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Recruiting 101
Fall Signing Week '16 : I Didn't Sign an NLI - Now What?

So you did not get the spot or the scholarship you had been hoping for; maybe you turned down offers to wait for something else or you may have found yourself not receiving any scholarship offers this time around. I know this can feel quite disconcerting, and you may feel like all is lost.

Former Oklahoma University Coach Dave Mullins
I am here to tell you all is not lost, and that it is all going to work out just fine for you.

What I found during my years of college coaching is that many players don't face reality as soon as they should and waste a great deal of time pursuing their "dream" colleges. Society tells us to dream big and shoot for the stars, but when it comes to getting a tennis scholarship, you have a small period of time to get it right. If you had a real, concrete five-year plan from this day forth to put yourself in position to get the scholarship of your dreams, then yes, that would be very achievable. Someone once said that many people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in five years. But for you, right now, in this moment, you have anywhere from six to twelve months to get it right (remembering that you can start in January, 2018). So let's not dream big, let's dream smart.

Firstly, there are still plenty of scholarships and roster spots available out there. For example, in my last year of college coaching, I believe that five out of the ten Big 12 women's tennis programs were holding one full scholarship, and that is just in one conference! Part of the reason for this is that coaches at the top levels are now more likely to hold a scholarship rather than give it to players they feel have not yet proven themselves at a higher level. Coaches who have taken a chance in the past on giving players with "potential" or "athleticism" a scholarship only to see these players underperform often need reassurance that future players are capable of competing at the necessary level. Coaches need to see results that give them hope that you have in the recent past shown promise against other players at the level their team is currently competing at - or aspire to compete at in the future. You have time in the next few months to keep working on your game - and your results - to show these coaches that you do belong on their team.

If you are not ranked inside the top 60 - 80 of the TRN rankings, it is going to be very difficult for you to get a scholarship to an NCAA Division I program that is typically ranked inside the Top 50 of the Oracle/ITA rankings. If you are not in that range, I would advise you to not waste your time trying to impress coaches in this bracket. You are probably yelling at me right now, saying how so and so was ranked 175 and is now playing in the Top 3 of some top University, but understand that is why they are considered the outlier. They are few and far between, so don't assume because of a handful examples over the last decade that a coach should take a chance on you.

Take another look at some correspondence you may have received from coaches earlier in the year that you dismissed for one reason or another. Many players have a tendency to get far too myopic in this process and rule out possibilities for the wrong reasons. Like anything in life, there are pros and cons to every decision. What you think might be the perfect college, due to location or ranking, may actually be a horrible fit for you because you are not aligning your criteria for the college experience with what truly matters to you. Rather, you are being guided by what others want for you, or what you think you are supposed to strive for in life. Get clear on where you won't compromise, and then ask why you won't. Do you truly know what you want to get out of the next four years of your life?

Now that you are clear on what you want, get to work on researching as many colleges as possible. Try not to limit yourself, keep an open mind, and see what they may have to offer. Look on TRN and UTR to see where players of your ranking have signed. Explore some of the other teams within their conferences to get a sense of what those teams generally look for in terms of results. You have incredible resources in TRN and UTR, so use them! Look back at my last article titled, Drawing Attention from College Coaches, and put together a concise email and video to send to the new group of college coaches you are looking to impress. I guarantee that you will get very excited once you have taken another visit or two and eventually sign with a program. It will undoubtedly be a big relief to you, and you can start the process of preparing for your college experience.

Coaches are still looking for players - I can promise you that - so spend a few days doing some thorough research, get very realistic about the level at which you belong based on where others in your ranking bracket have signed, and improve upon your introductory email and video. This time next year you will be enjoying a new chapter of your life in a new town while making great friends and memories.

Next Up... Signing Day

Tomorrow is the big day: November 9, Signing Day. Tennis Recruiting and GAMMA start starts off first thing tomorrow morning with the first of five Blue Chip commitments that we will carry over the next two days. Blue Chip senior Tatum Rice of Hot Springs, Ark., kicks things off in the morning with her commitment announcement, followed by Kyrylo Tsygura and Christie Wan later in the day.

So come back for the big day - and check out all the great content from our exclusive coverage of Fall Signing Week 2016.


David Mullins provides more insights into how to be prepared to play college tennis in his "How to Dominate College Tennis" Guidebook. Go to DaveMullinsTennis.com for more information on the book - and learn about the free advice he provides as well as other services and products focused around everything you need to know about College Tennis Scholarships.

About Wilson

Wilson Tennis is proud to sponsor the Recruiting 101 series of articles at TennisRecruiting.net.

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GAMMA is proud to sponsor the Countdown to Signing Day series of articles at TennisRecruiting.net.

Greatness is a Unique Path at GAMMA

GAMMA is a privately owned company with over a 40-year history of developing innovative products for players of all levels. Best known for GAMMA high performance irradiated tennis string, today GAMMA markets and sells an entire line of over 5,000 products including GAMMA racquets, strings, racquet accessories, tennis balls, grips, vibration dampeners, Ball Hopper® ball baskets and teaching carts, court equipment, and 10 and Under teaching aids.

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Page updated on Sunday, March 05, 2017
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