Ask The Experts
Roundtable: Junior Tennis Events and Recruiting
by James Hill, 5 December 2016
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There are many opportunities for junior tennis players to interact with college tennis coaches without ever setting foot on a college campus. Coaches frequently attend junior tournaments, college showcases, and college information sessions.
To learn more, we put the following question to a panel of college coaches:
Q) What junior events do you and your staff attend each year? How valuable are these events in your recruiting process?
Joey Barnes, head coach, South Dakota State Men and Women
We attend different events each year, depending on our needs. I like to go to any event that showcases some of the top talent in both singles and doubles. I also try to travel to Europe, Asia, South America, and other locales every other year, when possible. The basic events are the Orange Bowl; Boys and Girls 14s, 16s and 18 Nationals; ITF Coaches' events, and WTA events under $100k.
Jenny Mainz, head coach, Alabama Women
In the recruiting process, it's important that college coaches see junior players win, lose, struggle, and battle through tough conditions they will face in college. It's not always the "best" match that you, as a college coach, consider. Many times, it's the junior player who finds a way on a difficult day.
As college coaches, we recruit all over the United States and all over the world. We identify players who can make a positive impact, on and off the tennis court. It's important to recruit leaders, as well as champions.
The national junior events in the U.S. are always a good starting point for college coaches. But, it's also beneficial to go to different regional, state, and sectional tournaments. Many times, you can find a diamond in the rough at a smaller event.
Showcases and junior tournaments are fantastic opportunities for college coaches to watch, meet, and evaluate junior players.
Russell McMindes, head coach, Trinity (TX) Men
We attend the Newk's Showcase here in Texas and at least one of the Donovan showcases. I also attend the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Elite Camps as a guest coach. We attend most of the Texas Super Championship Major Zones, and we always the Summer Grand Slam in College Station as well as the information session associated with it. I also attend at least one of the major national events (Kalamazoo, Clay Courts, etc.).
All of these events are very important in our recruiting efforts. They help us reach a variety players from all over the country. At the national level, it helps get the Trinity name proper exposure to the top echelon of recruits we are interested in. We hope to attract a diverse group of players each year, but we also want to make sure we take care of those here in Texas.
Participating in the showcases and information sessions are important because they let us actually interact with the players in the moment rather than having to wait. The information sessions are great because they allow you to convey the message of your program to a larger audience. Even if the players and parents in the room might not be your recruits, it helps with the image and word-of-mouth reputation of the staff and program of the university. All of these events increase visibility and create awareness of who we are - and what we are trying to do.
Dan Oosterhous, head coach, Air Force Men
As for national events, I typically attend Kalamazoo and Winter Nationals to get a wide look at all the talented prospects. Once I've established that a recruit is a good fit for our program, I'll make specific trips closer to their homes to see them play in regional tournaments or go to their clubs to watch them practice. I also make home visits. You can learn a lot about a person when you see them compete multiple times, watch them train with coaches and peers, and see how he interacts with his parents.
Todd Petty, head coach, Texas Tech Women
We like to attend as many national events as possible throughout the year. We like to visit the recruits as much as allowed - to see what type of fit they are for our program. We are sure to make all of the big national events, such as Winter Nationals, Clay Courts, and Hard Courts. It is a good opportunity to sit down with the family to talk about our program and the players' goals.
Ryan Sachire, head coach, Notre Dame Men
The events we attend and the approach we take with recruiting vary slightly each year, as I'm sure it does for every top program. That being said, we always attend major USTA events such as Kalamazoo, National Clay Courts, and Winter Nationals. In addition, we will always recruit at major ITF events such as Orange Bowl, Eddie Herr, and the U.S. Open. Beyond that, we look for opportunities to watch kids who we are recruiting at other junior and professional events.
While getting to know a prospect off the court is extremely important, there is a clear importance that all college programs will place on watching a kid compete and seeing him perform under pressure. It's easy to gauge a prospect's general level by studying his ranking and results. However, the only way for us to judge competitiveness, the ability to handle match stress, and future athletic potential is to watch a prospect in competition.
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About James Hill
James Hill is the Assistant Sports Information Director at Trinity
University in San Antonio and a freelance writer. He has covered all
levels of tennis competition.