Jane Stewart from New York City is currently a senior at the Chapin School in
Manhattan. She is a 4-star recruit ranked #157 nationally for the senior class. When she
initially sat down with Donovan Tennis Strategies in February of her junior year she was
a 3-star player ranked #271. We asked her to keep an occasional log of her experience at
several points in the recruiting process. During the critical stretch in the fall of the senior
year we asked her to keep a more regular log. Her experience offers some important
insights and valuable lessons about the college recruiting process.
Junior Winter
As I faced the tennis recruiting process in February of my junior year, I had no idea
where to begin. I had difficulty coming up with a list of schools that suited the academic
and tennis profile that I was looking for in a college. Having an older sister who went to
my same high school, I had a good idea of how the college process worked from an
academic standpoint. Meeting and working with Tim Donovan at Donovan Tennis
Strategies gave me an excellent idea of where I stood in the tennis recruiting pool. After
playing with me and discussing my tennis and academic goals, he helped me determine a
list of schools that were ranked by how difficult it would be for me to get on the tennis
Junior Spring
After doing research about the schools on my list and meeting with my college
counselors at school, I began to compose an introductory letter and sports resume which
Tim gave me feedback on. In this letter, I got the opportunity to discuss my goals and
game style, as well as important components of me as a player that are not necessarily
reflected in my ranking. For some of the schools on my list that were in the “reach”
category, I was able to explain to coaches how I started playing tennis seriously a little
late. Also, I mentioned how I had difficulty finding serious training programs and court
time because I was living in New York City. I explained to coaches how these factors had
affected me as a player – and how my statistics didn’t really reflect my level of play and
my drive to succeed.
My school encourages juniors to visit schools over spring break, so I figured that I would
send out my letters about a month and a half before break started so I could determine
which coaches were available to meet with me during my visits. Some coaches responded
quickly while others didn’t get back to me. When this happened, Tim called the coaches
and helped me get a foot in the door. At first when a coach did not respond to my email,
I was discouraged and wanted to immediately cross the school from my list; however, I
learned that patience is key in this whole process. Coaches are busy and they aren’t
waiting around for my emails. While it is discouraging to not get a positive response
immediately, I realized that giving a coach time was key (but also understanding that at
times you do need to be persistent). Also, notifying Tim when I had trouble with coaches
was very helpful.
Meetings with coaches were very important for me. As a player who didn’t have such
strong statistics (I was a 3-star player ranked 271 nationally on tennisrecruiting.net in the
middle of my junior year), having the chance to tell a coach about my goals and
motivation put me on the radars of “reach” schools that probably wouldn’t have recruited
me. Also, it’s important to put a face to a name because coaches get so many emails from
On a different note, I took both my SATs and SAT2s (Chemistry and US History) during
the spring of junior year. I had been preparing for the SATs since the fall and by the time
it was May, I was prepared and not particularly stressed out. I think it was important that
I started preparing so early, and I even suggest starting preparation the summer after
sophomore year. I had trouble motivating myself, so I didn’t do this, but it would’ve
given me much more time during my junior year (which is stressful enough) if I had
started a little earlier. I found that the most valuable way to prepare was taking practice
tests at a facility. It was annoying to spend the little free time I had taking tests, but SAT
scores are important. I didn’t want to be turned away from a school because my scores
weren’t good enough.
Summer Between Junior and Senior Years
At the beginning of the summer, I decided to sign up for as many tournaments as possible
to a) get the most exposure and b) try to improve my statistics by getting some good
wins. Although I had contacted coaches and visited a few of them, the key was finding a
way for them to see me play. The DTS College Prospects Showcase provided a great
opportunity for this. I also got off the wait-list for the National Clay Courts in Memphis.
The tournament hosted a college fair where I got to sit down with several coaches, many
of whom came to my matches. I found that being seen was the key in the recruitment
process. My stats made coaches discount me; however, when they could see the way I
played, I began to get more interest.
