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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

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EIU tennis coach with varied past: Robin Cambier

Director of tennis Robin Cambier is in his first year as tennis director for Eastern. (Aidan Cusack)

Spring had given way to summertime in the Belgian town of Dilbeek.  

It was the late 1990s, and a 6-year-old boy by the name of Robin Cambier had just finished preschool and joined a tennis camp for the summer.  

Cambier had never played tennis before, but he must have taken a liking to it because 25 years later he would be named the director of tennis at Eastern Illinois University.  

Cambier had joined the tennis camp at 6 and stayed with it his whole life. He was coached under a man named Alexander Katsnelson for the first 10 years of his career. 

“[Katsnelson] was a Belarussian coach that came to Belgium,” Cambier said. “He has a really big track record of building up tennis players with good technique. So, my technical point was coached really well from a young age.”  

Katsnelson had developed Cambier into a tennis protege. He was ranked the second-best under 16 player in Belgium by the International Tennis Association.  

His success inadvertently gave the now 18-year-old Cambier a dilemma to unpack. He possessed the skill to play tennis at the highest level, yet he yearned to continue his education at university.   

He set his sights on America. 

“There’s really no other country in the world that has that system set up where you can do your studies at the highest level, get a university degree and play at the highest level,” Cambier said. “Usually, in most countries you have to choose.”  

The process of reaching out to coaches a continent away was difficult, despite being one of the top players in his country. Eventually, coach Nic Schyllander of the University of Oregon got in contact with Cambier. He asked him to join his tennis team for the 2010 season, and Cambier accepted.  

“The moment I landed in Eugene, [Oregon], it was amazing,” Cambier said. “The school is great, the facilities were amazing, my coaches were amazing, teammates were super supportive. It was a great environment to be in, especially being from another country.”  

The road ahead seemed quite rocky for Cambier, as he had entered Oregon tennis when the team had been struggling. However, with assistance from teammates and coaches, the program turned around.  

“When I first arrived at Oregon, we were not ranked. We played a D-III school to get a 0.500 record my freshman year,” Cambier said. “We changed the culture; my coaches did a great job of that. My teammates did a good job of getting on board with everything.”  

Cambier finished his Oregon career as the program’s all-time winningest player with 90 singles wins and 93 doubles wins.   

The record holder graduated with a sports business degree and got an internship with the Pacific-12 network. Yet, the job left him unfulfilled.  

“I could not do the 9 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.] job. I had way too much energy to sit at a desk,” Cambier said. “Doing emails and cold calls was not for me. I actually spent half my internship at the ping pong table.”  

The monotonous nature of his internship caused him to switch his career path. His coaching career began in Ojai, California, where he taught private tennis lessons.  

Private tennis lessons still did not satisfy Cambier’s ambitions. He wanted to coach at the college level.  

Fortunately for him, Washington State University had an opening at the assistant coaching position and inquired if he would interview. Cambier got the job in the spring of 2015.  

He coached under coach Lisa Hart for three years. Cambier was responsible for recruiting at Washington State, bringing in two-time pro title holder Michaela Bayerlová.  

After Washington State, Cambier coached as an assistant on the Florida State University men’s team. He got his masters in sports management while in Tallahassee, Florida.  

After Florida State, Cambier moved to the College of William and Mary where he coached as an assistant from 2019 to 2021. Head coach Toni Bickford left the program, leading Cambier to become the interim head coach.  

Cambier wanted the head coaching gig, but he didn’t get it. Staying determined, he held out until a school finally offered him the chance to lead a program. The school was Eastern.  

After 25 years of tennis and moving over 4,000 miles away from his hometown, Cambier now holds the reins of both Panther tennis teams.   

 

Aidan Cusack can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].  

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