Your recruitment process as a college tennis player is no different than a company looking to hire a new employee. It includes research, evaluation, interview, comparisons, negotiations and offer.
Thomas E. Anderson President & Founder of University Sports Program,
Coaches understand that they are evaluated first and foremost by their team results. A winning record or a trip to the NCAA Championships could be their ticket to a contract renewal or even a salary increase. With this in mind, they are very careful in selecting the best possible fit for their team. Here are some of the things they are looking for:
1. Proven Results
You are a great hitter, have tremendous power and serve 10 aces per match. But, do you have enough “quality” wins in tournaments? When talking about wins, quality should be prioritized over quantity, meaning that you have proven yourself against ranked players, rather than having tons of insignificant wins. An impressive win against a National or International ranked player will increase your value as a college prospect more than a Club level tournament win.
2. Playing ITF vs USTA
College Coaches can never get enough of ITF results. The ITF sanctioned events are the playground for players from all over the world and many of them share your dream of playing college tennis. However, it can be very costly to travel and play a dozen ITF tournaments in a year; moreover, there is a risk of not obtaining the previously mentioned “quality” win in some of these tournaments since the level can be subpar at times. I always recommend, as the best strategy when preparing a tournament calendar to choose a balanced schedule with tournaments where you have a realistic chance to win some matches and others where it gives you a chance to play against other ranked players. Something else to consider, that many recruits are not aware of is the ITA Summer Circuit. In these tournaments you will play current college players, which will not only provide you with quality results, but also give you a better idea of your fit for college tennis.
- Expose Yourself
While ITF and USTA tournament are considered the most popular way to be recruited, there is a loophole to the recruitment process that you may not be familiar with. According to the NCAA rules College Coaches are not allowed to talk to you while you are playing either singles or doubles in a tournament. On the other hand, coaches and players assist a showcase with a common interest, to recruit and to be recruited respectively. When you participate in a College Tennis Showcase, you are being scouted and could be recruited in the spot. For the past 11 years, I have organized the biggest and most successful Showcase in the world, the USP International College Tennis Showcase, were over 700 student-athletes have received a chance to be recruited. Just last year, over 60 percent of players attending the event were recruited by an attending coach.
One of the major differences between junior and college tennis, is that in college, you will be playing older, physically stronger and more experienced players. College Coaches need players who are first and foremost athletes. Athletes that can play a tough doubles match and right away perform in singles, then do it again the next day. Coaches need players who can sustain a demanding training program and avoid injuries.
- Mental Toughness
You are the last match on court and the teams win or loss comes down to you. You are down a break point in a key moment of the match. Will you choke or pull it out? How will you handle the pressure? Remember, up to this point your losses have only affected you. In College Tennis, you have the added pressure of your result impacting not only yourself but over 10 more of your teammates. Coaches need players who they can rely in this type of situation. Again, their job may be on the line…
World Champions have a specific profile. Most of them are humble, well balanced, hard workers and leaders. Coaches need those profiles on their team; those who can serve as role model to others. Coaches want to deal more with the tennis aspect of their job, and not become therapists dealing with problem kids.
Here are other things that can separate you from the rest of the recruits and lean the balance your way:
- High GPA and SAT or ACT scores
- Not a significant need for an athletic scholarship
- Strong references from other players and coaches
- Your true interest towards their school
Once you become a college student – athlete you have committed to certain responsibilities. In our next article we will talk about these commitments.