Courter set to face new challenges in college

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

SUWANEE -- Julia Courter is not your average 18-year-old preparing to move away for college.

Courter hasn't lived a normal life since she was 11, when she began playing tennis, the sport that has made her a household name around the country.

It is also the sport that has earned Courter a full athletic scholarship to Oklahoma State University this fall.

Since the Lawrenceville resident first picked up a racket, she has been in love with the sport. Tennis became so much a part of her life that her parents pulled her out of public school and began home-schooling her to free up more time for training.

"In middle school they were complaining because I was missing too many days for nationals and everything else," Courter said. "So we decided that I needed to be home-schooled."

Although Courter was away from her friends as they attended public school and she was at home working on tennis and school, Courter still was able to enjoy a semi-normal teenage life.

"I didn't miss much being home-schooled. I still hung out with everyone and still got to go to football games, homecoming, prom and everything else," said Courter, who attended Jackson Elementary and Hull Middle before being home-schooled. "I just didn't get to play high school tennis."

With Courter at home and playing more tennis, she started practicing under the direction of tennis professional Dennis Hord of Big Dog Tennis. Hord, who spent most of his career as a traveling professional, quickly instilled the love of tennis and other key tools that helped Courter transform into the college-bound player that she is today.

"(Hord) had a huge impact on me," Courter said. "He made me love the game, and I actually still hit with him all the time and he is a great coach. He has turned into a second father for me. Whenever something happens, I call him first and he helps me out."

After placing second in her first tournament and being disappointed with the outcome, Courter decided to focus primarily on tennis, so she gave up her first sports passion -- soccer.

"I am the most competitive person and I always have to win," Courter said. "I just decided after two years, even though I was better at soccer, I just decided to play tennis because I liked the sport more."

At the age of 12, Courter decided to start off-the-court training to help with her advancement in tennis. Within a few months, Courter's parents opened the Wellness Performance Institute, a Suwanee facility that allowed their daughter, and other athletes like her, to work on strength, speed, agility and fitness.

"It helped me out a lot with tennis," Courter said. "I basically live here. I used to do all of my school work here and I am able to work out twice a day and it really helps with injury prevention. I always have people around me that help me and all these professional athletes that train here. So they just tell me to work harder, so I go off with the football players and do footwork drills and it is a big deal. It showed me what it takes to be a professional."

Courter qualified for her first professional tournament, the $50,000 Collins Hill USTA Tournament, as a 15-year-old after she placed second in a pre-qualifying tournament.

Courter has since earned her first WTA professional point during the Collins Hill tournament in 2008. She then competed throughout the 2008 summer in the USTA Pro Circuit, where she saw some of her best results on the doubles side.

Hord continues to work with Courter along with her new coach, Robin Stephenson, a world-ranked touring pro who is in the top 200 of the pro circuit.

Courter will begin attending classes at Oklahoma State, a place she feels she can make an immediate impact. She originally committed to Auburn back in August but changed her mind.

"I felt as though I made my decision prematurely because I made it my junior year," Courter said. "I didn't give everyone else a fair shot of showing me their schools so basically I de-committed and I decided to look at other schools outside of the SEC and I just fell in love with the coaches at Oklahoma State.

"To me it is just an opportunity to help out. They are brand-new coaches and they are building a new direction with the program and they are awesome people. I love them to death. I just felt like at Auburn I didn't have the same connection with the coaches that I had during the recruiting process."

Over the summer Courter plans on competing in professional tournaments with one of her OSU teammates and hopes to improve their ranking. For her goals at Oklahoma State, they are large, like the rest of them.

"I want our team to win the Big 12," Courter said. "I know that we can. I want to make the NCAAs as a freshman and become an All-American all four years and hopefully win the NCAAs and then after that see how far my professional career can go."