Where Are They Now?
Countdown: Conversation with Williams Champ Urban
by Harry Cicma
, 28 March 2015
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It's been a few years since Lex Urban walked the campus of Williams College in Massachusetts. Back in the early 2000s, Urban served as captain of the Ephs Men's Tennis Team that won the NCAA Division III National Championship in both 2001 and 2002. After graduating, Urban spent a year doing community service in AmeriCorps - and he now is a practicing lawyer in Washington, DC.
Harry Cicma of NBC Sports chatted with Urban about all things college tennis...
Questions and Answers Harry Cicma (HC): What did you enjoy the most about playing College Tennis for Williams?
Lex Urban (LU): Without a doubt I most enjoyed the team aspect of college tennis at Williams. Junior tennis is almost 100% individual and lacks the team component that college tennis offers. The fact that I was playing my match not just for myself, but for my fellow teammates and College, made every match that much more important, and every win that much sweeter. Because of this, and the truly special thing about Williams tennis, was how much of a family the team became through our work towards a common goal. Ten years removed - wow, I'm old! - from my last match, my teammates are still some of my closest friends.
HC: What was the experience like of winning a National Championship?
LU: It is difficult to describe, but I would say that it was a mix of exhilaration and satisfaction. In sports, there simply is nothing better than winning a championship. The fact that it was a team accomplishment makes the exhilaration much more than any individual honor or championship because in addition to the excitement of what you have accomplished, you also have the excitement of what the team has accomplished. The feeling of satisfaction is one that anyone who sets goals and achieves them can relate to. The amount of work and time that went into being ready for that season, that match, and the deciding moments made achieving our goals incredibly sweet. It is a feeling of contentment to finally be able to appreciate everything you have accomplished over the course of that year. You simply do not forget those moments.
I can remember winning it all in 2002 like it was yesterday. The match had been delayed 4-5 hours because of rain so we were playing under the lights. We did not get back to the hotel until late that night, but we needed to get a team picture to remember the moment. We ended up using the self-timer function to take it in one of our hotel rooms. One of my teammates was in his bathrobe, a few had cigars, but everyone was sporting the huge smile that comes with knowing we had just accomplished something we would never forget.
HC: What advice would you give a young player looking to play college tennis?
LU: I would tell them that they are making a great decision, but that it is going to be a huge time investment if they take the sport seriously. Between practicing, training, and travelling it requires some huge sacrifices in your social calendar. The rewards are well worth it, but that it is still quite difficult to resist all the "extra-curriculars" that college offers.
I would also suggest playing another sport that is team based. As every tennis player knows, being on the court for so many hours can literally drive you insane (who doesn't talk to themselves at one point or another out there?). Competing in another sport (for me it was JV basketball) can be a great outlet, as well as a perfect way to cross-train in the off-season.
Lastly, I would advise them to buy a stringer! Being able to string your own rackets is incredibly useful and a great way to make a little extra cash when trying to live on a budget.
HC: What were the biggest challenges of moving from the USTA juniors to NCAA Tennis?
LU: I think the biggest challenge was figuring out how to reconcile individual achievement with team success. College tennis is so different from juniors because you are playing for your team first and then yourself. At the same time, you are competing with your teammates for lineup spots - but you also have to try and bond with them in order to help the team perform better. Trying to find the balance between competitiveness and team unity was one of the biggest challenges, and most crucial to a team's success (along with talent obviously!). Our team was highly competitive on the court, but we ultimately supported one another off of it. Finding that balance is no easy feat and requires a certain level of selflessness that some people just do not have.
One big challenge I had, that was probably different than a lot of junior players, was catching up with everyone's development because I was a very late bloomer. Because of this, I did not train as hard as my peers in junior tennis and it was a rude awakening when I arrived at Williams. Ultimately, I ended up making the sacrifices and putting in the work, but finding that motivation was challenging given all the distractions that college offers.
All in all, putting in the work that was required to play and be successful at the collegiate level was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It was fun and rewarding - it left me with some great memories and some even better friends.
Earlier this week, we took a look at the top girls in the Class of 2015. On Monday, we check in with the Top 100 boys. Come by Monday morning as Tennis Recruiting keeps you up-to-date on all things college recruiting - as we continue on the Countdown to Signing Day!