Special from Scholarship For Athletes
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Ashok Narayana is a sophomore at Columbia University who recently won the ITA Northeast Regional Doubles Title in New Haven, Conn. Narayana played No. 1 doubles for the Lions last season. Ross Greenstein of Scholarship for Athletes talked with Narayana about the transition from junior to college tennis - and the recruiting process.
Questions and Answers
Scholarship for Athletes (SFA): Why did you choose the Columbia over the other schools that were recruiting you?
Ashok Narayana (AN): Columbia
's Ashok Narayana
courtesy, Columbia Athletics
I chose Columbia for a couple of reasons. First, I've always wanted to go to a school with a great academic reputation. I knew Columbia was one of the schools that would provide me with a great education and opportunities after my academic career was over. After that, my decision had mostly do to with Columbia tennis. As soon as I met the team on my official visit - which, in hindsight, was extremely helpful for me in making my decision - I realized that I fit in with them. I felt as if I could spend the next four years with that group of guys and that I'd really enjoy it. I didn't realize it at the time, but you end up spending A lot
of time with your teammates... so it's a lot better if you get along with them.
I also got to talk to the coaches, Bid Goswami (who's been at Columbia for 30 years) and Howard Endelman (who actually played for Bid in the mid 80's). I got the feeling that they were genuine coaches who cared about their players on and - perhaps more importantly - off the court. It seemed as if the tennis team was more like a family than anything else - evidenced by the extremely close alumni group. Our tennis alumni come out to a lot of our matches for support. Both coaches had played on the tour, and the program itself has had many players play professionally after college tennis, so I knew that I would have the opportunity, at the very least, to get better and perhaps go on the tour in the future. In addition, Columbia tennis has done well in the past decade - five Ivy League titles since the year 2000 and NCAA team appearances in four of the past six years.
In general, the combination of first-class academics coupled with the tennis program that Bid, Howard, and the players have built for the last 30 years was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. And finally, the fact that Columbia is located in Manhattan was icing on the cake for me.
SFA: What was the hardest part of the recruiting process for you?
AN: The hardest part for me, truth be told, was dealing with the coaches. I didn't realize at the time that what I wanted might not always align with what the coaches recruiting me wanted - after all, they're trying to sell their school to me. So every time I got off thenn phone with a coach I thought that his school was the best school for me. It wasn't in a malicious way or anything; they were just doing their job. I only realized later that I needed to do my own research and take accountability for my decision in order to make the best decision possible.
It's easy to be persuaded if you don't make the effort yourself to research the schools that you're interested in. This is actually where Ross and Scholarship For Athletes were extremely helpful; SFA worked with me on what to expect from coaches and how to interpret what they say - because a lot of times, conversations with coaches aren't straightforward. For example, when I was looking at schools, I didn't know much about Columbia and wasn't keen on taking visits to all my schools; however, Ross encouraged me to take all my visits and see things for myself. In the specific case of Columbia, he related to me the successes that the tennis program has had and the great reputation that Bid and Howard have. He knew that I would end up liking the school, and so he pushed me to take my visit to Columbia, and all my other schools of interest as well.
SFA: What would you have done differently during your recruiting process?
AN: The thing I would have done differently is related to the second question: do more of my own research. This whole process goes by so quickly, but it can shape the rest of your life, so it's important to do your research on the schools.
I feel extremely lucky with my choice in Columbia because it ended up being everything I thought it would be and more. But I chose the school essentially off my instincts. I think that could backfire a lot of the time, so if I had to do it over again, I would do more research.