Brett Helgeson, the No. 1 singles player for the Notre Dame men's tennis team, is currently ranked 29th in the Campbell’s ITA College Tennis Rankings. A 6-foot, 4-inch senior from Overland Park, Kan., Helgeson has been honored twice this season as the Big East Player of the Week (Feb. 11 and April 1). He was named to the Big East All-Tournament Team in both singles and doubles last season and also competed in the NCAA Singles Championship. Known for his huge backhand, outstanding serve and groundstrokes, the 22-year-old recently took time from his busy schedule to answer some questions for USTA.com.
Notre Dame senior Brett Helgeson
© Notre Dame
USTA.com: You were one of the top recruits in the class of 2005. Why did you choose Notre Dame?
Brett Helgeson: Notre Dame is an extremely special place that has the ability to draw you in from the second you step foot on campus. The tradition and spirit that exists is unmatched. Also, I knew I was going to get a great tennis experience with the coaching staff here and be surrounded by an amazing group of dedicated teammates.
USTA.com: What advice do you give to juniors on the recruiting process?
Brett Helgeson: The best advice I could give junior players looking for their prospective colleges would be to make sure they make a well-balanced decision, meaning, make sure to take everything into account, including academics, athletics, coaching, social life, etc. I believe that to truly be as successful as you can be on the tennis court, you need to be happy in all aspects of your life, and I think too many people get caught up in solely their tennis fit.
USTA.com: You started your career playing in the middle of the lineup and have continued to improve now, playing No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles for the Fighting Irish. How has your progression been from your freshman year to now?
Brett Helgeson: My coaches have done an unbelievable job of preparing me over the years, constantly challenging me in the areas of my game that need to improve.
USTA.com: What are your goals for yourself and for your team this season?
Brett Helgeson: Our goal has and always will be to play our best tennis at the end of the year because that is when it really matters with conference titles and NCAA’s on the line.
USTA.com: What’s a normal day for you on campus -- practice, class, strength and conditioning, fun, etc.?
Brett Helgeson: A normal day on the campus of Notre Dame…
8 a.m.: dining hall
10 a.m.: individual hit
11 a.m.-2 p.m.: two or three classes
3 p.m.: practice
6 p.m.: lift
7:30 p.m.: dining hall
8:30 p.m.: study
USTA.com: Notre Dame is well known for its academics, and you are in the business school. How do you balance tennis and your academics?
Brett Helgeson: It is tough sometimes to balance your tennis and academics with the amount of time we put in with traveling and practicing. But Notre Dame does a great job of setting us up with tutors, and it’s all about creating a good relationship with your professors and keeping up good communication with them.
USTA.com: What is your toughest class at Notre Dame?
Brett Helgeson: I think it’s different for everyone, especially depending on your major, because everyone struggles with different things. For me, though, calculus was one the biggest battles I had to overcome.
USTA.com: You have two great coaches -- Head Coach Bobby Bayliss and Assistant Coach (and former Irish standout) Ryan Sachire. How have both of them contributed to your game?
Brett Helgeson: They both have done an unbelievable job assisting me in my growth as a college player. Their knowledge and experience is unmistakably one of the best around, and I feel extremely blessed to have such great role models and mentors around me each and every day.
USTA.com: As a senior, you’ve played on the road a lot. What’s the toughest venue to play at?
Brett Helgeson: It kind of depends what you define as tough. Some schools are hard to play at because of their fans; others are more difficult because of their court speed or lighting that you have to adjust to. Texas A&M is a pretty hard place to play if you get rattled easily. But I would say some of the hardest venues are rival schools because there is that extra fight and grit that you don’t find other places.
USTA.com: You have a fairly young team this year. How has your leadership role evolved during your career?
Brett Helgeson: I was able to enter the team as a freshman and sophomore with great role models who paved the way for me. But especially this year, with such a young travel squad, I have had to take on a big leadership role, due to the lack of support available. But much credit to the younger guys this year because they have truly bought into everything the coaches and I believe in, and we are hoping to finish strong.
USTA.com: What’s your biggest accomplishment on court?
Brett Helgeson: I think my biggest accomplishment would definitely be my sophomore-year team as a whole. We were able to accomplish some pretty special things that year, and it was an honor to be a part of it.
USTA.com: Your older brother, Travis, was a standout player on Georgia’s National Championship teams. Did you guys have to play ever in the juniors? In college? How was that?
Brett Helgeson: My brother and I grew up very competitive with each other in everything we did, including tennis. We never played in college personally, but our teams did meet, and, honestly, it was probably much worse on our parents. But we did play each other in the Kansas state final two years in a row, and, as you can imagine, it was fairly heated and intense.
USTA.com: Any desire to try the pro tour after college?
Brett Helgeson: I definitely think I am going to take a crack at the pro tour. Hopefully, if my brother is still playing, we will be able to travel together. Anything to put off the REAL WORLD is fine with me.
USTA.com: What will Brett Helgeson be doing in 10 years?
Brett Helgeson: It’s hard to say what exactly I will be doing in that period of time. But I can definitely see myself involved in some type of corporate law. I would also love to be involved in tennis in some degree.