Q&A: Former men's tennis star Robin Cambier talks life after UO
University of Oregon alum Robin Cambier, who finished his tennis career at UO as the program’s all-time winningest player, made his mark at UO as a student-athlete. The Brussels, Belgium native posted a career record of 90-43 (.677) in singles and a career doubles record of 93-31 (.750) during his time at Oregon. After earning his degree in sports business and interning at the Pac-12 Network this past summer, Cambier has recently moved to Ojai, California to coach tennis. The Emerald caught up with him to see how his post-grad life is in sunny California.
So what have you been up to since you graduated?
I started three weeks ago as an assistant coach and assistant director of college placement at the Weil Tennis Academy. Basically what I am doing is working with the kids. They are ages 14-18. In the morning and afternoon, I coach and teach tennis. After my full day, I help the director of the academy, Mark Weil, to help the kids prepare for everything to go to college and play college tennis.
What has the transition been like for you going from being a student-athlete to coaching?
It’s interesting. It’s tough because this is high school, so it’s a level below college, and I am used to college tennis, especially in the Pac-12 as far as college tennis – it’s definitely the best conference. I am used to playing against the best and seeing the best players. But, there are some good players here and right now the senior class has five good players that could play DI college tennis. The level varies a lot. That has been a big point for me – I have had to look at my frustration and not to be too tough on them and understand where they come from, but it’s nice.
Have you used or implemented any coaching strategies or approaches that you learned from your coaches at Oregon?
I have learned everything from my coaches at Oregon and some from my coaches back home. The most important thing I have learned is hard work. In college tennis, there are so many good players that if you don’t work hard – there is no way you will make it. Here at high school, junior tennis is so different. Many talented kids only rely on their talent and not on the hard work. I am trying to teach them and tell them stories about what will happen later when they go to college. I am just out of college, so I feel like they should listen to me, I guess (laughing). I had a decently successful career at Oregon, and they know that. So the ones that want to listen, do, and they use my advice. I always tell them I am here to help them and to help them get better and to give them as much advice as possible as a player and person. I also tell them if they don’t want my help, I won’t waste my time.
That sounds like some tough love.
Yeah, I learned that from my coaches at Oregon, Coach Piibor, the associate head coach– he was like a big brother, so he would always be tough on us. When he was tough, he was fair. Our head coach Nils, he was more like a father. So I try to balance both, but it is kind of tough to be both at the same time. I think I am leaning towards the “big brother” approach to coaching.
You came to Eugene a few weeks ago. What are some things you really miss about Oregon?
I miss my friends and my teammates. I wish I had one more year at least on the team. I miss being part of this amazing athletic department. When I go back I say ‘hi’ to the ADs, and I go to the Cas and spend at least an hour there, so I can talk to everybody and just say hi to them. I miss that sense of family feeling at Oregon. That’s the biggest thing. And I miss my coaches, obviously.
Was there anything fun you did?
I just like to go to some of my favorite spots to eat. I make sure I see as many of my friends as possible and make sure to have a decently good time with my team. Nothing special. I went to play golf and relaxed.
What places do you eat at?
I go to Off the Waffle because that is supposed to be Belgium waffles, and they are decently good. I went there with my teammate who is from Belgium as well.
You are probably the expert on waffles being from Belgium. So how would you rate the waffles?
Probably a 9 out of 10. They are very similar to back home. Last time, I was there and the owner was too, and I was with my teammate, so we told him we were from Belgium and we had to give him feedback. We told them they were really really good.
What are your thoughts on the men’s tennis team heading into this season?
They will do great. The coaches will do a great job, they recruit really well. They just brought in the guy from Belgium, Simon Stevens, who is a really good player, and I know him from before, too. He is a great player. They are also bringing in Cormac Clissold, who is the brother of the guy who used to be my teammate Aaron Clissold. and I knew Aaron from previous years. We have been following him, and he was always good. So they are going to be fine. They are going to have a successful year like last year. Some guys will have to step up as leaders. Every player will have a year under their belt and have one more year experience.
What are your hopes for the future? Do you think you will stick to coaching or head into sports business? Also, where do you think you will stay? Do you like it in America?
I love it in America. I definitely want to stay and live in America. I want to go to grad school and be a grad assistant coach. That will probably be next year or two years from now. I see myself coaching college tennis for a couple years or getting my MBA or Master’s in sports management or sports business. I think after five or 10 years, I kind of have to see. If I have a family or kids someday…well that is kind of far down that road, but I want them to grow up in Belgium and do what I did and come to the U.S. But I think I want to stay in the U.S. for the next five to 10 years.
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