Spring Signing Week '17: Realistic Expectations When Choosing a College
by Marcia Frost, 13 April 2017
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You might not remember that first time you picked up a racket and hit a perfect shot, but it's safe to say your parents do. It was at that moment they were thinking about what you could do with lessons; whether or not you would be a tennis star; or, at least, if there was a college scholarship in your future.
It's a lot different when you are in your teens. One great shot is not good enough. By now you and your parents probably know that you aren't going straight to the pros. It's college tennis you are looking at, but just like that moment when you realized you weren't Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams, you need to keep your expectations realistic when it comes to where you are going to play college tennis.
Just like it's never good for a writer to be the only person proofreading her own work, a tennis player is not the best judge of his or her own ability. When it comes time to start looking at schools you want to play for, you need to gather some objective opinions - that means opinions that are not coming from you or your parents. It's good to have confidence in yourself, but reality is just as important. As for your parents, it's always hard for people to be objective when it comes to assessing their own children, and there is nothing wrong with that. We all think our children are the best.
So, how do you come down to reality when it comes to where you will fit in college tennis? It's a combination of things. Here are some factors in no particular order:
It's been said before that rankings are not a full indication of how a player is going to perform on a college tennis team, and that still remains the truth. However, taking a look at your sectional, national, international, and TRN ranking is definitely part of the formula. If you can't make it into the Top 10 of any of these, looking at a school with a Top 10 program is not going to be practical unless there are extreme extenuating circumstances (e.g., you were injured the last six months and had a high ranking before the injury).
When it comes to getting you ready for a tournament, your coach should build up your confidence while working on your weaknesses. He will stand by that court and help you believe you have everything it takes to beat whomever you are playing, regardless of how much better he may be on paper than you are. When it comes to looking at colleges, you want your coach to be completely honest about what he believes you can and can't accomplish. Ask him point blank - and accept that this is someone who knows your game and your personality.
No one is going to stop you from applying to a school and trying to get on a team, but do you really want to waste time (and application money) if it's not a fit? College coaches spend a lot of time watching junior players. They have a very good idea of who is a fit for their team and who is not. Ask and listen. It may be disappointing to find out it is not in the cards to go to the school of your dreams, but it would be a lot more disappointing to find out after you've gotten there and found you can't keep up with the team. Get the facts from the man or woman who knows the full makeup of the team.
Your guidance counselor
It's true that very few guidance counselors know a lot about the recruiting system and requirements for college tennis, but they do know about colleges and getting into them. Your guidance counselor has your full school record in front of him. Listen to what he has to say about your ability to get into schools and get the grades you need to keep up to stay there. In most schools, you'll need at least a "C" average to continue on an athletic team. Do you want a coach to give you a push into a college knowing that you'll have trouble keeping up with the academic requirements there? Cross reference the list of schools you are academically qualified for against the ones with tennis programs you are a fit for. Don't expect to achieve one without the other.
Nobody likes criticism or rejection, but when it comes to college tennis recruiting, you need to face reality. Whether it's going to a lower-ranked NCAA Division I school or finding a match at Division II, III, or NAIA colleges, listen to what those around you have to say. The right option might be to play at a junior college for two years while you improve your tennis and/or academics. There's nothing wrong with that option.
Consider all the opportunities together with what you have to offer. It's much better than choosing something you will be overwhelmed with and regret.
We keep our Signing Week extravaganza going tomorrow with another pair of articles. First thing tomorrow morning, Colette Lewis has an article on Blue Chip senior and Vanderbilt commit Amanda Meyer. And then later in the day we get a Q&A with current WTA star and former Stanford standout Nicole Gibbs.
In the meantim, check out any article you might have missed in our whirlwind coverage - as Tennis Recruiting and GAMMA continue to bring you all the action of Spring Signing Week 2017!
GAMMA is proud to sponsor the Countdown to Signing Day series of
articles at TennisRecruiting.net.
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