Ask The Experts
Former Collegians on College vs. Pro Tennis
by TennisRecruiting.net, 18 December 2013
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For the vast majority of serious junior tennis players, college tennis is the next step. Tennis can help you with the admissions process and can also help defray your tuition costs.
But the strongest junior tennis players face the decision of playing college tennis or turning professional. Recently, more and more highly-ranked boys are choosing the college tennis over the Futures circuit as a development path. The physical demands of the men's game are high, and most young men do not have all their physical tools at age 18.
The situation is a bit different for women, and many girls are still turning pro. What are the pros and cons?
We put the question to our panel of recent college graduates:
Q) What advice would you give to a junior girl who is trying to choose between college and professional tennis?
Gina Suarez-Malaguti, North Carolina
College is able to teach you a lot more about tennis that you would get from playing professionally right after juniors.
The fact that you are not playing just for yourself anymore really teaches you a lesson. Every practice and every workout at the gym is not just for you any more. It's for something bigger than yourself. When you are surrounded by a family of nine or ten girls who are willing to go out there on the court, sweat for four to six hours, and put their body through the most painful and exhausting circumstances, it really changes the game for you.
The pressure you used to have in matches changes completely. In juniors it was about beating a girl that you grew up with, seeing friends at the check0in table, dealing with drama created by parents, etc. College is about playing for nine or ten other sisters. It's about making that extra step to get to that ball, staying in the match a few more minutes, hitting that extra ball, going in for that extra private lesson, running one more mile. College tennis not only teaches you more about tennis, but it also teaches you more about yourself - it lets you discover the limits of your body, and it helps you discover how much are you able to do and how hard you can push your body.
Going more into the tennis aspect, college tennis teaches you how to play every type of opponent - whether it's a defensive - "pushers" - or offensive style. In my experience, I was fortunate to have an intellectual staff that helped me see tennis with a different point of view. There is so much more than hitting balls side to side just because that's the way you were taught. It is about understanding the type of tennis that your opponent has - and playing strategically according to her game.
In the end, I believe that skipping college and going straight into professional tennis would be like going from middle school to college. Going pro early would be skipping a big gap in your life - and perhaps that gap could have actually changed your life forever, just like UNC did for me.
Danielle Lao, Southern California
Receiving a college degree under a full scholarship is one of the best insurance policies in life. In the world of academia, universities have become expensive and competitive. I know too many high school students struggling to find a respectable university that would take them and a handful of graduates that are frantic about finding a job because they need to pay off student loans. Through college tennis you receive academic, athletic, equipment, and medical support that would otherwise come out of your own pocket as an expense. Not only are you well taken care of, but you also meet and form relationships with amazing people you would not have met otherwise at your university.
Upcoming juniors who aspire to be professionals should approach college tennis as a platform to mature and prepare themselves for that next step in their careers. Although time is extremely valuable, playing college tennis is not necessarily a setback to being successful on the professional tour. From what I see in women's tennis today, players are maturing and finding their greatest success later in their careers. You have individuals like Serena Williams, Marion Bartoli, Francesca Schiavone, Li Na, Samantha Stosur, and Maria Sharapova, (the list goes on and on) playing their best tennis past the age of 25. The average student athlete graduates at around the age of 22-23. With some college experience behind you as well as your degree as your insurance policy, you are now ready to jump on the tour - right in time to begin playing your best tennis.
Alexa Guarachi, Alabama
I would tell a junior girl facing this decision that going to college doesn't mean you won't go pro. I faced the same decision, and I almost felt like I failed in a sense - that college was such a step down. But it truly wasn't. Going to college was one of the best decisions of my life.
Some people don't have the money or opportunities to have their own athletic trainers, coaches, and fitness coaches at their disposal. At any college, you will have all those opportunities - as well as teammates that can push you every day to help you improve. Also the quality of competition you face in college is so high. There are so many girls that turn pro and do very well - and some ex-pros you could face.
Going to college - if only for a year or so - you can gain great friends for a lifetime and improve every day as much as you are willing to push yourself. It's a win win situation.
Lauren Embree, Florida
I faced this decision coming out of high school. I feel very strongly about going to college for many reasons.
One most important to me is being able to develop as a person in addition to developing as a tennis player. You learn so much at college by being on your own, having multiple responsibilities like school work, keeping up with your sport, balancing your time, and all sorts of important values as a person. You mature and grow with every year in college. Another piece of advice is that you are still very young when you are done - believe it or not - and you have a college education!
Being part of a team in college is very different than playing for yourself. You cannot go through all the fun times and experiences without college tennis. College tennis teaches you unselfishness, responsibility, playing for others, and having the best time of your life while doing it all.
Depending on where you go, some schools let you play professional tournaments as well - they are pretty flexible with your schedule. If you are deciding between the two, I would highly recommend college tennis. You have the rest of your life to play professionally.
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