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Countdown: Fall Scheduling in College
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College tennis is interesting because at most levels there are two distinct competition seasons - fall and spring - that are very different. Fall competition is usually more oriented around tournaments for individuals, while spring competition is in the dual-match format.

Since we are still in the midst of the fall season, let's talk about fall. There are many different kinds of tournaments in the fall. Among the opportunities are school invitationals, conference tournaments, collegiate majors, and the Futures circuit. Many coaches split their squads up - sending different sets of players to different events.

All of this background brings us to our question...

 

Q) As a college coach, what are your goals for the fall season, and what is your philosophy when structuring your fall schedule?

 

David Mullins, head coach, Oklahoma Women

Our fall schedule is extremely individualized, and we do everything we can to meet the needs and goals of each player on our team. Ultimately, we want to make sure that all players are competing at levels just slightly outside of their comfort zones. With the majority of our team, we encourage them to forgo wins in favor of development. We want to be sure that they are using competition to practice the changes we have made in their games. This is often difficult to do, but when players are more committed to the process rather than winning in the fall, big improvements are usually the end result. The wins will come eventually!

 

Ronni Bernstein, head coach, Michigan Women

At Michigan, the fall is a very important part of our preparation for the team schedule. It allows us the chance to see what our returners have done over the summer and how prepared they are when they get back to school. It also gives us the opportunity to have a good look at our new student-athletes and see where they are going to fit into our team.

As for our returners, we try to put them in tournaments that set them up well for the rest of the year. I try to find opportunities to get them playing matches against teams we don't see during the dual match season and also give them opportunities to improve their rankings. If we have someone who aspires to play pro tennis, we would allow them to go play pro events to help them towards that goal. The fall is about individual results and getting our returners competing again at a high level so they are ready to go in January.

With freshmen, the fall is a time to get them well-acclimated to being away from home and able to manage their time in the classroom as well as on the court. We try to put them in events where they will play lots of matches. This gives us the chance to identify we need to work on - and also where they might fit into our team's lineup. At Michigan, we preach competing hard for every point, and that is what we are looking to see when our athletes play tournaments. It is more about the process - and if they are willing to work hard. The fall for a freshman is tough, so this is a time for them to learn about balancing school and tennis - and for them to get very comfortable with our system at Michigan.

David Roditi, head coach, TCU Men

When scheduling for the fall, I am looking for our top players to play as many futures and challenger events as possible, and maximizing the amount of "countable" events we can take them to. Since we play 21 teams in the spring that leaves a maximum of four fall events for our players. Therefore we look for competition outside of college-only tournaments that don't count towards that limit.

We must okay the Regionals and All-American, so that leaves two events only. We would pick two tournaments that fit the level of the player.

The goal for the fall is to get better. We push them in the gym, we work on their games, and we make tweaks where they are needed, and we compete as much as we can.

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