Eric Quigley is a star player for the University of Kentucky men's tennis team. His mother Cathy has been a huge support for Eric in his tennis career from the moment he picked up a racquet at age four, attending many of his matches, taking on a part-time job at a Louisville racquet club to help out with expenses and more. Cathy is a talented player in her own right, first playing tennis on her high school tennis team and now playing several days a week on three USTA teams. She recently took time to answer some questions about Eric's many accomplishments, how he chose tennis over other sports and how tennis has been a part of her life throughout the years. USTA.com:
Stephanie, Eric and Cathy Quigley
Now a sophomore at Kentucky and continuing to climb the NCAA rankings, how great is to watch Eric keep improve as a player and continue to have success on the collegiate level? Cathy Quigley:
It is an unbelievably exciting feeling, watching Eric’s success at the University of Kentucky, knowing how it will all contribute towards his future. As his mother, I am always on the edge of my seat each and every match with an anxious feeling of wanting him to play well. If I’m not at his matches, I watch the scoring online, and if I’m not able to do that, his dad texts me the scores. I thought when he finished playing junior tennis that the stress would get better, but there is even more pressure now because he has a team that is counting on him, too.USTA.com:
Eric had the opportunity to represent the country at the Master’U BNP Paribas in December in France. How proud were you to see your son get the chance to represent the U.S.? How great an experience do you think that was for him? Cathy Quigley:
I was incredibly proud that he was chosen among so many great players to be a part of this team. This was his first trip outside of the U.S., and he thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the entire team and coaches. Through modern technology, we were able to watch him play the deciding match with Kristy Frilling (his mixed doubles partner from Notre Dame), clinching the win for the U.S. It was a thrill not only for Eric but for us, as well.USTA.com:
With Eric at Kentucky, how often do you get to attend his matches and/or watch him compete? Cathy Quigley:
Living only one hour away from the University of Kentucky, we are able to attend all of his home matches, and almost all other SEC schools are within driving distance, as well. Additionally, the team played at several non-SEC schools that were relatively nearby, including a regional tournament at Indiana University and a match at Ohio State. It is a thrill for my large family of six brothers and sisters and our mother to be able to watch him play.USTA.com:
Eric was 11 when he chose between playing tennis or soccer – how did you help him decide? Or was it an easy decision? Cathy Quigley:
It was totally Eric’s decision to give up soccer and fully devote his time to tennis. Because of his expertise and love for both sports, he wasn’t able to devote enough time, and both sports were suffering. His dad was a huge soccer fan and initially disappointed with his choice, but with his accomplishments in tennis, he couldn’t be more proud of Eric.USTA.com:
How old was Eric when he started playing tennis? How did he start playing?Cathy Quigley:
Eric was four when I introduced him to tennis. A natural athlete, he was already playing soccer and tee-ball. I also had him try basketball and swimming, but he had little interest in these sports, eventually focusing on tennis and soccer. At six years old, he was taking group tennis lessons and then progressed to private lessons. He soon started playing local tournaments and at 11 played his first tournament outside of Louisville, traveling to Georgia for the Little Mo tournament. In the 4th grade, he actually joined the varsity high school tennis team.USTA.com:
Do you have any other children? Names and ages? Cathy Quigley:
Yes, Eric has a sister, Stephanie, who is now 27. Stephanie was a solid elementary and high school tennis player and has played on my USTA team. Her passion, however, lies with plants and gardening rather than athletics. She has a degree in horticulture and owns a successful landscaping business. The week leading up to Steph’s wedding, Eric was playing in the Lexington Challenger, not expecting to make it very far into the tournament. He teamed up with fellow Kentucky teammate, Bruno Agostinelli, where they were given a wild card into the doubles. The night of Steph’s rehearsal dinner, Eric and Bruno were playing in the semifinals. If they won, they would have had to play at the same time as his sister’s wedding. They lost in a third set tiebreak. I had several friends at his match texting me the scores during the rehearsal dinner, point by point. I was extremely anxious, having mixed feelings – I wanted him to win but knew that it could cause some major problems if he did. USTA.com:
Do you play tennis? How often? Is it something you do as a family? Cathy Quigley:
Yes, I do play tennis, about three days a week currently. Stephanie played on my team last year but doesn’t have a lot of time to play with her busy work schedule. My nine-year-old niece, Eva, has been playing for about five years, and I really enjoy playing with her, too. I have high hopes that I will get to do some traveling with her when she’s ready to play tournaments. USTA.com:
How is tennis a part of your life? For how long has it been a part of your life? Cathy Quigley:
In 1972, Oldham County High started a tennis team. My brother David and I had not ever played before but decided to join the team. We were both athletic and were lucky enough to make the team. I wasn’t great but really grew to love the game and began taking tennis lessons. I now play on three USTA teams, playing 3.5 and 4.0. I am the captain of one team, and my senior team finished the season in first place, advancing us to Districts in a few weeks. Now that Eric is at school and my expenses have decreased somewhat, I have more time to devote to my own game and am enjoying it more than ever. USTA.com:
When did you decide to take the part-time job at the Louisville Indoor Racquet Club? Was it really about helping Eric’s interest in tennis? Did you also have another job? Cathy Quigley:
I started working at LIRC when Eric was six years old to help out with some of the expenses incurred from our tennis and now have been there 15 years. The employees and members are all like family to Eric and me. Eric grew up there, and so many of the same people who work and play tennis there watched Eric grow up and are as proud of him as I am. They all continue to follow his success.
