Campus and classroom matter as much as the tennis courts

Making an NCAA Division I tennis roster is tough. Factor in the fact that tennis has more foreign-student athletes competing at the college level than any other NCAA sport, and making any college roster can be pretty difficult. However, there are a few things you can do to help find a college tennis program that’s right for you, while also helping to ease the stress and confusion of the recruiting process.

Do Your Research

Across all college tennis divisions, there are more than 1,150 schools that sponsor tennis programs. Finding the one that’s right for you starts with doing some homework.

Start by assembling a list of schools you might be interested in. Then, see how your ranking or competition level compares with a given tennis team’s recruits from the last several years. Look for trends in each team’s current roster. Are the majority of the current team members foreign-born or American? Do they hail from all across the country or are they mainly from one state or geographic region? Once you have a feel for the dynamics of how each school on your list assembles their team, adjust your list of target schools accordingly.

Check Out Schools and Programs Online

With a list of target schools in hand, start digging deeper into each program. Try to get a feel for the stability of the program by looking at how long a coach has been at a given school. Ascertain the coach’s background and philosophy and see how it meshes with your own.

From there, look at each team schedule and consider the strength of that schedule and the ratio between dual matches, tournaments, and post-season play. Determine how many openings a team may have by counting the team members who will graduate before what will be your freshman year in college. Finally, look at the rankings of the team’s freshmen and see where you match up. Look for opportunities where you can step into the third or fourth position while you grow and improve your game.

Consider A School’s And Team’s Facilities

Remember that not all tennis programs and facilities are created equal, so be sure consideration of a team’s facilities factors into your decision. Look at where the team practices and plays. Are there both indoor and outdoor courts available to the team? Are those facilities for the exclusive use of the tennis team or are they shared with other entities and for other uses?

You should also get a feel for the team or athletic department’s fitness and training facilities. How well equipped are they and how much access is the tennis team provided? Also, check out the training staff and training programs. Is the training staff part of the larger athletic department team or are they specific for the tennis team and well-versed in the care and training of competitive tennis players?

Finally, be sure to check out a school’s facilities during official or unofficial visits or during summer camps. Seeing with your own eyes is the best way to get a feel for what you like and don’t like.

Reach Out To Coaches

Perhaps the best way to get a feel for a tennis program is to establish a relationship with the coach. That relationship should start with you sending an email to that coach to express your interest in his or her school and tennis program, why you could be a good fit for that team, and to ask specific questions that aren’t addressed anywhere online. Be sure to include your recruiting profile, highlight/skills video, and your contact information. Apply the relationship you build with a coach to understand their character, to see if your philosophies align, and to get a feel for how much you’ll be able to grow and improve under his or her tutelage.

Raise Your Profile

If you’re not a high-ranking player, odds are, you’ll have to work a little harder to find the tennis program and school that’s right for you. If the coaches on your initial target list aren’t responding favorably to your emails, expand your list to include more schools. Once you establish relationships with coaches, keep them updated on tournament and match results. Find out about camps at the schools you’re interested in and inquire about attending. If you do go to a specific school’s camp, take advantage of the opportunity to introduce yourself to coaches and staff so they can put a name with a face.

Beyond the coaches on your list, respond to every inquiry you get from any coach and any school. Keep an open mind and keep all your options open. Making a positive impression with a coach, even if you might not fit with their program, can still pay off with references to other coaches, schools, or programs.

Finally, remember that, while you’re looking for the right tennis program, the education and academic support you receive at a school should be the largest factor in your decision. While your college tennis career may only last four or five years, the education you receive will provide the foundation for the rest of your life.

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