2001 Tennis National Champions (Sports Information photo)

Back during college decision season, tennisrecruiting.net ran a nice interview with Lex Urban ’04, a two-time national champion and captain of the Men’s Tennis team while at Williams. In the course of answering a few questions, Urban’s recollections will be familiar to the thousands of Ephs who participated in team sports, and highlight both the value of athletics to a Williams education…

Q: What were the biggest challenges of moving from the USTA juniors to NCAA Tennis?

A: 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.

…and one of the most common concerns raised about the role of sports in the Williams community:

Ten years removed – wow, I’m old! – from my last match, my teammates are still some of my closest friends.

Today, after attending law school at Catholic University, Urban is a senior litigation associate in the Washington DC office of Cadwalader. Urban undoubtedly benefits from his team experience at Williams — an educational experience which is hard to replace through academic, or even other extracurricular, components.

But many Ephs also worry that the very nature of that valuable experience segregates the Williams campus, creating pockets of exclusion around individual teams and an overall divide between athletes and non-athletes — and it’s quite natural for the bonds forged among teammates to be among the strongest and most enduring we have. This perception, however, can turn off some otherwise talented candidates, as in this College Confidential thread last year:

I was initially attracted to Williams upon word of its renowned art history program… with all the resources available, it seems that such an art culture would flourish— but Williams seems to be labeled consistently as a “rich, white jock school” … so I wonder what it would be like to study art at such a school? …
Could anyone here describe the atmosphere at Williams? Is there a large enough critical mass for a successful and active art culture? If so, is the student body heavily polarized across arts and athletics? (As I doubt there are many who are actively involved in both.)

(Fortunately, responses to that thread painted Williams in a favorable light — even citing EphBlog favorite Kirk Varnedoe ’67)

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