College tennis teams are excellent ways for student athletes to continue their passion for the game and form a community on campus. At the same time, tennis is an enormously popular sport around the world, and college tennis teams recruit only a tiny fraction of current high school players. If you want to be one of them, you’ll need to be among the best of the best.
There’s no way to ensure you will definitely be recruited to play tennis at your dream school; more often than not, being recruited is about being both lucky and good. We can’t help you with the luck, but there are ways to ensure you’ve got the “good” part locked up. Below, find our big-picture advice for maximizing your chances of recruitment in tennis.
To determine whether you want to take the recruitment route in tennis, make sure you keep these big concerns in mind to improve your chances of being recruited:
Know your UTR. Before beginning the recruitment process, be sure to know what your Universal Tennis Ranking (UTR) is. It’s one of the first things a coach will ask you about, as it reflects your individual playing ability. Knowing your UTR can also help you figure out the level of college competition for which you’re currently ready, by comparing your UTR rating to that of current college roster holders to see how you stack up.
Improve your ranking. In addition to liking a high UTR, college tennis coaches prioritize athletes who are ranked highly on TennisRecruiting.net. Most D1 programs are looking for players who are ranked in the top 50, otherwise known as Blue Chip players. International players should also be ranked near the top of their national standings. Competing in tournaments will get you ranked, and doing better will improve your ranking.
Attend tournaments. For the best chance at tennis recruitment, aim to participate in at least 1-2 tournaments each month. Specific tournaments of interest to college coaches include: National Open, Section Closed, Winter Nationals, Clay Court Nationals, Orange Bowl, Eddie Herr, and Hard Court Nationals. These and other major tournaments are opportunities for coaches to see you play and also to improve your UTR and your ranking.
Play club tennis. Because the college tennis recruitment process is so competitive, high school players who only play for their school team rarely get recruited. Instead, to get the experience and exposure that are necessary to become a successful tennis recruit, you’ll want to play for a competitive club team. Doing so means extra practices, travel times, and highly competitive tournaments, but not doing so will likely hinder your chances.
Get good grades. Because international recruiting plays such a large role in college tennis recruiting, one way that athletes can stand out is with a strong academic record. When it comes down to making the team and receiving a scholarship, coaches are more likely to recruit a well-rounded student athlete over a player who is only talented on the court.
The things that every college coach is looking for in a tennis recruit are: strong academics, long-term experience on your current team, excellent physical strength and endurance, good skills and technique, and exceptional athletic discipline. However, those are just the basics to begin the process. To really increase your chances, keep this advice in mind:
Every summer, the NCAA hosts collegiate tennis camps at colleges across the United States. These are spaces for excellent high school tennis players to train, learn about playing tennis in college, meet other tennis players throughout the country, and talk to coaches at D1 and D3 schools. You don’t want to miss these important opportunities to improve your skills and show off your stuff to coaches.
At a collegiate tennis camp, you can expect to learn firsthand how college coaches run their practices and develop their tennis players’ skills and fitness. Expect daily sessions involving strength conditioning, drills, and scrimmages. You’ll come away with stronger skills, better tactics, and a clearer understanding of what collegiate tennis is like.
While you do not need to meet coaches from specific colleges at playing tennis camps to become a successful recruit, it’s nevertheless great practice to talk to the ones who are there. What you’ll learn will be valuable later when you reach out to the coaches at the schools that interest you most. And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll have met those coaches already at a camp!
While attending camps and clinics is a good idea, coaches—especially D1 coaches—also like to evaluate potential recruits at club tournaments, because then they can see how a player really looks on the court. The top tournaments tend to attract a lot of college tennis coaches, so they’re an excellent way to jumpstart the recruitment process. So, before deciding which tournaments to attend, figure out which ones the coaches at your top-choice schools will be attending.
Then, once you’re actually scheduled to participate in a few of these events, study up! Who attended last year? Anyone from the schools you’re excited about? If so, send them an email ahead of time to let them know you’d like to connect at the tournament. Making the most of these events will be essential in showing your stuff and connecting with the right coaches.
Putting together a college list is difficult for anyone applying to college, and for student athletes, the considerations multiply. Not only do you want to find a school that’s a good fit for you academically and personally, you also need to consider whether you will be a viable recruit, given the competitiveness of the team and your own abilities.
Once you have a good sense of your overall competitiveness and have talked to your coach about your potential as a recruit, it’s time to research colleges! In addition to deciding whether you’re aiming for D1 or D3, make sure you investigate how competitive each school’s tennis team is and how well your experience situates you for joining it.
Once you have a few schools at which you’re seriously interested in becoming a recruit, reach out to those coaches to introduce yourself and express your interest in joining the team.
As the adage goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it a good one! If you call, be ready with your GPA, UTR, ranking, and win record. If you email, be polite and brief; attach an athletic resume, highlight video, and transcript. Make sure you show genuine interest in the team and the school. You want them to be aware that they’re a top choice for you.
Finally, if there’s a recruitment form or questionnaire on the school’s website, which there almost always is, be sure to fill it out! There may be important questions about your results, goals, experiences, and other physical stats that coaches need to know.
Once you start communicating with coaches, you’ll need to keep up the relationship. Continue following up with coaches as the season continues. Send video of your skills, team results, and academic updates. By establishing this foundation with coaches, you’re more likely to have them express interest in you during the summer before your senior year.
As you talk to coaches, make sure you ask the right questions. Think of every conversation with a coach as a miniature interview. Not only do you need to present yourself well, but you should also take the opportunity to learn more about the school and show your sincere interest by asking questions that clearly show your knowledge of the school and the tennis team.
At the end of the day, there’s no single pathway to tennis recruitment. Above all, the best thing you can do to maximize your chances of becoming a recruit is to stay proactive and involved. Don’t wait for coaches to reach out to you! Put in the time to get yourself out there, and take the initiative to express interest in and enthusiasm for your top-choice schools.
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