It’s Never too Late to Take Your Shot

Miguel Contreras III, Sports Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Julie Benes is neither a traditional student nor a traditional tennis player.


Although more experienced than most students, Benes’ tireless work ethic, openness to new experience, and a competitive attitude has enabled her to persevere.


Benes first attended COD in the fall of 1976. While studying general courses and after a variety of jobs, she took up a secretarial position at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Naperville. After seven years, she was advised to return to school and achieve an Associates Degree in Data Processing. She accomplished this, and soon after found a well-paying job with AT&T’s technical department performing equipment testing. Working with her department, Benes helped develop the first digital switching system. Over time, she moved into a wireless switching capacity lab working as the equivalent of a software engineer.

As she progressed in her telecommunications career, she gave birth to two daughters. After her second daughter was born in 1993, Benes felt restless and wanted to find a way to recondition her body and sharpen her mind.


For years she attended Downers Grove Swim and Racquet Club for its swimming pool and observed as tennis players rallied shots back and forth at each other from across the court. Benes found what she was looking for.


She signed up for a couple of tennis lessons and found herself enamored with the sport. A new vein for socialization, a physically demanding challenge, an outlet for the mind, and a competitive environment brought her back every week to satiate her newfound craving for rackets and fuzzy green balls.


She built upon her natural aptitude for the game through play every Tuesday in the Oak Brook Park District for 12 years and even more during the summers.


However, horizons were bleak for her telecommunications career. Her branch of testing and data processing shrank every year. In 2017 her job was outsourced to India.

Alison Pfaff
Julie Benes

Although she had seen the writing on the walls, and was informed of her position’s impending closure, she did not imagine she would struggle to find a replacement job. As a result, she soon found herself ill-prepared for the long unemployment that awaited her. After a year of phone interviews, she could not find a suitable replacement job in IT. She had a wealth of experience, but employers were unsure she possessed the skills to be successful in the field without knowledge in SQL and database processing.


Her interest in technical work and inquisitive mind pointed her in the direction of an IT retraining program.
COD was the logical choice, being a nearby option as well as the only institution she had ever attended.


Even through trial and tribulation, tennis stuck with her for over 20 years. As Benes prepared to take on a slew of new classes, a softly bouncing idea in the back of her mind considered the possibility of joining the tennis team.

She initially convinced herself the tennis team would not want her. Yet, she still attended a Drill and Play social event, and it was there she met Head Tennis Coach James Bowers. It required only a brief dialogue and soft-spoken encouragement for her to realize she had nothing to lose and join the COD Tennis organization.


What Benes has found has gone far beyond the tennis court.


“These classes are filling in the gaps of how things work,” she said. “When you test, you are supposed to test black box. You’re not really supposed to know how it works underneath the hood because you’re a better tester then. But if you know what’s underneath the hood, it gives you perspective of how to test differently. You need both. All along through my career at LABS in Naperville, it always seemed like I was missing pieces of information. Like I could get through, but I didn’t understand everything. A lot of the things I’m learning now, fit into holes I have inside of my brain. When I read something in the paper about big data, I know what big data is now; I didn’t before. I like to know how things work, and I think this fills in the gaps in my thinking so that it will make me a better person all the way around.”


Benes has also attained insight from her experiences that other nontraditional students might draw inspiration from.


“Just do it,” she said. “If you have any interest. You don’t know what you don’t know. I wish I would’ve done this when I was in that down cycle at work and didn’t have a lot of commitments. Take the time to see if something can work, whether you work full time or go to school full time. The more you put into your schedule the more effective you are because you eliminate things you don’t need. Do it for your mind and your soul.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email