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Recruiting 101
College Panel Provides Pointers to Potential Student-Athletes
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In conjunction with the NCAA Division I championships at Stanford University last month, USTA Player Development and USTA Northern California held a College Day at the NCAAs. After parents, junior players and coaches heard nearly two hours of advice, facts, insights and answers to their questions on college recruiting, they were invited to watch the men's quarterfinal matches at the Taube Family Tennis Center.

Erica Perkins Jasper fields a question
© ZooTennis.com
Erica Perkins Jasper, the Senior Manager of Junior & Collegiate Competition for USTA Player Development and a former DI college player and coach, delivered an overview of the recruiting process, then led a discussion featuring the following panelists:
  • Andy Andrews: USTA Jr. Competition Committee & USTA Collegiate Varsity Committee, former college and professional tennis player.
  • Maria Cercone: USTA Collegiate Varsity Committee, coach of current and former college players, mother of a DI college player.
  • Timon Corwin: Chair, USTA Collegiate Varsity Committee, former DIII college player and coach.
  • Peter Wright: Current head coach Cal men's tennis, USTA Collegiate Varsity Committee, former college and professional tennis player.
  • Steve Johnson, Sr.: Coach of many current and former college players, father of a current DI college player.
  • Elissa Kinard: Coordinator, Jr. & Collegiate Competition, USTA Player Development, former DI college player and coach.
  • Colette Lewis: Junior and College Tennis Journalist, Creator of Zootennis.com.
  • Marc Lucero: USTA Player Development Women's National Coach, former DI player and assistant coach

Here are just a few of the panelists' comments about college tennis:

 

Erica Perkins Jasper: If you want to play college tennis, you can. There's a million different opportunities, and that's what got lost over the past 10 years. Players didn't think they were good enough, they were scared of the recruiting rules, and they didn't know how to get started with it. That's something the USTA is very motivated to [address].

 

Stanford legend Dick Gould opens the session with welcoming remarks
© ZooTennis.com
Peter Wright: Do you want to play college tennis? You may say "I would like to play for Stanford," and that's great - I think a lot of people would like to play for Stanford. But if your level of tennis isn't high enough, you're going come and watch people play for Stanford. If you're a tennis player, you want to play tennis, and the best possible scenario is coming in as the 4, 5, 6 player and you have the opportunity to work your way up and maybe as a senior, you're playing No. 1. To me, that's the best experience you can have. The worst is to come and sit and watch guys play. You don't want to squash someone's dream, and yes, you can do it, but you want to have a realistic approach regarding the school you want to go to.
 

Andy Andrews: You grow up loving a school because of sports, or your family, and you just want to go there. They might not want you. That famous school that you love might not want you, so then you've got to decide, do I go someplace else, or do I give up the game that I love. Don't give up the sport because it doesn't look like it's going to work out at your dream school.

 

Elissa Kinard: I played at Nebraska and Virginia Tech, so I was a little bit used to a higher level of play prior to being a head coach at SUNY-Albany, and there, the best players that we got barely got into the national tournaments. There is a very wide range in the Division I area. Boston University is our best conference school and they get some good American kids, but for the most part, we were looking for kids in the 200, 300, 400 range for our team. So there's a lot of opportunity. Our No. 1 player was a national tournament player and our No. 6 player, I think started playing two years before she came to college, so there is a huge range.

 

EPJ: The best way to get coaches to notice you is to play. Coaches more than anything want to see kids that are playing - USTA tournaments, high school tournaments, Campus Showdowns, ITA Summer Circuit - are all good ways to get attention.

 

PW: Videos are important because coaches want to see you play, they want to see if you hit the ball well, but I think the overriding thing is that they want to see you compete. I've seen a lot of guys hit balls well but that doesn't necessarily correlate to being a good player. You have a nice forehand, a nice backhand and a nice serve and I can see it all on video, that shows me you have some of the mechanics, but can you play? I've also seen guys with horrible mechanics who really could play.

 

EPJ: Let the coaches know what tournaments you're playing. And in the email, keep it short, but I suggest including a link to your Tennis Recruiting Network bio. And include your graduation date, in case there are any discrepancies, and your upcoming tournament schedule. And don't be afraid to ask: are you interested in me?

