthy activity for Dan and his family.
“My youngest daughter has been super-bummed about our school being closed and missing our team’s fall season,” he says. “Playing tennis regularly has been our escape and our something to look forward to.”
February is Heart Health Awareness Month. Learn more about the health benefits of tennis and other racquet sports.