TIM PEELER: Cavaday Is At Home on the Move
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH NC State junior Nick Cavaday first picked up a tennis racquet at the age of 5, playing with a soft sponge ball on a badminton court. But more than 15 years later, the native of London, England, still has a passion for the game he loves, without any hint of burnout.The explanation beyond his obvious drive to become a successful professional player some day is that he has never stayed in the same place very long. At 14, Cavaday entered the Lawn Tennis Association boarding school in Cambridge, England. He graduated from that high school equivalent at the age of 16 and spent the next full year at a London tennis academy, where he traveled the country playing in tournaments. That’s when he caught the eye of NC State’s coaching staff and was offered the opportunity to play collegiate tennis in the United States.
“For a lot of people, when they stay in the same environment all the time, things tend to get a little stale,” Cavaday said. “With me, I have been at several different training centers. It’s almost impossible for me to get bored after moving around so much.”Cavaday thought about turning pro at the age of 17, as his younger sister, Naomi, did not long ago. She’s been quite successful she’s currently ranked No. 7 in the LTA’s national rankings of female players and is considered a rising star in England.
But Nick Cavaday knew that he needed more seasoning, including more upper-body strength and greater endurance, if he was going to have similar success as a professional. So he jumped at the opportunity to come overseas to refine and improve his game. And he was convinced NC State was the best place to do that.
“I didn’t know much about how American college programs worked, but it was pretty obvious to me that NC State was trying to become one of the biggest sporting schools in the country,” Cavaday said. “That was an environment I wanted to be a part of, where all sports were so important to so many people at the school.“It was something I never experienced before back at home.”
Cavaday, now in his third season as one of the Wolfpack’s top players, is one of the reasons coach Jon Choboy’s team is in the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship for the second consecutive season. The Wolfpack (20-9 overall) will face William & Mary, a team it beat 4-0 earlier this year in Montgomery, Ala., on Friday at 1 p.m. at UNC’s Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center in Chapel Hill.He and senior doubles partner William Noblitt are also at-large selections for the NCAA Doubles Championship, which will be held later this month in Athens, Ga.
Cavaday has spent most of his career playing in either the No. 1 or No. 2 position for the Wolfpack, which can be tough on a young player.“You take your knocks up there but you have to keep going, and that is something Nick has done,” Choboy said.
Cavaday isn’t an over-powering player. He’s more of an Andre Agassi-type, someone who likes to wear down an opponent to win points instead of using a powerful serve. Over the last three years, he has worked on his physical conditioning.“He realizes that he has to be super physically fit,” Choboy said. “Some guys can serve their way out of trouble. Nick works his way out of trouble a lot of times. He is not necessarily going to step up and serve three aces. He wins points by moving his opponent around the court.”
That also takes a certain amount of mental toughness. Cavaday has a bit of an edge on his opponents in that regard, thanks to his mother, Celia Cavaday, who is a professor of sports psychology in London. Of course, it is sometimes difficult to get advice on mental toughness from the same person who gives out motherly love.“It’s hard to listen to sports psychology from your mum,” Cavaday said. “You hear about the psychology of the game, and then you hear go clean up your room.’ It makes it a bit difficult.
“But she did help me think about the mental side of the game, and that is important because after you reach a certainly ability level, then 90 percent of athletics is mental. Once I kind of began to realize that, I could pick out the little things that I was doing wrong.Cavaday hopes to one day do the same thing for others: he is majoring in psychology the ambition of following in his mother’s footsteps as a sports psychologist, after he gives professional tennis a go.
For now, however, Cavaday’s focus is to help the Wolfpack advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and continue its upward climb in the national rankings.“When I first came to NC State, there was no doubt in my mind that we would get to this point,” he said. “I see NC State’s program being firmly established in the top 10 in the country in the next two or three years. We are consistently being viewed as a top 25 program now.
“Within two or three years we can be challenging for national titles year-in and year-out. It is a shame that I am going to have to graduate after next year, because I think that is when we could find ourselves in and around the top 10 all year long. That is something I am really looking forward to.”You may contact Tim Peeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.