Ask The Experts
Countdown: Fall Scheduling in College
by TennisRecruiting.net, 31 October 2013
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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.
Andrew Girard, head coach, Carnegie Mellon Men and Women
We have multiple goals for the fall season. For our freshmen, it is a time where we acclimate them to college tennis and our way of doing things at Carnegie Mellon. Our upperclassmen will have returned to campus after a wide array of tremendous summer opportunities like outstanding internships and such. For them we are making sure they have their games up to the high-level that we expect at Carnegie Mellon. Also for our upperclassmen the fall is a time where we teach and expect them to take leadership opportunities with the team and grow in that regard. We place extremely high value in developing our players into leaders.
We also do a lot of work with doubles in the fall. It is a time to go over doubles principles that we stress with everyone, and we also try out new or potential pairings. Overall the most important thing we are looking to do in the fall is build positive momentum and energy within our program that will propel us into the offseason and beyond. The ultimate goal being an outstanding spring season that concludes with a national championship.
Rodney Harmon, women's head coach, Georgia Tech
The fall season is really a time to work with each player on improving aspects of their games and providing the opportunity for new players to get accustomed to collegiate competition. Once the fall semester begins, I work with each player to create a developmental plan that highlights the strengths and weaknesses in each player's game, with clear detail as to how to address or enhance each area, and with short- and long-term goals to determine success. Each player sits with our coaching staff and selects two areas of her game she would like to focus on during the fall season for improvement. The focus areas can be technical, tactical and/or fitness-based.
I put together our fall schedule to give us time to work with the team individually and as a group - both on-court and on the gym/track. Once we have spent approximately a month with intense work in team and individual training sessions, we play a number of collegiate team and individual events. Our most important event in the fall is our Rolex Regional Event which is usually the second or third week in October. I use periodization as a tool to assist my team to hopefully peak for this tournament.
I look less at individual wins and losses in the fall tournaments for the players - I really look for the progress with their games. I find that if a player sets a plan for improvement and works hard and smart to achieve it, the wins will come. The fall is really the time of the year to improve your skills before the grind of the dual match season comes in January.
Adam Herendeen, head coach, Presbyterian Men
There are many things that coaches want to get out of their fall season. For me, the summer and fall are all about player development. If we can give our players a good base in the fall, then they are prepared for a lot of growth in their games over the course of the spring dual match season. We are always adjusting our fall schedule according to the needs of our current players, but we usually use three to five of our twenty five dates of competition that the NCAA allows for fall competition.
We usually start making adjustments to the players' games right when they get on campus, so we often start with smaller tournaments that have less pressure so we can focus on execution. Personally, I like to push our fall practice season back as far as possible so that we can practice later into the fall and as close to our spring season as possible. While this means less preparation for our first fall tournaments, it allows the players to get settled in when they get back on campus and it allows us to make sure that we have a good base with conditioning before we jump into our full practice schedule.
More Countdown on Saturday
Tomorrow we take a break for our normal content, but the Countdown returns on Saturday with comments from Michigan recruit Alexandria Najarian. Najarian talks about why she decided to stay in-state and play for Coach Ronni Bernstein's Wolverine squad.
In the meantime, check out all the great content we have had - and preview the articles still to come - in Tennis Recruiting's exclusive coverage of the Countdown to Signing Day!
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