 

After the session, participants take in the men's quarterfinal match between Georgia and Tennessee
© ZooTennis.com
Maria Cercone: You have the girls the coaches want, and they will come out looking for [those players]. Those girls are going to go probably where they want to go. But I have juniors that want to play and say, "Where can I go to college and play tennis? I love tennis, I want to play tennis, but I'm only ranked 300 in the country." Steve (Johnson Sr.) and I probably deal more with those kids than anybody. The superstars are the superstars, but the kids in the middle, those are the ones we want playing and being successful, enjoying where they are playing.
 

PW: Coaches really look at personality because we're going to spend more time with you and you're going to spend more time with your teammates than anyone else, including your girlfriend or boyfriend, over the next four years. So if you're not a good fit from a personality standpoint, I don't care how good a tennis player you are. We've all had stories of a guy who's a great tennis player that we've had to remove from our team, because they're not great people.

 

Colette Lewis: Coaches don't just watch you play and decide whether you're going to be good for their team. They ask other people - your opponents, other parents, other coaches, equipment representatives, officials, me. It's not just how you hit the ball, but how you compete. Make sure you play with good sportsmanship and that you treat your peers with respect. That will go a long way in getting the attention of a college coach. Everybody is a part of the process, coaches talk to each other and they talk to everybody else, so remember that.

 

AA: Leave the jerk factor in the garbage can. If you come off the court and you lost, got a bad call and you're mad and your parent comes up to give you a hug and you're acting like a jerk to your parent? That parent has known you for 18 years, and no coach who is going to have you for 4 years will want you.

 

Steve Johnson Sr.: Everybody talks to everybody. Your kid's on display all the time. People call me all the time, because they want Southern Cal kids and know that I probably know them or their coach.

 

Timon Corwin: Get rid of the scholarship ego thing. Don't get caught up in choosing a school, which is a lifelong relationship, because of a thousand bucks - I got 20% here and they're only offering me 15% there. If you're getting a 15% offer and you really like the guys, don't get caught up in the minutiae.

 

EK: Despite everyone telling you do this, do this, do this, mistakes are made. As important as a coach is in your decision, don't base your entire decision on a coach. Come up with a list of things you're not willing to compromise on - x hours from home, such and such a major, the Greek life. Those things will guide you, and it's important that you communicate what you're looking for to the coach.

 

TC: If you get hurt, is it where you want to be? Is it the course work, the field of study and the geography you want? Odds are you're probably not going to get hurt - in all my years, I've seen very few who get hurt in college and never play again - but you really need to like the environment. Is there a connection there? You'll know it when you walk into a coach's office, you'll have a feeling when you watch a practice. Is this a good environment? Is this me? Listen to those gut instincts, because they'll be important. The other stuff is critical - can I afford it, am I smart enough to get in, will I play - obviously those are the first things, but those gut feelings, listen to them, write them down. At the end of the day, you'll be glad you did.
 

Marc Lucero: You're not seeing young girls breaking through on the pro tour much anymore. There's an age eligibility rule that limits the tournaments, so it really makes much more sense to go to school if you're not burning your way up the tour rankings. It's no longer the old days, when if you go to college you're off the radar. We're very aware that the age of professionals is getting older and older, and support of college is part of that.

 

AA: I own my own company now and guess who I'm hiring? College athletes, because they manage their time, they're obviously dedicated and obviously hard workers and they don't take defeat lying down.

 

For more on college tennis, including the venues and dates for other college showcases and forums, see the College Tennis section at usta.com.

 

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About Colette Lewis

Colette Lewis has covered topflight U.S. and international junior events as a freelance journalist for over a decade. Her work has appeared in Tennis magazine, the Tennis Championships magazine and the US Open program. Lewis is active on Twitter, and she writes a weekly column right here at TennisRecruiting.net. She was named Junior Tennis Champion for 2016 by Tennis Industry Magazine.

Lewis, based out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has seen every National Championship final played since 1977, and her work on the tournament's ustaboys.com website led her to establish ZooTennis, where she comments on junior and college tennis daily.

 
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