Tennis Ace Joins Hall of Fame

Julia Browne, A11, who was recently inducted into the Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame, shared her thoughts on how tennis shaped her life at and beyond Tufts

The lessons Julia Browne, A11, has learned through a lifetime of playing tennis extend beyond the bounds of the court. 

A member of the Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2024, Browne used her understanding of physical health and movement to inform her research as a clinical psychologist, creating exercise programs to improve the lives of people with serious mental illness. 

While playing women’s tennis at Tufts, Browne won the 2010 NCAA Division III singles championship, capping off a 31-3 season with the victory. That same year, she won the National Arthur Ashe Jr. Award for Leadership and Sportsmanship. She was a seven-time All-American for singles and doubles play, and earned several awards, including three NESCAC Player of the Year honors, NESCAC Senior Sportswoman of the Year, and the National Intercollegiate Tennis Association Senior Player of the Year.  

After graduating with a bachelor’s in clinical psychology, Browne played professionally on the International Tennis Federation Circuit before she earned her master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016 and 2019, respectively. 

Shortly after completing her clinical psychology studies, Browne was selected for the Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was formally inducted four years later. 

We chatted with Browne about the honor, and how tennis has been a thread woven through her life.

Tufts Now: Can you share a little about how tennis became a part of your life, and why it was something you pursued in college? 

Julia Browne: Tennis has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I saw early home videos—back in the VCR days—of me around age 3 hitting a tennis ball that was hung from the ceiling. It was a genius idea from my dad, a former college and professional player himself. 

12-year-old Julia Browne stands with her father on a tennis court.

Then 12-year-old Julia Browne stands with her father, Richard Browne, on a tennis court. "I likely had just lost to him again," Browne remembered. Photo: Courtesy of Julia Browne

Although I played multiple sports growing up, I certainly had the strongest affinity for tennis. I loved to practice hard, improve my fitness, and go out on the court to compete. It gave me purpose and the chance to push myself to the limits both physically and mentally. 

The one piece that was missing for me growing up, however, was the team environment. This was a major reason why I pursued tennis in college and why going to Tufts was the best decision I could have made. It resulted in my peak tennis performance and meaningful relationships with my teammates and coaches.

Browne plays tennis during her senior year at Tufts.

Julia Browne, A11 plays a match during her senior year at Tufts. Photo: Courtesy of Julia Browne

It sounds like you still look back on your time at Tufts fondly. What was it like to find out you would be honored in the Athletics Hall of Fame? 

I remember getting the phone call while I was at work in Boston—in fact, I ignored the call initially because I didn't recognize the number. I called back and learned that I was selected for the Hall of Fame and I was—and am—honored to receive this prestigious recognition, and am grateful to have the chance to celebrate it with all the people who made it possible. This award is truly a testament to my family, coaches, and friends—all of whom played a central role in my tennis career.

You were originally selected for the induction Class of 2020, but that changed due to the pandemic. How does it feel to be honored this year?

It is very special to be part of this year's induction class and to learn about the other honorees is inspiring. The pandemic certainly changed life for all of us and I am beyond grateful that we are able to celebrate in person this year. 

Women's tennis coach Kate Bayard recently said that she didn’t realize how much of a mark you would leave on the team when you entered Tufts. What does it feel like to know you left such a lasting impression?

The feeling is mutual. Kate—or Coach as I still call her—and Tufts tennis have made such a lasting impact on my life. Coach not only has substantial tennis expertise but also knows how to create optimal conditions for her players to thrive. It is because of her, the outstanding program she built, and Jaime Kenney (the assistant coach during two of my years including my national championship run) that I was able to have such a successful collegiate career. 

Julia Browne stands with her daughter after hitting with Tufts doubles partner, Meghan McCooey, A10, last year.

Julia Browne stands with her daughter after hitting with Tufts doubles partner, Meghan McCooey, A10, last year. Photo: Courtesy of Julia Browne

Can you tell us a little about how tennis has shaped your life after Tufts?

I am a clinical psychologist who has dedicated her career to improving the lives of people with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses. My research is focused on creating exercise programs for this group that will improve both their physical and mental health. 

My husband, Sam Sager, A12, was the baseball captain at Tufts. We have two wonderful kids, ages 2 and 3 months old, who we hope will beat us in tennis and baseball someday as well as make a lasting impact on this world.


You may need to hang a tennis ball from the ceiling for your kids soon! I’m curious: What do you think of the recent popularity of tennis-inspired films? 

I really enjoyed King Richard. I find true-story films and series enjoyable and especially inspiring when they are about such prominent players of the game. 

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