by Leslie M. Estrada
With a teary eye full of emotion, Steve Bergovoy explained in full detail his experiences with tennis as head coach for the University of La Verne women’s tennis team.
Bergovoy has been involved with the game of tennis since the age of 7, at first with a racket given to him as a gift from his grandfather.
“Even though I liked the game, I wasn’t sure what the concept of the lines on the court were for,” said Bergovoy.
After noticing the talent that Bergovoy possessed at such a young age, a recreational player from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., by the name of Jimmy Everett [father of tennis great Chris Everett] took interest in Bergovoy and ignited a spark of passion for tennis in Bergovoy’s eyes.
From that point on, Bergovoy’s life would revolve around the sport of tennis.
Bergovoy attended Southeast Missouri State University for a few years, but later on made the decision to drop out of college in order to pursue a career as a professional tennis player.
“I fulfilled my childhood tennis fantasies by taking three years off after college,” said Bergovoy.
After those three years of professional playing, he moved on to Al Wheeler, who worked as a coach for the U.S. professional Tennis Registry in 1975, an institute for professional tennis players in training founded by Dennis Van der Meer, a South-African coach and former world class player who would become Bergovoy’s mentor.
Van der Meer spread word of Bergovoy’s professional status to the media and introduced him to other tennis representatives such as Harry Hopman, a legendary Australian Davis Cup coach.
Hopman coached the top 80 percent of men and women tennis players, and took in Bergovoy as one of his students.
Throughout those three years, Bergovoy’s coaches decided his talents were not sufficient to continue playing at a professional level, and advised him to be a coach, preparing men and women from all over the world to become professional players.
“It was rewarding to see the players that I coached winning in world-wide tournaments and taking a part of me with them each time they play,” said Bergovoy.
In his time as a coach, Bergovoy has trained 40 men and women that have ranked in the top 10 in the country.
John McEnroe, one of his former students, turned pro in 1978 and is now a legendary name in the tennis world. He has won over 100 tournaments, and earned over $12 million along the way.
“I thought my forte was to be a pro player after college,” said Bergovoy. “But being able to pass on my legacy towards my former players who now coach like I do is great.”
Through coaching, Bergovoy has also found a calling for teaching minorities, inner city youth, and the underprivileged.
“I’ve worked for many parks and recreation centers for tennis, dealing with people who can’t afford a profession in tennis or the equipment,” said Bergovoy, who added, “I think that when you give back to the game, you give back to the community as well.”
Currently, Bergovoy is finishing his bachelor’s degree in sports science at ULV, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.
“Once I started school again, I fell in love with the academics, and how my classmates’ insight make them stimulate to learn,” said Bergovoy.
Although Bergovoy has resumed in a college atmosphere in the past, he has acknowledged that things he learned while playing and coaching tennis has also reflected how he learns things in the classroom.
“You use the same strategies on the court in class and they work,” said Bergovoy.
Soon after Bergovoy was asked if he would be interested in working as a head coach for La Verne. “I’ve achieved everything, and wasn’t looking for the position as head coach,” said Bergovoy. “I accepted knowing that it would still be a challenge.”
Bergovoy is extremely proud of the men’s and women’s ULV team regardless of their lack of experience. Because of Tiffany Yates’ absence for academic obligations, the team only has more the reason to hold their heads high and be positive. Yates was formerly the team’s No. 1 player.
“Even though they lost the first game of the season, they walked off the court feeling like champs anyway, and that shows great sportsmanship,” said Bergovoy.
The men’s team also showed tremendous promise, according to the humble coach.
“For the guys, the skills are definitely there, but they just need a little more experience,” he said.
Sophomore Emily Hofer was acknowledged by her coach as having ‘Leopard spirit’ for the team. He also mentioned freshmen Sara Gifford and Christan Krusic, who is team captain.
“They both have played at full potential,” said Bergovoy.
Hugo Valencia, a freshman player for the men’s team, junior Sebastian Lopez, and sophomore Jarrod Hesler, also impact the team, and are ready to contribute greatly next season.
“They are there to pull the team together,” said Bergovoy. “Both teams show promise to do significantly better next year.”
Next season, Bergovoy will serve as the head coach for both the squads. Tim Fitzgerald is not returning next year.
Bergovoy is committed to retire from ULV with great feeling of achievement.
“Playing a sport brings out something special in a person, and being a part of that has been a victory within myself as a coach.”