Of course, statistics are important, and I don’t mean to discount a person who has a high
ranking and many wins against good players; however, for players who haven’t had the
chance to play in many tournaments against good players, I recommend reaching out to
coaches and trying to get them to watch you play. If you have motivation and athleticism,
Tim will vouch for you. This can make a difference since coaches seem to listen to him.
I suggest that juniors try to play as many tournaments as possible and to ask coaches to
come and watch you play if you know they will be at a tournament (basically all the
schools come to a big tournament, so I would try to get into those big ones if you have
the ranking). This is the best way for a player, like myself, who may not have an
established ranking or be a 5-star or Blue Chip, to get on the radars of coaches from
schools in the tennis “reach” category. Once I started communicating with coaches, I was
able to get a sense of where I stood in their recruiting pool, which helped me to narrow
my list down. I still kept a range of “reach” and “target” schools on my final list of about
five or six schools.
Senior Fall
My senior fall was filled with more visits (both unofficial and official) as I tried to
finalize my list. By the end of September, my official visits were arranged and I had
basically gotten a definitive answer of whether or not I could be on the team. This was
both a period of disappointments and surprise. I was discouraged after the Brown coach
told me that I was no longer in contention for a spot and that I shouldn’t bother with an
official visit, but I realized that I had other schools on my list that I was interested in, so I
tried to focus my energies on those rather than be disappointed.
With the early fall of the senior year being “crunch time” for recruiting, I decided to log
my experience. Here it is:
September 6
I just got back from my meeting with Coach Ernst at Georgetown. I spent almost 2 hours
with him, but he never really came to a conclusion about where I stand on the team. He
said that he’s looking at 8 or 9 other girls just like me, and I needed to convince him that
I’m the one he should choose. I told him that I work really hard, and that I’m willing to
do anything to improve; however, he didn’t seem impressed by my attempt to sell myself.
The only thing that really got him interested was when I told him that I would go to the
best tennis school that I could (his assistant coach went to UCLA, and I told him that I’d
love to go there… he seemed to like this).
I talked about my most recent tournament results (how I’d beaten two 4-stars and done
well against two 5-stars); however, he made it clear that winning is his objective, and he
really wanted to see me beat some 5-stars. I think it’s a little unrealistic to think that I can
all of sudden go out there and consistently beat that type of player. Of course I try to do
that, but I don’t think that transformation is going to happen in a month. So I honestly
don’t know what to think about G-town. It’s definitely not my favorite school from a
campus perspective, but Coach Ernst said that he would like to see me play. Depending
on how I like Davidson and Rice, I will decide whether or not to be more forceful at G-
town. However, it doesn’t seem very promising or positive there, so I’ll probably put my
energies elsewhere (RICE!).
September 10
I just got back from my first official visit. I went to Davidson College in Charlotte, NC. I
got in late on Thursday night and stayed with a member of the team. They took me to a
school event (comedy night) so I could get a feel for activities on campus. I went to
breakfast with two other team members and then went to two classes: Medicine and
Literature and Humanities. Both classes were lacking in energy and I noticed that the
students didn’t seem very enthusiastic.
Afterwards, I went to the Admissions Office to meet with Tim Hudson, an admission
counselor also from Manhattan. Coach Price set up this meeting for me, and I was able to
ask questions about academic offerings and student life at Davidson. It was informative
and particularly helpful to get a New Yorker’s perspective about the school.
After our meeting, I left for the Knobloch Tennis Center where I talked to Coach Price
about the team. She told me that there were limited scholarships available for team
members and that was the reason why she wasn’t getting higher level recruits. We talked
about various other things as well. Coach Price wanted me to give her a definite yes or no
by the end of the meeting, but I wasn’t sure that the school was right for me, so I told her
that I’d stay in touch.
The team was playing in their fall invitational against East Carolina, UNC-Greensboro,
and Campbell so I was able to watch them play. While their level of play was fine it was
not quite the level which I want to play at. Also, I got a chance to interact with the girls
on the team. There seemed to be one type of person on the team, and I felt that I really
didn’t fit in with the group. Watching and talking to team members really solidified that
Davidson was not the right fit for me.
