Over the winter break, DTS was able to catch up with 3 freshmen college tennis players. We asked a men‘s player in the Patriot League (Division 1), a women’s player in the Ivy League (Division 1) and a men’s player in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (Division 3) to take some time to reflect on their initial college, and college tennis, experiences (NCAA rules prohibit us from mentioning the name of the player and school where they play). We asked them about the transition from high school to college both academically and athletically, how their expectations of college tennis are being met, and what advice they would already be able to provide to the high school seniors who will be entering college in the fall.
1. How has the academic transition been for you from high school to college?
Ivy League Player: The transition from high school to college studies has definitely been a challenge in terms of the workload and expectations of the professors. Time management has certainly been key in making sure that I complete assignments thoroughly and on time, especially given the time commitment of playing college tennis. I have found the work to be very enjoyable, however, because the classes I am taking are extremely interesting.
SCIAC Player: The academic transition from HS to college has been manageable, but definitely difficult. Despite getting solid grades, I had to work extremely hard. The work is just different. Essays are longer and more in-depth, and an overall higher quality of work is expected. The work also tends to flow in cycles–there will be weeks where you have a ridiculous amount of work (on these weeks you spend most of your time in the library and get very little sleep), but then there will be weeks where you have virtually nothing. Overall, while manageable, it’s important to be prepared to have to work extremely hard throughout various times of the semester.
Patriot League Player: The academic transition was extremely difficult for me but that was in part due to the lack of preparation I received from my high school. Having 3 hours of practice a day and 2 days of lifting a week made time management the most difficult thing, but also most important.
2. Is the tennis experience what you expected and why or why not?
Patriot League Player: Although the fall season is very different from what I anticipate in the spring, it was pretty much what I expected. Being on a team and having all the support during matches, and being able to contribute by cheering even when not playing, makes the experience far more exciting than junior tennis.
Ivy League Player: My involvement with the tennis team this fall has been by far the best experience I’ve ever had with tennis. The camaraderie of a team really cannot be matched, and the level of competition at the college level is incredible. I am so happy that I decided to play tennis in college because I have seen tremendous improvements in my game, and I am having so much fun! In all honesty, I was a bit apprehensive about the time commitment involved with competing on the tennis team; however, there is an incredible amount of support and so many resources. Also, my teammates and my coaches truly value the idea of being a “student-athlete,” so we can support one another if we have a heavy workload on a particular day/during a tournament. On the other end of the spectrum, I had no idea how fun college tennis could be! I love competition, so being able to play alongside and against girls who are better than myself really pushes me to work my hardest every day and to put forth my best effort in practice and in matches.
SCIAC Player: The tennis experience is what I expected–it’s awesome. The relationships you form with the guys/girls on your team are incredibly unique. A lot of the experience depends on the coach, but it’s pretty much universal that the coach will push you hard. One thing that may be a tough/different transition, especially since we’re tennis players and our sport is individual-natured, is the emphasis on team. Throughout juniors we have competed for ourselves, but upon arriving at college your mentality must shift to team-first. I find this to be one of the richest aspects of the experience, but it’s important to keep in mind that upon entering college, for maybe the first time ever in your tennis career, you are on a team. The one thing that took me most by surprise was the length of our off-season. While this is a good time to focus on work and other social aspects of college, just remember that while the coach cannot coach you, he/she most likely knows who is staying in shape and attending captain’s practice. So, don’t slack off too much in the off season.
3. Do you have any tips for the next class when they start up their college scholar-athlete experience?
SCIAC Player: The main tips I have would be (1) be prepared to have to work hard. Especially as an athlete, there will be times where the balancing act gets tough. Just fight through it–it’s easy to fall behind and once you do it’s incredibly difficult to catch up. My second tip would be to show your coach and the other members of the team that you work hard, and are team oriented. You will quickly be cast as a leader amongst the team and the coach will of course think highly if you. Also, players that only care about themselves and their spot in the lineup quickly get alienated from the other members of the team. Work hard, and push yourself to do your best, but realize that beyond that you cannot control much else. At the end of the day, your teammates won’t remember what number you played, but rather how good of a teammate you were and if you were a positive example for everyone else. Finally, just enjoy it. College is the best time ever.
Patriot League Player: A few tips I have are to manage your time well, study hard but have fun. Present yourself well to your teammates and coach right away because they don’t know what kind of person you actually are from one official visit during senior year.
Ivy League Player: As high school seniors prepare for college in the fall and college tennis particularly, I just want to reiterate how much fun I am having and how much fun they are going to have. College tennis has brought my tennis game to the next level, and I feel myself improving every day. College tennis is a very unique and exciting opportunity in that it really is a team setting, rather than the individual setting most players are used to from junior tennis. You get to meet so many great people, and you get to play tennis almost every day.
Another benefit not mentioned before is that tennis has really been an outlet for me. The demands of college classes can be very stressful, but with college tennis, you have the support of your teammates and coaches, and you get to play a sport that you love!
Donovan Tennis Strategies
Donovan Tennis Strategies has been helping prospective college tennis players and their families navigate the recruiting process since 1997. In addition to consulting services DTS runs two College Prospects Showcases to help players get exposure to college coaches.