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Where Are They Now?
Conversation with Former D-III Champion William Boe-Wiegaard
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Former Bates standout William Boe-Wiegaard had one of the more amazing runs in NCAA Division III tennis. He is the only Bobcat ever to be an All-American all four years in college, and he capped things off with an amazing run to the NCAA singles title his senior year as an unseeded player.

Former Bates standout William Boe-Wiegaard
courtesy, Boe-Wiegaard
Since graduating in 2006, Boe-Wiegaard has been involved with tennis in many different ways. He spent a few years teaching as a tennis pro, competing in local pro tournaments all the while. Between his jobs and money raised through grassroots sponsorships from his website, Boe-Wiegaard was able to turn professional in 2011 and has spent the last few years competing across North America and Europe.

Harry Cicma of NBC Sports recently talked with Boe-Wiegaard about all things tennis.

 

Questions and Answers

Harry Cicma (HC): How did your experience at Bates inspire you as a person and a player?

William Boe-Wiegaard (WB): Bates was definitely an inspiring college to attend. Not only is the campus intrinsically picturesque, but the professors and students that live there are all incredibly talented and scary smart. Honestly, I'm not sure how I was so lucky to go there - I think being the top ranked U18 tennis player from New England helped a lot.

Bates was a great place for me academically, athletically, and socially. I grew a lot during those four challenging years, because I wasn't just a student, but a student-athlete. I was a pre-med tennis player majoring in biochemistry. Let's just say that I learned a little something about time management skills as well as what it means to pull an "all-nighter."

I'm not ashamed to say that I made some mistakes along the way, but it was those mistakes and the guidance from the people at Bates - the professors, the coaches, and even my classmates - that really helped prepare me for the future.

When It just so happened that I won the NCAA title and chose to build on that result after graduation by pursuing a professional tennis career, but the fact of the matter was that regardless of which direction I wanted to go, Bates had done an excellent job at preparing me for that next step.
 

HC: What have you enjoyed the most about traveling the world and competing at an ATP Tour Professional level?

WB: I have definitely enjoyed the challenge of the tennis journey. It's not just that tennis is a very challenging sport to master, but it's all the behind-the-scenes stuff that nobody really talks about - or even thinks to talk about. Maybe they just don't want to talk about it.

Things like, the finances. The money. How to afford "being on tour" is a really tricky question to answer in reality when your family doesn't have millions and you're not chosen by the USTA to be in their Player Development program. So, like most of the guys on tour, I was forced to "grind." You have to figure out how to STRETCH a dollar. I've taught tennis lessons, played prize money events, and slept in my Honda Civic to save on housing costs. I've driven that same car across the US and Canada to save on flights and rental cars. I've couch surfed, been attacked by bed bugs in hostels (3 times) and even created a website to try to do some good old fashion grassroots fundraising.

I've done a lot, sacrificed a lot, and hustled a lot. I've been lucky - and I've been unlucky too. It's life. I think it's probably the same for everybody in every career... there are great experiences you hope to never forget, and then there are those not-so-great times you can't wait to put behind you. Moments of pure joy and happiness - and moments of utter despair and loneliness. That's pro tennis.

Boe-Wiegaard has a lot to say about the pro tour
courtesy, Boe-Wiegaard
The key to becoming a professional tennis player is not only having talent, but also being incredibly competitive, ultra-driven, highly, highly ambitious and willing to do nearly anything to "make it." Tennis is truly a global industry and there are thousands of amazing players in the world pursing this career. I've heard that there are 18,000 active IPINs. Pro tennis is definitely a "unique" way to live life.
 

HC: What are your goals with tennis?

WB: My goals have been the same since I worked with Brian Barker as a junior -to become the best tennis player I can possibly be. Nobody knows where that will ultimately lead, or how high in the ATP rankings I will go, but to me that stuff doesn't matter so much.

What matters to me is my technical understanding of the game and my "feeling" of the ball on the strings. My vision of the shots. My tennis. That's what matters most to me. If my skills improve, so will my ranking - and everything else that comes along with that.

Ranking points, endorsements, and celebrity might be what some players get into pro tennis for, but that's not why I got started. If money was what I was after so badly I would have gone to Wall Street... and if I wanted celebrity I should have moved to LA and tried to become an actor. Ok, I'll admit endorsements would be nice, but that's only because that would bring me the means to hire a professional team and give me a fighting shot against the top 100 guys who all have teams around them.

 

HC: What advice would you give to a young player looking to play college or pro tennis?

WB: I think in life it's extremely important to pursue your passions, and for me, tennis is exactly that. It's something I truly love and have loved since I was a boy. I used to cry after losing matches when I was young. I played other sports - like basketball, baseball, swimming, and soccer - as well as games - golf, darts, bowling, billiards - but I never cried if I lost those games. It was tennis that I really cared most about, and so here I am at 30, in the best shape of my life, and energized by the idea of playing even better tennis than ever before. Tennis is simply my life, and, like any other career, it could be better, but it could be much, much worse.

I think it's extremely important to keep a good perspective though, because it's very easy to get caught up in all the un-fulfilled wants and desires I have, instead of being focused on all the great things I already do have... such as having a healthy mind and body and having fantastic friends and family.

