Player Profile: Julia Bae
Julia Bae found her first love at three years old. “That’s when I started playing tennis,” she said. “My parents wanted to expose me to several different sports, and I'd take tennis lessons maybe like once a month.”
In those early days, alongside the basics, she also discovered grit. “When I was five, I actually fell and broke my elbow playing tennis. I didn't really pick up a racquet after that for a while. But I found my way back to playing when I was eight, and I loved it. I started taking lessons and going to groups on a more regular schedule. And then I started playing USTA tournaments when I was about 10.”
In December, Bae participated in an exclusive UTR Tennis Showcase, joining 27 other up-and-coming high school tennis players from across New England. Drawing from five states, the College Combine was hosted by Dorchester’s Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center.
The event provided a rare opportunity for diverse high schoolers to showcase skill and potential to 15 college coaches from Greater Boston and beyond. In addition to singles and doubles play, participants engaged with coaches and educational leaders about elite programs, financial aid and more. The combine targeted players from USTA National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) programs, alongside other local players aspiring to play college tennis.
While a longtime player of the sport, Julia is fairly new to Sportsmen’s. “I started playing at Sportsmen’s in spring of 2020, when I played a few tournaments there. Some of my friends were playing there, so I went to one of the groups, and I really loved the coaches,” she said.
Passionate about kids and education, she was also drawn to Sportsmen’s offcourt work. “I love that it has a lot of programs - especially for younger kids, like the after school program, and Volley Against Violence. I volunteered with the elementary school kids this past summer; and it was nice to talk with them, play tennis with them and help them with their homework,” Bae added.
Currently a sophomore at the Winsor School, Bae is balancing a full, tennis-focused schedule. “I do group training on Monday and Wednesday. And then on Thursday, I'll either have a lesson or I'll try to get in some match play. I don't play on Fridays because I’m part of the robotics team at my school, and that’s when we meet. On the weekends, I'll either play a tournament or try to get some match play or maybe take a lesson. I play about five days a week,” she said.
Though the intense schedule sometimes means missing out on typical teenage activities, she has a singular clarity of purpose. “Tennis is definitely a major part of my life, and it has been for a pretty long time. I love to go to practice; I love competing in tournaments. And I really like pushing myself to be as good as I can be,” she added.
Julia played in front of college coaches for the first time at the combine, which led to a greater sense of self-awareness. “I've learned so many things from tennis - you know, resilience and perseverance, both mentally and physically, respect for the players, respect for the sport. And the showcase taught me about a new type of pressure. I've never played in front of college coaches before; and some of them were taking notes. That was new to me. But I mainly tried to just focus on myself, focus on my matches, focus on my own game. And I think overall, I was able to manage that part of the combine pretty well," she said.
Amidst new experiences and glimpses into her future, Julia thoughtfully prefers to stay in the moment. “I’m excited about the future; and I want to play tennis in college, whether it be at the varsity or at the club level. So I'm beginning to look at some schools, and think about where I stand and what my progress is looking like. But as of right now, I'm just trying to keep all of my options open. I'm going to continue to compete, and continue to improve.” She’s also keen on continuing to expand her community. “Sportsmen’s has introduced me to so many kids and players that I never would have met or interacted with otherwise, so I love building my community of tennis friends and coaches and mentors there.”
“Julia is an exceptional student athlete, and she’s committed to both academics and to the game of tennis. I love that Sportsmen's is a place where her world and the worlds of others regularly come together,” said Marton Balla, Sportsmen’s Director of Tennis.
Sportsmen’s culture code is widely known, and has indelibly impacted Bae. “All of us push and challenge and support each other. And the coaches, especially Marton and Tay, are super supportive, and super helpful. The community has taught me about hard work, determination, perseverance, resilience, adapting, like within a match, and knowing how to manage your emotions and mental state. It’s quickly become a community that I know and I care about, and that really supports me. All of those things and more make Sportsmen’s really inspiring.”
Sportsmen’s Combine was made possible by financial assistance from the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Foundation and USTA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.