I’ve crossed another school off the list, but I realize how valuable it was to visit. I saw so
many things that I hadn’t picked up on my unofficial visit in the spring. I’m a little
disappointed that I didn’t like one of the schools on my short list… and I’m a bit stressed
because my list is so narrow… I don’t have that many options that are good tennis and
academic fits.
September 14
Today I had a meeting with my college counselor at school. I updated her on where I am
currently – that my list basically consists of Rice and Georgetown. I told her that I plan to
apply rolling to Wisconsin (I think my chances are pretty good and I know the coach
there, so this is a good backup plan just in case nothing works out). She seemed
displeased that my list was so small, so I told her that I was thinking of adding Cornell
and Tulane, but am first trying to figure out where I stand with Rice. I told her that Tim
has been contacting the coach there and is trying to determine whether or not I’ll have a
place on the team and what my admissions status looks like since I would be considered a
walk-on (or non-scholarship player). She suggested that I start working on my essay (I
have yet to determine what I’m going to write about) and that I take a look at the
Wisconsin and Rice applications.
Also, I talked to Tim today. He told me that it’s normal to have anxiety during the
process, but things will work out so I shouldn’t get crazy. He told me that my Wisconsin
backup plan is a good idea. He said he would stay in contact with Coach Schmidt at Rice,
and he promises to keep me posted on how that’s going. Also, if I don’t like Rice when I
visit on September 28, I should try to find a way for the Georgetown coach to see me
play. Additionally, I should get in touch with the Tulane and Cornell coaches. He asked if
I was interested in any strong DIII programs, but I told him that I’m not interested.
Also, he suggested that, as a courtesy, I tell Coach Price at Davidson right away that I’m
not interested so that she can move along with her recruiting. He said to phrase it as
kindly as possible. I’m going to tell her that I’d like a larger school (although that’s not
necessarily true, it is more gracious that just telling her that I don’t want to come to
Basically, I’m taking this one step at a time. When I get more information about where I
stand at Rice, I can determine whether or not I’ll need more backup plans than just
Meanwhile, with the homework and college visiting/applications that I’m obliged to do,
I’ve had little time to play tennis. I’m starting up more regularly, though. Although I
don’t have many more tournaments, it’s really important that I keep improving just in
case early decision to Rice and rolling to Wisconsin do not work. There’s always a
chance that a coach could see me play at a tournament during the winter.
September 18
I won’t lie – I’m very stressed out. My tennis hasn’t been very good for the past few
days, and as a result, I withdrew from a pretty big tournament in New Hampshire this
weekend. I’ve just not had enough time to play and train, and my game is really seeing
the effects. I went from playing 6 times a week and doing at least 4 hours of training a
day, to being lucky if I can get in 2 solid hours on court. I think it’s better if I do as much
as I can (work- and college app-wise) instead of playing a tournament where I’m
probably not going to perform to my standards. Also, it’s a very sensitive time right now
and I don’t want to under-perform and have college coaches see that.
So, I’m trying to get back in the swing of things and get used to all my homework and
college stuff. I need to start writing my essay ASAP since I decided to apply rolling to
Wisconsin. My guidance counselors want the application finished by October 13, which
doesn’t leave me with much time. I probably should’ve started looking at apps and
writing my essay over the summer, but I didn’t anticipate how much work I’d have or
how soon these deadlines would come around.
I just sent my email to Coach Price at Davidson telling her as gently as possible that I’m
not interested. It felt kind of nice to be the one doing the “turning down,” but I still feel
slightly guilty and a little nervous to have more definitively crossed another school off
the list.
Oh, I almost forgot to report on the most recent development with Penn: Sanela, the
coach, wants to see me play. Tim spoke with her about possible opportunities to see me
play. None of them was going to be easy or convenient. This seems like a lot of trouble,
but if it adds another good school (for both tennis and academics) to the list, I’m willing
to do it. I’ve realized that I’ve have to be pretty flexible and willing to work to get what I
want during the recruiting process. It’s annoying – I feel like I’m being taken advantage
of, and that the coaches are wasting my time… but I guess they have so many people who
are interested that I have to express that I want to do the work to get to them.
