Ask the Experts
Videos in the Recruiting Process
by Tim Donovan, 22 August 2013
Special from Donovan Tennis Strategies
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The college recruiting video in an important part of the recruiting process. It's not always feasible for college coaches to see players compete in person. Even if they can they often want to get an idea of someone's technique, style of play and overall level at the outset to make sure the player is worth pursuing. Despite the importance of the video, more often than not we see videos that are ineffective and inadequate. We asked several college coaches for their insights on college recruiting videos.
Q) How important is the video in your assessment of a recruit?
Alex Wong, Bentley men and women, Division II
A video is important but not everything. I like to have it as a frame of reference. Mainly, I want to be able to see what type of technique the player has, how the player moves, how they construct points. In order for me to recruit somebody at a higher level than just offering an opportunity to try out for the team, I require seeing a video or watching the player play in person.
Adam Steinberg, Pepperdine men, Division I
I think a video can be very beneficial, especially when it is an international player or somebody that you just don't think you will be able to see in person for a variety of reasons. It is also a great introduction at the beginning of their junior year to get on our radar screen even if we will be able to watch them in person.
Jaime Kenney, Tufts men, Division III
It's not the end all, be all. I recruit from all over, and since I don't have a huge recruiting budget to support extensive travel, video is an excellent resource to identify a potential recruit. Video is an opportunity to get a sense of what a player can do. Beyond that it's not much more than simply an initial assessment. If it's someone who I am then interested in recruiting, I make every effort to see him compete in person.
Tracy Mauntler, Toledo women, Division I
I think the video is especially important for the players who are looking at schools outside of the region they live. I am able to see most of the girls who play Midwest tournaments during the summer when I do most of my recruiting. Sometimes it is harder for me to see the players that are out if the Midwest region. If I like what I see in the video, I can make them a priority to see in person.
Q) At what stage in the recruiting process is it most valuable for you to receive a video?
Coach Wong, Bentley: Any time before the deadlines for admissions is when I need a video by. I will submit my admission priorities right after the deadline has passed so it is necessary for me to know as much as possible about the player as I write up my priorities.
Coach Steinberg, Pepperdine:
I would like to receive a video during their junior year.
Coach Kenney, Tufts: The very beginning! I prefer the first contact from a recruit to include a brief summary of their academics, extracurricular interests and accomplishments, player profile and a link to a personal video of singles and doubles match play. It saves the coach and the recruit time. It saves the parents the additional expense of visiting a school that their son or daughter won't play for.
Coach Mauntler, Toledo: I think the earlier the better with the video. I would say May before junior year would be ideal. Again, if the player peaks my interest, I'm going to get them on my schedule to watch at a tournament that summer.
Q) In your opinion, what are the most important elements of an ideal recruiting video (e.g. length, camera angle, use of hitting vs. match play, doubles, etc.)
Coach Wong, Bentley: I think that getting as much information about the player is what I am looking for in a video. So, an up close view as well as a view where I can see where the ball lands off each stroke is important. In addition to that, I like to see some points so that I can see how the player constructs points. So, something that includes a few minutes on each stroke (forehands, backhands, volleys, serve, etc) as well as a few minutes of point playing is sufficient for me.
Coach Steinberg, Pepperdine: It is imperative that the video contains match play and not just hitting. All the bells and whistles with music and other pictures are not needed in my opinion. Have an introduction and show a set of a tournament match. That is the best way to send a video and get a coaches attention. We can evaluate the video the best way through a competitive match but I would add some hitting just to look at serve and volley technique, but for sure have a set of a match.
Coach Kenney, Tufts: I get a ton of videos sent to me. Email is the best for me, and I can tell after a very short amount of time if it's someone I'll recruit. I prefer to see unedited match play in both singles and doubles. It can be basic and shot from an iPhone or video camera without any bells or whistles. If it's set to music, I usually mute it. If it's edited or just strokes I put very little time into watching it. I'll jump around and look for some point play.
What I tell recruits is: "Find someone who's a similar level to you and just play a set of singles. If you can include a few games of doubles that would be ideal - but not required." I tell them I'm not interested in seeing them play against their pro (unless he's interested in Tufts as well), or play against someone who hits the ball short down the middle and makes them look like a blue chip recruit. I just want them to play. I make sure they know I'm not looking for perfection and that I know they aren't going to play a perfect set. I want to see what they can do, how they win points, how they lose points and how they respond to both. For example, after they double fault, do they try to be too big or go for too much? Or do they take their time and make the next first serve? How's their footwork? Do they only hit forehands? Can they move? Do they generate short balls, have good depth off a well hit ball? What's their style? Most important, I look to evaluate if I think their game will translate to success at our level? Are they the right fit for our program, our style, our goals? I know what I'm looking for in a player and I can assess, in general terms, fairly quickly if it's a good fit for Tufts and our program.
That being said, it's important for recruits to remember every college coach is different and we definitely don't all think alike or necessarily value the same things. They should approach it like this: "Coach, I've attached a link to a singles set that I played against my high school teammate last week. He's planning to attend Some University in the fall. I would be happy to forward you anything more specific that you'd like to see to evaluate my fit for your program" At the end of the day, if it's a school you really want to attend, find out exactly what the coach wants and provide it.
Coach Mauntler, Toledo: For me, I prefer to see match play on videos. That shows me so much more than seeing each stroke individually. Also, if videos get too long, I think most coaches lose interest. Five-ten minutes is plenty of time to get a coach's attention. I'm not a big fan of music in the background. I like to hear the ball being hit. Videos can be sped up when you add music which is another reason to leave the music out.
In 10 years, I have only received one video that showed the recruit playing doubles. Doubles is such an important part of college tennis that I would recommend showing a portion of a doubles match on the video. All college coaches are looking for players who will come to us with some doubles knowledge and skill.
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About Tim Donovan
Tim Donovan is founder of
Donovan Tennis Strategies.
On the court, Donovan was a standout at Brown, where he achieved a #6
national ranking and was recognized as two-time Ivy League and Eastern
Conference Player of the Year. After a stint on the ATP tour where he
achieved a Top-300 singles ranking, Donovan worked with the USTA on
player development and served as assistant coach at Harvard.
Most recently, Donovan founded DTS, where he hosts two college showcases
each year - and his consulting services have placed hundreds of
players at colleges of all levels throughout the country.