Special from WAM Sports
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At WAM Sports we are often asked about the value of college tennis camps and showcases - and whether they are worth participating in. Junior tennis players, parents and coaches alike often do not know much about either type of event. Therefore, they are hesitant and unsure of the benefits. Sometimes they frown upon the idea of joining another event of this kind because previous experiences were unsatisfactory. Others simply think that they do not need to join these events because of their favorable tennis ranking, academic standing, or both.
Nadim Naser of WAM Sports
talks about the benefits of college tennis camps and showcases
Is that enough reason to forgo these opportunities? It is not! The chance to talk to a college coach, to be scouted and educated by them, to even be recruited by college coaches is always a valuable experience for any student athlete, regardless of who you are. Granted, these events need to be run properly for maximum benefit to the players and coaches alike. Therefore, do you research accordingly.
Q: What are College Tennis Camps? Who are they for? What can they do for me?
A: College Tennis Camps are events that focus on educating all levels of junior tennis players and their families on what college tennis is all about. They focus on:
- high performance on-court exercises/games with top college coaches in charge
- realistic measurement of one's chances to play college tennis
- personal interaction between college coaches and campers
- how to find the right college programs
- presentations from coaches explaining a) what college tennis is about on and off the court, b) the many differences between college divisions and organizations and c) the rules and guidelines set forth by the NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA
Q: What are College Tennis Showcases? Who are they for? What do they do for me?
A: Showcases are events that focus on hand-picked competition for all levels of junior tennis players, mostly based on level of play. They focus on:
- exposing prospects' competitive skills to college coaches in proper formats
- providing the set-up for college coaches to actively scout & recruit prospects
- make player profiles & bios available for college coaches to study
- networking between college coaches and qualified/eligible prospects
- general Q&A sessions with coaches about the recruiting rules and process
- helping prospects find which colleges they can play for
Note about the terminology: Showcase recruiting events are generally limited to high school juniors, rising seniors and seniors in regards to interaction with college coaches. However, coaches are actively scouting and tracking younger players at these events (for example, by receiving player bios) and use these opportunities to start following players' progresses. Camps offer opportunities for everyone who is looking to play college tennis in the future. Coaches work with players on the court and communicate during training & classroom sessions for college tennis educational purposes, regardless of level.
Showcases and camps are very popular. My issue is not with low player participation numbers, but with excuses offered for why some players claim that these events are not for them. Below are the five most common reasons I have come across in the past ten years for why some prospects opt against participating in college tennis showcases and/or camps. I took the liberty to counter-argue each one of them:
"It is only worth participating in such events if certain college coaches are present."
So, you are saying that you want to limit your options to only a select few coaches, who may or may not be interested in you, and forfeit the chance to learn more about the college recruiting process and what college tennis is all about. Just because some of your favorite colleges are not represented at the event, does not mean that they won't hear about you, or receive your information.
"I have turned down participation to such events in the past because my favorable grades and/or ranking give me plenty of exposure to college coaches already."
That may very well be true, but does giving up a chance to further raise your visibility and better understand the scope of your opportunities help you? College coaches are very big on knowing who the prospect is. Grades and results are important, but if the personality doesn't fit then the player or the coach may be making wrong decisions.
"I already know which programs I am deciding between; I do not need more options."
That makes as much sense as saying: "I already know that I will graduate at the top of my class. There is no further need for me to study anymore."
"These events can be expensive."
You get what you pay for. The risk of not knowing one's full options and going after the wrong ones is more expensive in the long run; not just financially speaking.
"My friends and I have had mediocre experiences at these events in the past."
Not all showcases and camps are equal. There are valuable and beneficial events that are professionally and efficiently run for you to take advantage of and learn a great deal from. Keep an open mind and ask around. Remember, you are in charge of your future.
is hosting a camp and showcase the weekend of December 5-6
If you've stayed away from college tennis showcases and camps, is it because you have agreed with one or more of the above statements? As with everything else in life, there are good services and products -those you would use again and recommend to others - and then there are bad ones. This is true with these types of events. Look at tournaments, for example. There are well run USTA tournaments and there are poor ones. Nevertheless, you still play, because you have to keep up with the competition. With showcases and camps, at least you can research and then pick and choose the ones that are worth attending without sacrificing your ranking, rating or exposure opportunity. With junior tournaments being cut these days, showcases and camps are a great way to obtain the necessary knowledge, experience and exposure you need.
