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Countdown: Planning Women's Scholarships

For purposes of limiting scholarships, the NCAA classifies its sports into head-count and equivalency sports. For head-count sports, the limits are on number of individuals receiving scholarships - each player can receive up to a full scholarship. For equivalency sports, the total amount of aid is limited, but it can be divided among a much larger number of players.

NCAA D-I Women's Tennis is a head-count sport that allows for up to eight players. That limit means that only eight women on a D-I team can receive athletic aid. With six singles and three doubles matches - and in light of injuries - a roster of eight can appear quite thin.

Allocating scholarships presents interesting challenges for college coaches. How do coaches solve their puzzles?

We put the question to our panel of experts...


Q) As an NCAA D-I women's coach, what is your strategy when planning out your scholarships? How does that impact recruiting?


Paul Thomson, head coach, Drake Women

Every coach has different strategies and every team has different needs as well as resources. Since my tennis program is not fully funded, I am very particular about who I recruit and who I make offers to. Drake does offer superb academic and merit packages that more than make up for the difference. However, for some coaches this limitation would vastly limit their recruiting pool because of the academic requirements. My recruiting starts with academics, so I am perfectly fine with our scholarship situation.

As you point out, recruiting for women's tennis differs from men's because there are more scholarship dollars but fewer players. Another big difference is in the players themselves. When a 17-to-19 year old girl comes to campus as a freshmen, she is pretty much fully physically developed. A coach can improve the abilities and confidence of the girls - as well as get them a bit stronger. But they are basically developed from a physical standpoint. Therefore the individual players will not develop as much as will 17-19 boys over the course of four years.

It is very common for a boy to be recruited to come in and play No. 4 or 5 as a freshmen - knowing full well that this boy is still growing and will develop more over the next four years. I was a perfect example of this. I grew three inches and put on nearly twenty pounds in college. For this reason, men's tennis has a greater margin for actually taking a kid from No. 4 as a freshmen to No. 2 or even No. 1 as a junior or senior simply based on physical growth and development over that time.

For this reason I very seldom if ever "spot recruit," or look for a player to play No. 4 and replace my No. 4 from the year before. My goal is to recruit from the top down. It is very unlikely that I will sign a player to play No. 6 as a freshmen. Instead I am going to look for players that can step in and at least play in the top 3 as a freshmen. This subsequently bumps other players down in the line-up. It just does not make sense to me to sign a player this year that will play No. 6, knowing that I have players graduating next year and this 6 is likely to end up as a 7 or even 8.

The other area I spend a great deal of time looking at is team chemistry. I would much rather have six or seven solid players that get along and that I know are going to go to battle on the courts and in training for the betterment and success of the players around them. To have six or seven players that are All-Americans but are selfish and only in it for themselves in my mind would be a nightmare waiting to happen.

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Page updated on Monday, March 15, 2021
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