Ask The Experts
Countdown: Building Coaching and Team Relationships
by James Hill, 27 October 2016
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"Relationship" is a word we hear over and over when it comes to college tennis and recruiting. College tennis players spend a lot of time with their teammates and coaches, and everyone wants this time to be productive and enjoyable.
Keeping this in mind, we put the following questions to our panel of college coaches:
Q) How important is it for potential recruits to build strong relationships with you and the players on your team? What are ways you go about accomplishing that relationship building?
Ronni Bernstein, head coach, Michigan Women It is very important through the recruiting process that our recruits form relationships with both our coaches and players at Michigan. Tennis teams typically have small rosters, so we spend lots of time together. Through the recruiting process we like to make sure the recruits will be a good fit for our team - and also vice versa, that we are a good fit for the recruits. During unofficial and official visits at Michigan, we have the recruits spend lots of time getting to know our team. This is vital so we can assess whether they will fit in with our group. Since I have been at Michigan, our culture has been strong, and I feel that starts with our recruits and bringing in good fits for our program.
Lisa Dausin, head coach, St. Mary's (TX) Men and Women
Once a player's skill level and academic performance have been evaluated, the relationships developed with players on my team is the determining factor of whether or not I make the decision to offer a recruit. This new player will, after all, be their new teammate. I want our players to feel they have some ownership in the decision, and both parties should be enthusiastic about a new player joining the program. We talk constantly about "the fit" ... academic importance, athletic ability and drive, character, and a "team first" mentality are all key to unveiling whether a recruit will contribute to or hurt our team chemistry.
Developing relationships might be more difficult for some recruits than others depending on how far the University is from the recruit's home. However, here a few ways we have found to be successful for past recruits:
- Make the most of your visit by asking for time alone with one or more players. Ask the coach to arrange things so that you and the team members can ask questions and exchange information in a way that does not feel scripted. Those interactions are how you really get to know one another.
- Exchange emails and use social media to follow and stay in touch with one or more of the team members after your visit. It's actually a great idea to begin that process even before you make the trip! This way, it seems as if you already have a friend or two waiting for you to arrive and a great foundation laid to develop into a stronger relationship.
- If you are not able to make a campus visit for some reason, take advantage of Skype and talk to the coach face to face via that method. Ask the coach to set up a time for a team captain and/or a current freshman to Skype with you outside of the coach's presence. You want the endorsement of those particular team members if possible. The captain is most likely the person whose opinion the coach holds highly, and the freshman will be one of your teammates for the next three years. You might also ask the coach to provide contact information for someone on the team who is pursuing the same degree you intend to pursue.
- Follow the team's season. Attend matches when possible - or congratulate team members or the coach on a "big win" or important conference match. These interactions demonstrate you are already creating an identity for yourself with the team and it will no doubt be very well received by coaches and players alike.
- Email the coach or a specific team member about your schedule and results. Keep them posted on all that you are doing to help prepare yourself to contribute to their program the following year!