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Countdown: How and When to Contact College Coaches
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Although many serious junior tennis players want to play college tennis, most athletes - and their families - do not understand how the recruiting process works. When players and parents ask us why coaches are not reaching out to them, we explain to them that communications are almost always initiated by the player. Coaches have rules as to when and how they can contact athletes - and there are tens of thousands of potential players for coaches to sort through. The proactive player who reaches out is rewarded with the best options.

The next questions players and parents ask are, "How do I contact them?" and "When should I do it?"

We put these questions to our panel of college coaches to get their opinions:

 

Q) When should I contact a college tennis coach? What are the best ways of doing so? Is there any interesting anecdote from the past that sticks out in your mind?

 

Mark Jeffrey, head coach, Louisiana Men

Contacting a college coach is a sure way for you to be on that coach's radar, and increases your chances exponentially of being recruited. Also, a coach really appreciates contact directly from the player - it shows that the recruit is taking ownership of his/her career, which lets the coach know who really wants it and who is just going through the motions. I believe contacting the coach personallly instead of letting your parents do all the work is a much better option.

Sending an email, following up with results, and then following up with a phone call can help separate a recruit from the rest of the field. Of course, results are important depending on the level of university tennis program you are applying for. Make sure you are realistic in your approach. You need to be able to start on these teams if tennis is an important factor in your decision. Look at the roster and do your research on their players - you will get a pretty clear picture soon enough.

Be yourself. Don't over do it, look desperate or be a stranger. Take an honest and forward approach. Be straightforward and to the point. Don't mix words - ask directly for what you want. That way you will find your match sooner than later. Neither the coach nor the player wants to waste time in the process. I feel this is the best approach.

 

Gregory Wyzkowski, head coach, Seton Hall Women

A student should consider contacting a coach early in their junior year of high school. The communication and evaluation before the early signing period in their senior year is very helpful. The best way of initially contacting a coach is by email. Since the coach's schedule and student's schedule could be different, leaving voice mail messages is not a good choice. Once email contact has been exchanged then a time for a telephone call or Skype can be arranged.

Communication from the student, even if a parent is guiding/assisting them, is the best choice. Emails and/or phone calls from the parents can leave doubt whether the student is mature and responsible enough to make the decision of choosing a college. Academic and tennis results are some important areas to verify if the student can be successful in a specific school. The next step is to try to verify if the student is capable of handling time management that comes with college tennis. The student that demonstrates constant communication and the ability to take charge of her future help the coach also determine if the student is a good choice.

Many schools will award available scholarships in early signing period of senior year. In those cases awards might already be done by end of September or early October. Suppose a student waits until November of their senior year to contact coaches. Is that too late? Sometimes. Each January coaches start to receive emails from more international players as well as U.S. players who were turned down by their first, second and maybe their third choices. Coaches that waited before awarding all their scholarships for potential stronger players might still have an interest in a senior after November's signing period. It is a risk for the player and coach - but one that can work out for both.

The good story I can share is regarding one of my current freshmen. Last May I learned one of our players was homesick and decided to return home. I had just told a number of qualified students wanting to join us that I did not have any available scholarships. Quickly calling them back, I learned they had already moved on to other schools. I next looked up all 5- and 4-Star recruits on tennis recruiting to see how many of them had not chosen a school. Each of them I called or emailed to let them know another scholarship was now available. I received strong interest from a student that lived about 10 hours away by plane. We spoke on Thursday, and on Friday she purchased airline ticket to visit our campus. She landed in New Jersey on Saturday, and I met her on Sunday. On Monday she flew back home, and on Tuesday she signed the NLI and received our full athletic scholarship. A few weeks ago she won her first college tournament. Some times things happen for a reason.

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