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Recruiting 101
Countdown: Trending Toward Early Verbal Commitments

In the college tennis recruiting scene, it is becoming more and more common to hear of verbal commitments to colleges occurring far earlier than in recent history. In tennis, it is no longer unheard of to see a player committing to a college during the first half of the junior year, following in line with other sports where it's even more extreme with verbal commitments taking place during freshman or sophomore years in high school. The prevailing message in the past has been to take one's time in weighing all of the options, visit as many campuses as possible, and only apply Early Decision or make an early commitment when 100 percent that sure a school is the proper fit athletically, academically and socially. While that remains sound advice, many admissions and/or scholarship spots at premium schools and tennis programs are being offered and accepted earlier and earlier, forcing recruits to either adjust their timelines or risk losing opportunities to attend and compete for their dream schools because they were beaten to the punch.

This trend of earlier commitments in tennis seems to be more prevalent at the elite Division I programs in the major conferences - and even more so on the women's side, where more significant scholarship packages are on the line. There seems to be an acknowledgement with relation to scholarship money that there are only "so many cookies in the cookie jar" and that players need to grab them when offered. But increasingly, even at the most elite academic, non-scholarship schools in all three NCAA divisions, a recruited spot on a roster, and potentially needed admissions support from a coach, is carrying a similar caché to a scholarship spot. Non-scholarship players are even needing to secure spots early so they don't lose chances to play for their schools of choice.

The recent rule change in Division I and Division II that allows coaches to start calling recruits at the start of their junior years (September 1st) instead of the summer after their junior years (July 1st) may also exacerbate the trend toward earlier commitments at schools in those divisions. Early indications are that college coaches are pursuing players at the start of their junior years more aggressively than ever.

The obvious benefits associated with early commitments include a sense of security for college coaches and recruits alike, knowing that the stress and uncertainty inherent in the recruiting process can be shortened or avoided. With early verbal commitments, players and coaches avert the fear of losing their top choices of players or programs to competitors. One coach in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) said, "It's always nice for coaches to have a commitment in hand early in the process. It allows them a 'pressure off' peace of mind in knowing that they have a top recruit on board regardless of how the rest of the recruiting season unfolds." For many recruits, early commitment is also seen as an effective way to improve chances to be accepted to a desired college if they can present themselves as a viable candidate who is ready to commit early. A Big 10 men's recruit shared, "I had great guidance, so I started unofficial visits late in the sophomore year and had seen all of the schools I was seriously considering by March of my junior year. As a matter of fact, I saw the school I decided on twice before committing in March. Despite how early I committed I was not even the first commitment the coach had for my year."

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Page updated on Monday, March 09, 2020
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