Born and raised in Haifa, Israel, 22-year-old Elad Stern is one of the more ambitious individuals on the men’s UCSB tennis team. His life in Israel, at most, was poles apart from the standard life of a teenager.
At 18 years of age, Stern joined the Israeli Air Force. Under mandatory regulation, at age 18 every individual must join the armed forces for up to three years in Israel. Stern, who was ranked in the top three of Israeli juniors before starting his military obligation, escalated his way up to the rank of first sergeant.
Throughout his first two years of duty, Stern was prohibited from playing tennis. However, due to his proficient dexterity and admirable talents, the air force granted him the opportunity and permission to partake in national tennis tournaments during his last year of duty. After an immense amount of success and victory, Stern started to earn ATP Tour points by partaking in worldwide satellite tournaments. Traveling around the world, Stern soon became one of the top 800 doubles tennis players in the world.
Stern, who is left-handed, has been ranked in the top 200 in doubles and top 300 in singles in the International Tennis Federation’s junior rankings. He was always ranked top three singles player in Israel during his junior years. In addition, he had twice made the round of 16 in the Israeli Championships, losing both times to pro player Harel Levi. Stern was also three-time national junior doubles champion. Having an ample amount of partners and success, Stern was ranked as the number one doubles player in Israel during his junior years.
After completing his arduous duties in the air force, Stern was faced with a crucial life decision. He was to either travel as a pro tennis player on the ATP Tour, or to attend a university and eventually earn a degree. The first choice was a bit far-fetched due to the amount of travel and money required in order to play in the ATP Tour. Therefore, with the help of family and fellow colleagues, Stern started to send in his resume, along with action videos of himself playing tennis, to a variety of schools in America.
With high hopes and soaring aspirations, Stern moved to California in search of a prosperous future at UCSB. Stern first learned about UCSB from another Israeli tennis player, Liran Kling, who is now playing for the College of Charleston. After viewing the UCSB campus over the Internet, Stern was convinced that Santa Barbara was precisely where he wanted to pursue an ideal academic life and pleasurable tennis career.
“This place is amazing. The combination of a good athletic program and an excellent academic atmosphere, not to mention the unbelievable weather and striking location, captured my heart immediately. People don’t have much to think about here. They don’t need to worry about the army. This is how life should be,” Stern said.
Presently, Stern is faced with not only the challenge of school and tennis, but with the obstacle of adjusting comfortably to his new lifestyle, as opposed to dodging bullets and dealing with multiple terrorist bombings in his hometown. Stern carries no anxiety about his trip to the United States. He felt that coming to America would expand his character and prove to be a necessary ingredient in shaping his life.
“Based on my unique and uncommon experiences, I see life from a different perspective than most people. Not only had I become mentally and physically stronger, but I had started to value the important things in life,” said Stern. “It’s not exceedingly difficult to adjust to this new lifestyle, it’s just different. For the last three years I did something very opposite from what most kids my age undergo here in America.
“I love Santa Barbara. I love the beach, the parties and even the nightlife in I.V. on the weekends. In particular, I love my teammates. Each and every one of them is a special person. I honestly don’t know how I would have happily adapted to my new lifestyle without their help,” Stern said. “My coach [UCSB Head Coach Marty Davis] is very supportive also. He is helping me a lot mentally and physically. He knows that I have room for improvement in my game and in my mind. I’m looking forward to working with him in the future.”
With many ambitions and goals for his career at Santa Barbara, Stern is currently preparing for the upcoming season. Coach Davis is confident and certain that his presence will be a great building block for the team. In the mean time, he is enjoying the life of an ordinary student in Isla Vista.
“I am looking forward to the start of my new life. I can easily get use to this new standard of living. I feel that the chemistry on the team is very strong. Everyone is rather compatible. I am quite optimistic about the future,” Stern said. “College tennis is competitive and tough, but this is what we love to do and this is what we are here for. We like to compete and we like to win.”