The following is an article written by a former 4-star recruit now playing at a NESCAC school
After reflecting on my experience with the recruiting process and my experience playing college tennis, I have five pieces of advice for recruits who are just starting the recruiting process:
- Reach out to a large number of schools (and not just the schools that you are most interested in) and communicate frequently. When I began the recruiting process, I felt nervous about reaching out to coaches. I think that my nervousness about sending introductory emails to coaches was the result of my fear that coaches would not reciprocate my interest in their schools or that the way in which I wrote my introductory emails would “make” or “break” my chances of being recruited by the schools that I was most interested in.
As I became more familiar with the recruiting process, my fear about “making” or “breaking” my chances of being recruited because of the way in which I phrased my emails dissipated. I quickly realized that sending emails was the easiest way for me to update coaches on my tennis progress and my academic progress. While I think that I did a very good job updating coaches at my top few school choices about my progress, I think that I did a much poorer job sending emails to coaches at schools that I was interested in to a lesser degree. I think that I unconsciously eliminated certain schools from my list of interest by choosing not to communicate with coaches at those schools regularly. While I am really happy with the way in which things worked out for me, if I were to do things again, I would make sure to communicate regularly with coaches at each school on my list of potential schools. By communicating well with coaches at every school that you are interested in early in the recruiting process (even if you are interested in different schools to different degrees), you can help ensure that you give yourself more options later on in the recruiting process and that you do not “put all of your eggs in one basket.”
- Play matches/compete regularly. As the recruiting process began to ramp up for me, my academic and extracurricular load also increased. While I continued to compete in tournaments, I played fewer tournaments my sophomore and junior years of high school than I did prior to that. If I were to do the recruiting process again, I would make every effort to play as many matches as possible. I say that for two reasons:
To start, when I interacted with college coaches at schools that I was interested in, they almost always asked me about my tennis progress. It seemed that they were most interested in results and takeaways from recent matches. While I was able to talk about what I was working on in practice when I had not played any recent tournaments, it was much easier to demonstrate my progress to coaches when I could refer to recent tournaments. Additionally, throughout the recruiting process, I got the impression that playing matches was the easiest way that I could demonstrate my commitment to tennis. Secondly, during high school, I think that my tennis level improved substantially. During the recruiting process, coaches that I spoke to frequently referred to TRN and UTR rankings. As a result, I thought about my rankings quite frequently. In hindsight, rather than worry about rankings, I think that I would have been better off (and less anxious about the recruiting process) if I had played more matches and given myself as many opportunities as possible to demonstrate my improvement in tennis through my match results. Rather than worry about rankings, I highly recommend focusing on playing matches. While I did not have any control over rating algorithms as a recruit, I did have control over the number of matches that I played and the way in which I competed and conducted myself in those matches.
- Think about what life beyond tennis might look like at each school. For much of the recruiting process, I was focused on what it might be like to play tennis at each of the schools that I was looking at. Because I mostly looked at small, liberal arts schools, I initially figured that, aside from tennis, my academic, social, and extracurricular experience at each school would probably be similar. As I started to visit schools, though, I began to notice that each campus has a unique campus environment. I remember my mom telling me to envision myself at each school without tennis. That ended up being the best advice I received during the recruiting process. I love tennis and I love my teammates, but tennis is just one part of my life at school. While tennis was a huge factor in my decision making process, I think that it is important to choose a school with more than just tennis in mind.
- Talk to current players on each team that you are interested in…college tennis is about a lot more than just playing tennis. When I started the recruiting process, I spent a lot of time looking at the results and rankings of different college teams and I went on a number of campus tours. Until I began to go on official, overnight visits during the fall of my senior year (I went on three visits), I did not talk to any of the players on the teams that I was interested in joining. On those three visits, I noticed that the social dynamics were different on each team.
While I practice and play matches with my teammates, I think that I have spent more time with them off the court than I have on the court. Between team meals, social gatherings, Walmart trips, and classes that I have taken with my teammates, I spend a lot of time with them outside of tennis. Because you spend so much time with your teammates on a college team, I would encourage you to try to talk to as many current players as you can during the recruiting process to get a sense for the team culture and team dynamics at each school that you are considering.
- Have fun! I chose to play tennis in college because tennis has been my passion since the start of middle school. At times, the recruiting process stressed me out and made me very temporarily forget why I was undergoing the recruiting process. Playing tennis is a very large time commitment, but it feels worth the time sacrifice to me because I love to practice and compete. My advice is to make sure you are having fun playing tennis (even during the recruiting process) because college tennis is too big of a commitment if you are not enjoying it.
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 three College Prospects Showcases to help players get exposure to college coaches.