It’s not like Julia Berggren, then 6 years old, didn’t like gymnastics. She loved it. So did her brother, Victor. For their parents, Erik and Karin, both avid outdoor athletes in their native Sweden, it wasn’t their cup of tea. So they encouraged, or as Erik would say tricked, them into trying other sports for a couple of months just to see if they’d like something else.
“It was like let’s just try to do something else for a while. Try some different sports and tennis was one of them,” said Erik, who was an elite mountain biker. His wife was a junior champion cross country skier. “But we wanted them to pick something they’d like.”
Having moved to California six years ago for Erik’s software executive position, Julia gave tennis a go. After all, there were community courts next to their housing development. She started trying it out just for fun, but it’s more than that now.
“I fell in love with the game right away,” Julia said. “Right after that I played in tournaments.”
The first was a U-8 beginners tournament. Then she won again and again and again, even after moving to Colorado three years ago. The trophy case in their Evergreen home, filled with trophies on one shelf the length of one’s wingspan, bears that fact. Truthfully, Julia said, with 30 trophies already, the family probably needs to build a bigger trophy case.
“After she went out and won that tournament she never looked back,” Erik said.
Now 12, Julia travels nationwide for tournaments. She recently won her first national-level event in St. George, Utah, and won the Colorado state tournament last year. She’s even began flying to Las Vegas to work at the Andre Agassi College Prep Academy through the United States Tennis Association.
She has the luxury to do that as a seventh-grade home-school student through Colorado Connections. But don’t get the wrong idea: She’s still very much involved in academics.
She’s required to take 30 hours a week, but she can spread those out. She’s only required to take certain lessons at certain times. The others are fairly flexible, granting her more time to work on her game.
It’s nothing to see the straight-A student, who is already two years ahead in math, listening to a video conference in the car while her dad drives her off to another tournament.
“In a regular school, you can’t just take so many days off. But I think for me it’s been really good doing the home-school lessons,” Julia said. “Sometimes I choose not to because I’m tired and others I’ll do a few hours here and there when I want to do them.”
Being an elite athlete is challenging, Erik said. He and his wife should know. And if Julia, who is trained by Radka Lacjak and sponsored by the Evergreen Sports Center, is truly committed to tennis, he wanted to know.
“Both me and my wife really know what it takes to become really good at something. I have asked Julia to quit three or four times. I’d tell her, ‘You don’t have to get up that early. You don’t to feel any pressure. You don’t have to practice as much and don’t have to sacrifice that,’ ” Erik said.
He wasn’t trying to sway her away from the sport. He just wanted to make sure that the will to compete was there. And it is, Julia says.
“I never want to stop playing. I want to play it all day long,” she said.