October 2
I was initially worried about whether I would like Rice and why they would be interested
in a player with my statistics given that they are a nationally ranked D1 team. But their
assistant coach, Younes Limam, watched me play at the national clay courts and felt that
I’d be a really good non-scholarship candidate (I beat a player ranked #80 in the country
that day). I just got back from my visit and have decided to apply early there after
spending much time on campus and with the players and coaches. I arrived on Thursday
night and spent the night in a hotel room with another recruit. We got up early in the
morning, met with head coach Elizabeth Schmidt, who I had never met, assistant coach
Limam, another recruit, and her father. The coaches took us out to breakfast and then we
went to watch the team at early morning fitness. Afterwards, I went to two classes. The
professors were engaging and I enjoyed the classes. After having lunch with the team, we
went to watch tennis practice (2.5 hrs). The men’s team was hosting an invitational match
against several other schools, so we had the opportunity to see them play too.
Later that evening, we went to dinner with our hosts and the coaches. I was able to see
that although the coaches were serious about their tennis, they were also understanding
and humane people.
The following day, we went with the team to morning practice and were then given a
campus tour. I had already visited Rice in the spring and been on a tour, but it was good
to revisit the school. After the tour, we had meetings. I met with the coaches first. They
informed me that I had a spot in the team if I could get into the school. They explained
that at Rice that if you are a walk-on that they don’t have the ability to insure my
acceptance…but they said that the admissions office, after seeing my grades and test
scores, thought that I had a pretty good chance. I was really excited about this
information because I was very impressed with the team’s level of play. After this
meeting, my parents and I met with the athlete’s academic advisor who explained how
the university supported its athletes academically. Finally, we met with another counselor
who explained how she is there to support the athletes in every other way. My parents
and I were very impressed by the university’s devotion and support of its athletes and
emphasized how serious athletics at Rice are.
After I knew I had a place on the team, I immediately decided to apply there early. The
naturalness with which I made this decision was surprising because I had been so unsure
when I was visiting Davidson. I think this fact highlights the importance of visiting
schools because I got such a clear sense of my reaction to a school from spending time on
October – November
I spoke to my college counselors about my decision to apply early to Rice and they
seemed positive about the outcome. I confess that after making my decision, it was
difficult to motivate myself in school and in tennis. I procrastinated a bit in doing my
application (even though Coach Schmidt called me frequently to ask me how it was going
– this was stressful, but inspirational) and I was rushing when the November 1 deadline
rolled around. I definitely should’ve been more efficient about getting the application
done because I was stressed when the deadline came around. It was also difficult to
juggle rigorous schoolwork with applications.
Regarding tennis, I felt like I needed a break. I hadn’t taken a vacation since last winter
and I felt run into the ground; however, Elizabeth from Rice kept calling me and asking
about my practices and tournament schedule, which motivated me to keep working so I
would have good news to report to her.
The time between November 1 st and December 15 th (when Early Decisions come out)
dragged on for what seemed like months. Although I felt very comfortable with my
decision initially, as the decision date approached, I began to be anxious. What if I didn’t
get in for some reason? What were my backups besides Wisconsin, which I had not yet
heard from? I decided that I would cross this road if I came to it. Fortunately, I got into
Rice and didn’t have to worry about other schools, although I did end up getting into
January 2012
As I return to school for the final part of my last year at school, I again am struggling to
motivate myself academically. I am burnt out; however, I continue to be motivated on the
tennis court. Since I don’t have the impressive statistics and background that many girls
on the Rice team have, I want to improve so I am not so far behind my teammates when I
arrive at school in August. Although I am a little nervous to be joining a team full of girls
who have won ITF’s and played in junior major tournaments, I am relieved that
everything worked out and excited that I have been given a chance to play tennis at a
high level in college.