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Recruiting 101
Spring Signing Week '15: Recruiting Strategy and Tips for Unsigned Seniors

The Spring Signing Period that starts later this week on April 15th is an exciting time for many high school senior tennis players and their families who sign with college teams. Players are embarking on a new chapter in their lives - and an opportunity to play tennis at the next level.

Tarek Merchant of ImRecruitable
But what happens when you don't have a college secured? If you're in the position of watching your friends, teammates and competitors commit to a college, it's only natural to feel discouraged, worried, and insecure. The most important thing not to do is panic. Over the past eight years, we have worked with hundreds of student-athletes and got them recruited to play college tennis. Not all of them have secured a college in April. In fact, there is still time to be recruited.

There are many reasons why a player may not have committed to a college. Most players will fall under one of the following categories:

  • I started the process late
  • I have sent a lot of emails - but I haven't received any positive responses
  • I am not interested in any of the colleges that are recruiting me
  • I was waiting for coaches to recruit me
  • I am waiting to get a full ride offer

Regardless of the reason, every prospect navigating the recruiting process should understand important information on recruiting during signing period and the steps to follow.


Spring/Summer Signing Period Continues

The Spring Signing Period that starts this Wednesday actually runs through late summer in August. Here is key information you should be aware of...

Coaches recruiting strategies

College coaches want to recruit the best players they can. Every college has different academic requirements, and every team has different recruiting standards. Coaches create long lists of potential recruits and rank them. You may be a Top 5 recruit for one coach while another coach has you much further down the list. The list can change at any given time - placing you higher or lower in the ranks. This can be due to prospects committing to other colleges, prospects or players not meeting academic requirements, changes in program funding (scholarships), new prospects, etc.

Sudden change in roster openings

There are many reasons why roster opening may change at any time during the year including:

  • Players who verbally commit but decide to withdraw before singing the NLI (National Letter of Intent).
  • Players who decide not to return after the season
  • Players who become ineligible due to not meeting academic requirements
  • Coaches who do not renew scholarships for players at the end of the season

Slipping through the cracks

Coaches receive hundreds of emails a month, and it can be difficult for them to manage inquiries. College tennis is a non-revenue generating sport, and teams do not have the staff or resources that a football, basketball or baseball team may have. Coaching staffs consist of a head coach and assistant - and in some cases it is only a head coach. Your interest in the college could easily have been overlooked.

So, how do you hone in on your recruiting process and use this information to your advantage?


Next Steps

There are several steps you should take to ensure the best possible fit.

(1) Recruiting Preferences

Identify your most important recruiting preferences. There are several factors all prospective student-athletes should consider - and the list below is a good place to start. If you have previously made a list, revisit it again to see if any of your preferences have changed.

  • Location: Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, West
  • Athletic Selectivity: NCAA D-I, D-II, or D-III, NAIA, NJCAA
  • School size: Less than 2,000 students? 2K to 15K? More than 15K?
  • College Setting: Urban, suburban, or rural?
  • College Major (list)
  • Other preferences
Writing down your preferences is always a good idea.

Helpful tips:

Choosing athletic selectivity: Although a majority of Division I teams are playing at the highest level, it does not mean that a Division II or III program cannot have a stronger team than a Division I program. If you are a 4-Star or higher player, you will likely have a lot of Division I opportunities, if you are a 3 Star, you may have some, while a 2 or 1 Star will not likely have many opportunities at Division I.

It is difficult to find a college that meets all your preferences. Selecting multiple options in each category will give you more options.

There is nothing wrong with being a walk-on to start and earn your scholarship if you really like a school academically and athletically.

(2) Regroup and Create a List of Colleges

Make a list of all the colleges you contacted or contacted you and the current status for each. Are you in communication with the coach? Did you receive an offer? Did you ever get a response? In other words, you want to have notes on where you stand with each college. Then ask yourself if these colleges match up with your preferences. Eliminate the ones that don't and keep the ones that do! Add additional colleges to your list. It is a good idea to have fifty or more colleges to contact.

Helpful tips:

You can find colleges that match up with your preferences by going to collegeboard.org and search colleges. You can select filters from the left hand side, add your preferences and then see the results.

Finding out if you match up with a team's athletic ability is always tough. You can always write the coach and find out, but waiting for the coaches response is not the most efficient way. Doing your own homework can speed up the process and ensure you are at the level required to be an active member of the team. A great way to evaluate your level is to use Universal Tennis or Tennis Recruiting and compare your level with that of current players and recruits. You are probably already familiar with Tennis Recruiting, but you can go to Universal Tennis, register for an account, and find your rating. Then you can conduct an advanced college search and filter by your preferences. The Power6 range will indicate the rating of the Top 6 players. If your level is similar to the players on the current team, then it could be a potential opportunity.

(3) Contact and Communicate

Initial contact and on-going communication with coaches is the most important step in the recruiting process. The initial introduction should be in the form of an email, and it must be personalized to each coach. Mention something about the college, the team, and why you are interested. Don't forget to include your player profile - academic and athletic information. You should also call the coach as a follow up to the email you sent. If you don't get a hold of the coach, have a scripted message to leave on the voicemail and include your name, your telephone number and the date you sent them an email. Revisit colleges that you already contacted and re-introduce yourself. The coaches' situation may have changed.

Lastly, if you can respond to coaches and submit information they have requested in a timely manor, your rate of success will increase tremendously.

Helpful tips:

Be persistent! If a coach has not responded to your email or phone call, send them a follow-up. You want to get an answer from the coach, but don't be annoying. Give the coach time to respond - about one week. Find out if he/she is interested in recruiting you. Do they have open roster spots? If the outcome is no, then scratch them off the list and move on. If the outcome is positive, ask them what they need from you to take the next step.

Find coaches' email addresses and telephone numbers on the college athletic websites. The coach contact information is usually listed on the team page - but at times it is listed in the staff directory.

Recruiting experts at ImRecruitable have a database of coaches' personal contact information and can save players and their families a lot of time and heartache by contacting them on the player's behalf. A minimal investment working with a recruiting expert can go a long way, especially when you are limited on time.


Tarek Merchant is the Founder and Recruiting Expert of ImRecruitable.com, an organization that helps student-athletes and their families simplify the college recruiting process. Tarek has hosted many college showcases and recruiting events over the years and has helped hundreds of players receive scholarship opportunities and pursue their dream of playing college tennis. You can contact Tarek by email at [email protected] or by phone at (904) 400-2044.


Next Up, Signing Day!

Tomorrow is the big day... Signing Day. We have you covered with three Blue Chip commitment announcements. First thing tomorrow morning, Joanna Zalewski of Linden, N.J., announces her decision between Army and Wake Forest. Later on in the day, Blue Chip juniors Alexander Keyser and Alexis Nelson share their commitments as well.

In the meantime, sit back, relax, and get ready for your courtside seat to Spring Signing Day!


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Page updated on Monday, November 04, 2019
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