September 1, 2016
Steamboat Springs — ///California dreaming///
Steamboat has long been a destination for athletes looking to make the national team or to compete in the Winter Olympics, but some local athletes choose to leave this scenic mountain valley to pursue their athletic endeavors elsewhere. It's rare in a town that takes pride in producing Olympians, but that doesn't mean Steamboat fits every athlete.
Former Steamboat Springs tennis star Tatum Burger is a perfect example. As a freshman, she was dreaming of bringing home a state tennis title, but these days, she's in Newport Beach, California, training at the Advantage Tennis Academy.
"We are making the most of it," Tatum's mom, Darby Dale-Burger said. "These young athletes have such a small window when it comes to reaching their goals, and as a family, we decided that this was the best move."
Last February, Tatum's family, including twin sister Shea and younger brother Teague, made the move to California and rented a home near the Academy. Tatum also has three older brothers, Brian, who played tennis at the University of Puget Sound, Jack, who played at Colorado College, and Keegan, who played tennis at Rollins College and is now coaching at the Academy.
Tatum's goal is to play Division 1 tennis, and last year, Dale-Burger bumped into Adrian Games, a coach who had worked with Tatum's older brothers Jack and Keegan with Team Colorado and who is now the director of tennis at the Advantage Tennis Academy. He encouraged Tatum to look into the prep school as a way to pave the road to a top college.
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"I miss Steamboat," Tatum said. "But I also want to get to the best college I can go to, and I knew that I need to do something more to achieve my goals. It's been awesome so far. I keep getting better every time I step on the court, and I feel like this has been a move in the right direction."
Although Steamboat has a strong tennis community that has been very supportive, Dale-Burger recognized that many of the things Tatum needed could not be found in the mountains of Northern Colorado.
One of the biggest reasons for the move was to allow Tatum to train at sea level. She also needed a location closer to major tournaments, and she needed to focus on tennis for more hours of the day.
"Her plans are to play Division I tennis," said John Aragon, her former high school coach. "This is a really good opportunity for her to go and do the things she needs to do to reach that level. The level of competition she sees in practice on a daily basis has to be incredible, and when you get a chance like that you have to take advantage of it.
"I've looked at her travel schedule, I've looked at her tournament schedule and the coaches she is working with," Aragon added. "This is an incredible opportunity."
The full-time program at Advantage Tennis Academy provides players with the ideal environment to improved their tennis skills under professional coaching while they pursue an exceptional education.
Each year, top national and international players train at Advantage, and the players are consistently among the top-ranked juniors in Association of Tennis Professionals, Woman's Tennis Association and the International Tennis Federation.
"From the minute that we arrived in California, Tatum's tennis progression has gone through the roof," Dale-Burger said. "She is constantly exposed to top-level coaching, she is going to top-level competitions all the time and things really seem to be moving in the right direction,"
But there also has been a downside — the family misses the community where they still own a home.
"To me the experiences that Tatum had in Steamboat Springs were equally as worthy as what she is getting out here," Dale-Burger said. "Her experience of being part of a team, and the fact that John (Aragon) never gave her any special privileges because she was a top player were important lessons."
The family hopes that Tatum will be able to return home sometime this year and rejoin the Steamboat Springs High School programs.
Still the coaching and exposure her daughter has gotten in California can't be downplayed, and Dale-Burger is hoping the family will get a feel for the interest top college programs have for Tatum next month when Division I programs are allowed to start approaching high school juniors.
Aragon is confident the interest will be there.
"There is no question that a move like this can open a lot of doors," Aragon said. "I'd just love to see her continue on that path, see her keep enjoying what she is doing and see what level she can really reach."