Crowds can provoke anxiety in a freshman student-athlete, but not in one who grew up around them.
“Being in front of a crowd, it’s easy to get nervous and get tight … but my upbringing, being at all these huge games, huge crowds, I (feel) super comfortable out there,” sophomore Ben Goldberg said.
Born into a family of Bruins, Goldberg went to countless games at Pauley Pavilion and the Rose Bowl throughout his childhood. The tennis player felt at home among the large game day crowds and envisioned playing for UCLA one day.
Both of Goldberg’s parents and his paternal grandfather attended UCLA. His father, Dan Goldberg, works as the university’s assistant athletic director of compliance, which provided many opportunities for Ben Goldberg to immerse himself in UCLA athletics from a young age.
Ben Goldberg attended three Final Fours in a row from 2006 to 2008. He also recalled excursions with the football team, including trips to Alcatraz before the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco and to SeaWorld prior to the 2012 Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
“I got to travel with the team to bowl games on the charter plane. … They got the police escorts on the buses,” the Pacific Palisades native said.
While his father instilled in him his diehard Bruin loyalty, Ben Goldberg’s mother, Vicky Goldberg, introduced him to tennis when he was 3 years old. It was not until he was about 8 years old, however, that he began to focus intensively on the sport.
At age 9, Ben Goldberg met redshirt freshman Connor Rapp at a tournament in Anaheim, California. From there, the pair would become a doubles team for the next nine years on the junior tour, developing a close friendship.
“Sometimes (Ben) invited me (to football games), so I was kind of surrounded by the culture of UCLA,” Rapp said.
Ben Goldberg also established an early connection with coach Billy Martin, attending his summer and holiday camps throughout his elementary school years. Martin said he kept a close eye on Ben Goldberg’s progress, especially during his four-year varsity career at Palisades Charter High School.
“I got to know (Ben), watch his tennis progress and follow him during his high school years and doing really well in Southern Cal Juniors,” Martin said.
Martin began to intensively recruit Ben Goldberg during his junior year. The five-star recruit received offers from big and small schools alike, but he only seriously considered UCLA and Wisconsin, whose coach is also from the Pacific Palisades.
“Also, I had to play the other side of it and try to see if it would be good for me to go away. … It was a tough decision,” Ben Goldberg said.
Rapp, who had already committed to UCLA, tried to sway his partner to keep the doubles pair alive.
“I committed first, and then I was recruiting him to come here like, ‘Come on, let’s get this going,’” Rapp said.
Ben Goldberg decided to stay close to home and reunite with Rapp and coach Martin, choosing UCLA three months after Rapp committed.
However, his decision meant turning his back on other schools that could have offered him a larger role.
“There was no guarantee of playing in our top six or playing doubles, yet he could have gone to a lot of other schools and absolutely played in their top six,” Martin said.
Ben Goldberg did not see any game action for the first few weeks of the regular season.
But following an injury to a teammate, he made his dual match debut against USC in the ITA Indoor Championships in February. He and senior Austin Rapp, Connor Rapp’s older brother, won the set against the Trojans 6-4.
Although he did not permanently crack a top-six singles position, Ben Goldberg cultivated a niche in doubles. After initially pairing with Austin Rapp for several matches, he partnered with junior Maxime Cressy.
Ben Goldberg finished his freshman season with a 7-9 record in singles and a 14-16 doubles record. He attained records of 3-0 and 7-10 in singles and doubles dual matches, respectively.
The player has been lauded by Martin for his foot speed and quick in-game adjustments to counter his opponents. Heading into this season, Ben Goldberg has focused on getting stronger, which has helped his serve and aggression.
“When he steps on the court here at UCLA, he’s all business,” Martin said. “He has added that heart to our team.”
Like his father, the sophomore said he hopes to work in college athletics after the conclusion of his tennis career, whether as a coach or as an administrator. Ben Goldberg said he would prefer to work at UCLA and give back to the school that has been such an integral part of his life.
But for now, he’s focused on building off his freshman campaign. Even with the addition of several talented freshmen to the team this year, Ben Goldberg said he aspires to earn mainstay positions in both singles and doubles.
Although neither his role for the upcoming season nor his future aspirations have yet to be fully solidified, one thing is for certain: Ben Goldberg has been and will be a Bruin for life, he said.
“I felt like to have the opportunity to go here given my upbringing with everything, (it was) definitely something I couldn’t turn down,” Ben Goldberg said. “I was basically born to be a Bruin.”