Perhaps one of the greatest consequences of me pursuing pro tennis is that it does give me a great perspective on the cultures of the world and the disparities between various regions of the globe. It's one thing to see, hear or read on TV or the internet about the poverty or conflicts in certain places, and it's an entirely different thing to actually be there and see it, hear it, and talk to the locals yourself. I was in Turkey and Egypt last year during the mass protests there, and I'm in Ukraine now. One thing I can say for sure is don't believe everything you hear on CNN or FOX. These are major news networks battling for ratings, because ratings mean more advertising revenues. They will just about say anything to get people to watch their stations - but I digress.

When I think retirement is still many years away, however, I do get asked a lot about what I would like to do next, and I think I would be very interested in opening a top-of-the-line sports center somewhere near to where I grew up in southwestern Connecticut. I think sports are an incredibly important component to leading a healthy lifestyle. I've certainly been to my fair share of sports centers around the world, so I know I would be able to create something very special and professional.

In conclusion, I'd like to say that for all those kids out there deciding weather or not to go to school, or go straight on the pro tour, for me, it's a no brainer. If you're not Top 500 in the ATP by the time you are eighteen years old, then you absolutely must go to college and get a degree. If your heart is set on becoming a professional tennis player, that's fantastic, and might I suggest not studying biochemistry, because it's a lot of work and probably won't serve you well if you do decide to stay in the sports industry and you end up like 99.99% of the players on tour who have to retire and begin another career. I would suggest majoring in business, because on tour you will have to get good at running your tennis business. Also, nobody says you can't work your butt off during those four years in college to develop your tennis. I know a lot players who worked hard. Todd Paul is a good example - he studied and trained his tennis for four years at Wake Forest, went on tour, trained with James Blake, reached No. 400 in the world and then called it quits. He's now married and coaching tennis to some of the top juniors in Stamford, Conn.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter which school you go to, D-I, D-II or D-III, as long as that school is highly respected academically and has a serious tennis team atmosphere - where the players and the coach are focused on training and everybody wants to win the NCAA title. Any team that isn't gunning for the NCAA title isn't a team you will enjoy being on, because they will want to party more and not work hard in practice and basically just be apathetic to the entire tennis situation. When I arrived at Bates, as an example, the team was more socially oriented. Tennis was a way for the guys on the team to relax and have fun. However, that wasn't why I was going to practice. I went to class the same way I went to tennis practice - to learn, grow and become as good as I could. However, by the time I was a senior, our entire team was serious about their tennis. I won the NCAA singles title and was just the third All-American tennis player in Bates history. [Bud Schultz and Paul Gastonguay were the first two.] However, since I graduated, there have been six more All-Americans - and even some more national champions! It is unbelievable how the culture of the team has changed.

When Trust me when I tell you that pro tennis is extremely expensive, competitive, and unless you are in the Top 100 in the world rankings, you will not make any money, be living out of a suitcase, away from family and friends for months at a time, and continually struggling to determine the risk-reward associated with every dollar you spend, because on the one side you always want to get a good night sleep at a $60+/night hotel so your body can recover and perform well the next day as well helping you prevent injuries, but down the street is a 10-person mixed dorm hostel that will be loud and potentially have bed bugs or roommates that are sick, for only $15/night? Other examples would be: $10 Burger King meal versus $40 5-star restaurant meal? $300 two-hour direct flight versus $30 twenty-hour bus ride? Play with the racket until the strings break - despite the tension being 10lbs less than when they were fresh, or restring them the second you start missing balls because the tension starts dropping and the strings start moving too much? These are just a few examples of the questions you will face everyday as a pro player outside of the Top 100 - unless you're rich or fully funded by the USTA or another sponsor.

Tennis is a really rewarding sport in many respects, but don't let anyone trick you into thinking it's an easy life. It's not for the faint of heart or the thin skinned. You're going to face a lot of adversity, and there is definitely no shortage of "haters" out there waiting for the chance to tell you to quit and become something considered traditionally "safer" - like a CPA, doctor, or lawyer. My opinion is that success isn't guaranteed in any of those fields either, so people are just better off pursuing their passions because not only will they be willing to make big sacrifices to ensure the best outcome from their particular situation, but if they do in fact fall short somehow, at least they enjoyed the time they spent pursuing it.

 
 

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About Harry Cicma

When it comes to college tennis, Harry Cicma is your man. Cicma covers tennis and other athletic stories for NBC Sports, writing articles and producing video segments.

He is co-founder and host of World Tennis a weekly tennis show on NESN, and host of of Tennis Live Radio's College Corner.

Cicma competed as a junior in USTA/New England and went on to play college tennis at Rutgers University. As a professional, Cicma competed at the ATP Newport tournament and the San Jose Siebel Open. He reached a career-high #75 in the ATP doubles team rankings and #1262 in the ATP Entry System.

In media, Cicma has run the gamut. He has worked for NBC, CBS, ABC, ESPN, FOX Sports Net, the Tennis Channel, and World Team Tennis. Cicma has announced NCAA sports as well as the US Open Tennis Championships on both TV and radio.

 
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