Eric and Stephanie went to elementary school right next to LIRC, and they were able to walk from school to the club many days each week. When I finished working each night at LIRC, Eric and I would stay late and hit tennis balls. He never grew tired of playing. Eventually I couldn’t hit with him anymore but was still able to feed him balls.
I have always worked a full-time job in addition to my part-time work at the club, with the last eight years at the Sprint business office in Louisville. My Sprint job also has allowed me some flexibility to travel and follow Eric with both his junior tennis and now with college. My Sprint family shares in my excitement of Eric’s tennis and has followed his career, as well. USTA.com:
In what other ways do you or have you supported your child’s tennis career? Cathy Quigley:
I did everything within my power to connect him with the best coaches in town and on several occasions was able to send him to tennis academies, where he was able to train for a week at a time throughout his junior career. I set up practice matches for him with local junior players and eventually met a lot of adult players who were gracious enough to hit with him. He was fortunate enough to be sponsored by both Wilson and Prince for racquets and strings throughout his junior career. He was offered financial assistance from the Southern Tennis Association, as well as some local help when he was honored with The Sam English Jr. Award, given to a Kentucky junior dedicated to the sport of tennis who exhibits exemplary sportsmanship. We paired up with other Kentucky families for travel to and from many of the Southern and national tournaments to help with expenses. With the community behind us, Eric’s enthusiasm and hard work has paid off not only with a college scholarship but with so many great relationships. Our dream is to one day give back because without the community support, Eric would not be the player he is today. USTA.com:
How is balancing being a ‘tennis mom’ with other responsibilities? Cathy Quigley:
I engaged the help of my parents, and to save expenses, we became a multi-generational family, allowing me more flexibility to travel to tournaments with Eric.USTA.com:
Did you ever think when Eric was young that he would want to pursue tennis to this level or for a career? Or that he would have this kind of success? Cathy Quigley:
I always knew that Eric’s dream to play at a high level was there and that he had high hopes that his dream would come true. I did everything I could to nurture his love and passion for tennis, including working as a volunteer usher at the Cincinnati ATP tournament when Eric was about 10. Eric would always tag along. He didn’t want to stay with me, preferring instead to watch the practice courts and follow his favorite players. He studied the players and watched them practice. I believe that this tournament is where Eric’s dreams began. I have a picture of Eric at the Cincy tournament at 11 years old with Vince Spadea. He was very nice to Eric and spoke to him. Eight years later, Eric played Vince in the Ford Challenger in Louisville. Of course, Vince didn’t remember Eric, but Eric certainly remembered him. They had an incredible match with the hometown crowd totally behind Eric.
Another amazing event for Eric that contributed to his dream was at 13 years old, during the 2002 Lexington Challenger, the Jensen Brothers had a contest for some of the local kids, and Eric won. The prize was tickets to the Cincinnati ATP tournament, and before the matches began, Luke Jensen took Eric to the locker room to meet some of the players. Luke and Eric had the best seats in the house, sitting on the sidelines on center court during the Pete Sampras match, and he got to meet Pete, his favorite player. After the match, Luke played tennis with Eric on that same court. I was overjoyed for Eric, knowing that this was a dream come true for him. USTA.com:
What does it mean to you to see your child compete and have success at this level? Cathy Quigley:
Coming from a small town in Kentucky (Pewee Valley) without the fortune of living and continuously training at a tennis academy, I always felt that Eric had so much room to grow as a tennis player. I knew that he had an unparalleled passion and drive for tennis and that his success would be great. I felt that with the college tennis environment and the resources at the University of Kentucky to train, the improvements in his game would prepare him for the next level. Time will tell on that dream, but he has come so far in such a short period of time. Eric had a lot to prove, and I think that he has done just that. I couldn’t be more proud of him, not only for his accomplishments at both the junior and college level, but also for his sportsmanship and kindness both on and off the court. USTA.com:
What has been the most exciting moment for you in Eric's tennis career? Cathy Quigley:
It is difficult to name just one event. However, one that comes to mind is when he won his fourth straight Kentucky state high school championship, dropping only two sets in his last four years of high school tennis. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend; the day before the final match, I was rushed to a Lexington hospital with a blood clot, spending three days there and missing his fourth and final championship. I did get a play by play of the final match as it was happening, however, through many texts and phone calls. With all the pictures and videos taken for me, I felt like I was there.
Another proud moment was when the Southern Tennis Association named Eric and Melanie Oudin as the recipients of the 2007 DeWitt Redgrave III Junior Achievement Award. (A reward given in memory of DeWitt Redgrave, III, this award is presented annually to an outstanding Southern boy and girl ranked in the 18s in recognition of their tennis performance and sportsmanship).