Q&A: Julia Courter talks Hamline men’s tennis turnaround, coaching three teams

Courter is a former Gophers tennis player, going 81-42 in singles for her career.

Julia Courter plays for the Gophers during a game in 2016. Courter now coaches tennis at Hamline University.

Kathryn Chlystek, Daily File Photo

Julia Courter plays for the Gophers during a game in 2016. Courter now coaches tennis at Hamline University.

Taylor Pearson

The Minnesota Daily sat down with Julia Courter of Hamline tennis. Courter, a Gophers alumna, now coaches men’s and women’s tennis at Hamline. She also coaches Mahtomedi girls’ tennis. Courter finished her collegiate career 81-42 in singles play, a mark that ranks 10th in the program’s history.

What made you decide to get into coaching so soon out of your tennis career?

I studied sports management and did my masters my last year playing tennis at the U of M. I really enjoyed my experience at the University of Minnesota playing tennis. I love the sport … so I just decided right away that I wanted to coach. I applied for a bunch of different jobs and I decided right off the bat that I was ready to do the job at Hamline. 

Do you still follow Gophers tennis? 

Yeah, I do follow them. Usually if they’re traveling, I’ll follow along on Twitter. I just went to Senior Day to watch Mehvish [Safdar] and Caroline [Ryba]. I still have a couple of girls on the team that I played with. Whenever I get a chance, I go out there. I’ll watch the matches and watch some of the Gophers men’s tennis, too. Anytime I get a chance to watch them, I enjoy going over there. 

How has the transition been from player to coach, considering you were on the other side of it not too long ago?

Things are going well. This year’s definitely been an improvement for us. We’ve doubled our wins on the women’s side already, and we still have ten matches to go. We are 8-4 on the men’s side, so that’s a big improvement as well. The kids are super respectful and they’re a great bunch that are ready to get better every day. We really utilize our time on the court. My experiences, combined with the fact that I can relate to them really well, has helped us a ton. They get that I’m not too far out from being a student athlete, and I understand what they’re going through. They’re able to communicate their needs and I’m able to meet those needs. I’m able to help them in any way I can, on and off the court. 

The men’s team at Hamline University was 7-13 and 7-11 the first two years you coached them. Now, they’re 8-4. What led to the turnaround?

We got a couple new recruits on campus that really helped us. The senior class really stepped up a lot. Our senior class consists of four guys who are all in the lineup right now. We’ve had a lot of them step up this year. As a senior class, their goal is to make playoffs this season, and we are in a position to make the playoffs. We definitely have the talent and the work ethic to make it to the playoffs this year. The senior class really stepped up with guiding the younger kids. Our number one kid is a transfer, and he’s doing really well. Everyone has come together. Our men’s team has really great chemistry, and they’re a super supportive and positive bunch. I think that our team chemistry and team culture has really allowed us to have a turnaround season this year. 

How close are the two teams at Hamline University?

We do have some co-ed practices, and right now with the weather keeping us on the indoor courts, we’ve been doing a lot of co-ed stuff. The teams are super close. We do all of our workouts together, and we do a lot of practices together. They are two different teams, but we do a lot of stuff together. They’re definitely a close knit group … When we have a recruit on campus, we have both teams there. They all get along super well, and they’re all super supportive. If we only have a women’s match, the whole men’s team is there cheering, and if we have a men’s match, the whole women’s team comes.

Why did you choose Hamline University? 

I heard about the job from Dan Hertl, who’s an old coach at Hamline, and he was also one of the P.E. coaches at the University of Minnesota. I taught with him during a couple of tennis camps as well. He gave me a call and said this job was open … So the athletic director, Jason Verdugo, gave me a call, and I did a phone interview that led to an interview on campus. My interview was my first time on the Hamline campus. I arrived early and walked around for a bit. I really liked talking with Jason Verdugo and his staff and really learning where the athletic department was at. He introduced me to Natalie Darwitz, who’s a former Gopher, and I had heard about her before. He mentioned a lot of people on the coaching staff who are former Gophers, and how the program is turning around in the right direction. He has a strong passion for athletics, and he really wants to see each individual program do well.

Why did you choose to do both Mahtomedi and Hamline tennis?

One of the girls on the team, her dad approached me about the position at Mahtomedi. He approached me and said he thought it would be a great way to be a role model for these young girls. He said they really wanted a female coach and he told me that there aren’t a lot of female coaches in girl’s high school tennis. I met with the athletic director at Mahtomedi and he assured me that the position would work with my schedule. 

How do you go about balancing men’s and women’s tennis at Hamline and women’s tennis at Mahtomedi?

We don’t really have much overlap between Mahtomedi and Hamline. Hamline’s main season is in the spring and Mahtomedi’s is in the fall, so we only overlap for about two weeks. It isn’t too terrible for those two weeks. It is very busy, but it is manageable. 

As a native of Georgia, what made you choose to live in Minnesota?

I came here for school and I fell in love with the state and the people. I decided that this is where I want to stay. Once you get past the weather factor and you get to know the people here, and you get to know what the Cities have to offer, I think it’s an amazing place to be. People are very nice here. You can say “Minnesota Nice,” but it’s true, people are very nice here.