Two points to consider:
1) Players and families often limit their opportunities and knowledge by going with the attitude: "We know what's best and how it works." 9 out of 10 times, however, that is simply not true. College coaches are the first to tell you that this thought process is very flawed and disadvantageous to prospective college tennis players and that certain college tennis events can be very beneficial for everyone. Use the available resources out there to help you navigate the recruiting process properly.
Read what a current D-I men's coach thinks about it: "As a head coach, I am big fan of college tennis camps and showcases. I believe they are a win-win situation for coaches and the prospective student-athletes alike. They give players the opportunity to show their potential in front of us coaches even though they may already have offers. The more exposure the better, I believe, as you need to be certain to find the right fit for yourself. From a coaching standpoint, it gives me the chance to watch and interact with all the players involved and a better feeling for both their game and their personalities on and off the court."
This is what Ryan Stotland, head women's coach at Fresno State, says: "Exposure to college coaches is extremely beneficial to any type of player. The more a player has a chance to play in front of coaches, the more awareness the coaches have of that individual, which increases that player's chances of showing off his/her true capabilities. The more a coach gets to see a player, the better; there is no such thing as too much exposure. The experience of being recruited can definitely be overwhelming with so many coaches representing all types of schools and divisions. The experience benefits players in dealing with the many factors of the recruiting process because showcases and camps can offer help and guidance - especially when people who have significant college tennis experience host them and know what to look for in players."
2) Rankings, grades and test scores are important, but so too are the "soft facts." These include personality, work ethic, willingness to work within a team, attitude to improve, and overall character. Such traits cannot be determined by rankings or grades alone. Coaches want to know if you will fit in with their existing team and whether you are willing to dig deep to become better as a player, as a student and person. College tennis camps and showcases allow such factors to come to light.
This is what Thomas Hipp, newly appointed director of tennis and men's head coach at Flagler College, has to say: "As a coach in D-II, I like the fact that we can have visits and tryouts because the hard facts (test scores, rankings, grades, etc.) do not tell the whole story. The hard facts only show potential. Before I sign any player I would like to meet him/her in person and have a conversation. That way I can get to know them better and they can get to know me as well. I like recruits to meet my players as well, since they might play on the same team. That way I can get a 360-degree evaluation of a prospect to find out if he/she is a good fit. Showcases and camps give me a perfect chance to look at not just one but several players at the same time. I use these events as a baseline for who I would like to invite for further tryouts. The hard facts open the door for a prospect, meaning they can generate a coach's interest, but the soft facts are the ones that matter once interest is established. That's why in my opinion hard facts and soft facts are equally important to coaches and prospects, alike."
College coaches talk to each other about players all the time; that's when the "soft facts" are more important to coaches than your ranking or grades alone
Getting approached by certain college coaches who notice you is great, but it is to your advantage to know if these colleges actually fit you. Coaches think the same way
Reputable event organizers have strong ties to college coaches from all divisions and leagues across the country. Rest assured that valuable information (hard facts and soft facts) will be brought to coaches' attention
A current Ivy League head coach, who is one of today's most well-respected and successful college coaches has the following to say about certain well-run camps and showcases and how they benefit every player across the student athlete spectrum.
"I have recruited numerous players from these events in the past. College tennis camps and showcases are great for both highly ranked and unranked players. Universities of all levels are in attendance and these events provide an excellent opportunity to watch players practice and compete, as well as letting coaches get to know them better. I would highly recommend well-run events to any junior who is interested in learning more about the college process and getting exposure to a broad range of coaches."
Just as players with the ambition to be the best, seek out good colleges and great coaches, so do the best coaches and those coaches who want to create the elite tennis programs of the future seek out great players, and they do it, increasingly, at college tennis showcases and camps. If you knew that most college coaches regardless of league or division are looking to participate in these events to scout and seek players, would you participate? Well, they are!
Get educated about camps and showcases. Know what they are about, who is running them, and get ready to learn! Believe me when I say, coaches will be there! You will gain new insight about college tennis and your scholarship chances. On top of that, you get to communicate with college coaches and eliminate the guesswork.
Remember, college tennis is about finding the right fit. Coaches are looking for great players, players are looking for great colleges, and there could be a team out there you might not have heard of with a valuable place for you. Exploring the full scope of opportunities available to you is important, and camps and showcases are a great way to find the right fit.
If you have any questions about how to find your best-fit college and what camps and showcases can do for you, visit us at www.wamsports.com, contact us at [email protected], or call 786-309-3885.
Nadim Naser from the WAM Sports Team
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