Baseline knowledge you need to know before you begin recruiting
The recruiting process for women’s tennis can be confusing and difficult, and earning a college scholarship can be even harder. But if your goal is to earn a scholarship to compete in college, there are a few things you need to know:
• 62% of Division I Women’s Players Are International Athletes
You read that right. In 2020, 62% of NCAA Division I women’s tennis players were foreign-born student-athletes. In Division II, only 38% of the players were international athletes and in DII, the number drops to just 9%. Put it all together and it means that, not only are you competing against every other high school athlete for a spot on a college team, you’re essentially competing against the whole world too. And that makes NCAA DI tennis the most difficult sport in which to land a roster spot of all the NCAA-sanctioned sports.
• Scholarships Are Limited
As you might expect given the amount of competition worldwide, earning a college tennis scholarship can be every bit as hard as simply making the team. Consider that, in the United States, there are just over 195,000 female high tennis players. However, in Division I women’s tennis, there are only 312 teams and 2,836 players. On top of that, while DI women’s tennis teams have an average roster size of nine, each team has just eight full scholarships available, meaning only 2,496 athletes earn scholarships.
The odds aren’t too much better in Division II, as there are 216 women’s teams, each with six scholarships. Note that at the DII level, women’s tennis is an equivalency sport and, as such, those six scholarships are likely to be divided up among all of the team’s nine players. Those scholarships may not be awarded equally, however, as many coaches hold back some scholarship money for use as an enticement to persuade foreign athletes to play in the U.S.
• Academics Count
As you’ve seen above, competition for women’s tennis scholarships is tough. And one proven way to put yourself ahead of the competition is to have a solid academic record and high standardized test scores. If a coach’s decision comes down to you and another athlete, you can bet he or she will select the player with better grades. That’s because a solid academic track record assures a coach an athlete can handle the college workload.
Plus, better grades could also make you eligible for academic scholarships. And your eligibility for academic scholarships gives a college tennis coach more flexibility when trying to stretch his or her scholarship budget. And that could make you an even more attractive recruit.
Finally, while NCAA Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, they do have 371 schools that sponsor women’s tennis. And most DIII schools do have ample academic scholarship money available. In fact, in many cases, academic scholarships at DIII schools can often be better offers than partial scholarships in DII. And that means, your good grades can only enhance your chances of earning a college scholarship and landing a spot on a tennis team.
• Lower Levels Have More Opportunities
While NCAA division III offers the best opportunity for women to land a spot on a tennis team, don’t overlook the 184 NAIA and junior colleges that offer women’s tennis. There are 114 women’s teams in the NAIA, each with five scholarships to divide among an average roster of nine players. Plus, there are 70 women’s junior college tennis programs each with an average roster of seven players, but with a total of nine scholarships to be awarded. Plus, you’ll still be competing against some of the top women’s players in the country in the NAIA or JUCOs, so the on-court competition can be equally tough. Finally, playing in DIII, the NAIA, or at a junior college, can also provide you an opportunity to play tennis at the collegiate level but also the time and space to enjoy the college experience without living and breathing tennis 24/7/365.
• You Have To Make It Happen
Most women’s college tennis coaches don’t have huge recruiting budgets or the time to chase down every potential recruit. And that means, unless you’re a high-ranking player, you can’t sit back and wait for coaches to knock on your door. In fact, if you want to be recruited to play college tennis, it’s up to you to knock on the coach’s door.
Be proactive. Start early. Assemble an online recruiting profile and highlight video. Research schools where you’ll fit best and assemble a target list of preferred schools. Then, start reaching out to caches to tell them of your interest in the school and their program. Send emails. Follow up with phone calls. Invite coaches to see you play. Go to tennis camps and introduce yourself to coaches. Ask your high school or academy coach for help, recommendations, and introductions. When it comes to tennis recruiting, you have the first serve. It’s up to you to ace it.
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