One of the most asked questions recruits ask is about how to get recruited for college tennis. Of the 187,000+ US men’s high school tennis players, roughly 9,700 go on to play at the collegiate level. Of these athletes, less than one percent are recruited by and sign with an NCAA Division 1 program. The reason for such a small percentage is in large part due to the popularity of international recruiting. Collegiate tennis has the highest percentage of international athletes competing at the NCAA level, with a reported 34.4% of men’s NCAA Division 1 tennis players having been recruited internationally in 2017.
For a chance to make a college tennis roster, student-athletes must put their best foot forward during the recruiting process. This means creating an NCSA Recruiting Profile and video, building relationships with college coaches, competing and ranking well in tournaments and keeping up with the NCAA academic eligibility requirements. This section takes a deeper look at all these recruiting elements to help athletes get recruited for college tennis.
What makes playing men’s tennis in college the most difficult is the international aspect of college recruiting. Because college tennis has a high percentage of international athletes at NCAA institutions, the pool of competition is even larger for student-athletes gunning for a roster spot and athletic scholarship. To be a contender during the college recruiting process, recruits need to focus on marketing their skillset to college coaches. In order to do this, they need to know what exactly college coaches are looking for in recruits. We’ve dedicated an entire section to recruiting guidelines that college coaches follow at all division levels to help recruits determine if they are good enough to play college tennis and at what level.
Below is a list of five steps that recruits should take to develop relationships with college coaches that will help them get recruited.
While tennis is an individual sport, there are a team events that college coaches look to when recruiting athletes. The first is Zonal, which is a USTA Championship that creates teams comprised of the top players in each USTA section to compete against other USTA section teams in singles, doubles and mixed doubles play. Division 1 college coaches primarily recruit Zonal athletes.
The other team event is USTA Junior Team Tennis national championship, which brings together the top USTA players in the nation to compete against different teams. College coaches at Division 3 programs and lower level Division 2 typically look to these events when recruiting talent.
From basic shot skills to tennis rankings, college coaches consider it all when assessing a recruit. At each division level, college coaches look for recruits that meet specific criteria, such as playing experience, UTR and NTRP ratings and national rank. On the court, college coaches evaluate recruits based on their grasp of the basic shots, reaction time, agility, endurance and footwork. For a more detailed look at how coaches across all division levels evaluate recruits, visit our recruiting guidelines page.
Aside from tennis skill and rankings, college coaches prioritize athletes that excel academically. College coaches prefer to recruit athletes who are well-rounded and have a strong academic record. This is why it’s important for recruits to be diligent when it comes to the NCAA eligibility requirements, which focus on the athlete’s academic eligibility. Starting freshman year, recruits should establish academic goals to ensure that they meet the NCAA’s eligibility standards and are able to compete when the time comes. Recruits will also be held to institution-specific academic standards upon applying to the school. These standards include GPA requirements and ACT or SAT test scores.
One way to answer this question is to look at the UTR rating of current college roster holders. Because the UTR is the official rating system of college tennis, recruits can compare their UTR with that of current college tennis players to see how they measure up. If a recruit’s UTR is similar to that of current roster holders on a college tennis team, then it’s likely that he is a good fit for that level of competition.
Another way to determine a recruit’s competition level is to consult with his high school or club coach. These coaches work directly with and provide honest feedback to student-athletes, which makes them a great resource to help answer this question. Using their knowledge of the athlete’s talent and their understanding of the different college competition levels, these coaches can help recruits identify what level of competition they are best suited to compete.
The only way to get ranked in men’s tennis is to compete in tennis tournaments, like those sponsored by the USTA. These tournaments have a certain number of points associated with them based on the size of the competition. To earn points, tennis players must compete in and advance through the tournament. Points awarded at the completion of the tournament are dependent on how far the athlete makes it.
While college coaches do reference tennis rankings when recruiting, this system does not necessarily identify the best players. Rankings fluctuate from week-to-week as athletes are competing on a regular basis, so even the best tennis players do not hold a top rank all year round.
It’s important to not confuse rankings with tennis ratings. Tennis rankings compare athletes to one another based on their tournament performance, while a tennis rating is meant to represent an athlete’s personal playing ability. The Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) is the official rating system for college tennis, which is why college coaches consider this rating when evaluating recruits.
Attending national tennis tournaments is a great way to increase an athlete’s exposure and access to college coaches. These tournaments are available throughout the year and tend to attract college coaches from tennis programs across the country. If a recruit plans to attend a tennis tournament, they should make sure the competition matches their skill level and find out if college coaches have attended the tournament in the past. Before the tournament, recruits should let college coaches know that they will be competing. After the tournament, recruits should reach out to those college coaches to share their achievements and tournament performance.
College coaches have limited time and budget to travel the country to watch recruits compete in tournaments. To evaluate recruits, college coaches rely on recruiting video that highlights a potential recruit’s skillset. If an athlete does not directly send college coaches their recruiting video, coaches may also it while searching recruiting databases to build their list of potential recruits.
As a recruit’s first impression on a college coach, this video needs to be eye-catching. A three- to four-minute recruiting video allows for roughly 20–30 clips that highlight the athlete’s talent. Recruits should include both rally and match footage that showcases their basic shots, footwork and on-court presence. The video should begin with the athlete’s most impressive clips to capture a coach’s attention within the first 30 seconds.
Follow the guidelines below to build a target list of colleges that meet the recruit’s needs.
Student-athletes have to do more than just compete in tournaments and attend college tennis camps to get discovered by college coaches. These opportunities may help recruits gain exposure, but the best way to let a college coach know that a student-athlete is interested in playing collegiate tennis, specifically for the coach’s program, is to send an introductory email.
Start the email by stating why the recruit is interested in this particular program and what makes them a good fit for the program. Include a link to the athlete’s NCSA Recruiting Profile, so the coach can learn more about their ratings, rankings and watch their recruiting video. Be sure to include basic information, including graduation year, high school and club name, GPA, test scores, sport specific-stats and relevant measurables, as well as the recruit’s phone number and email.
End the email with a clear next step, such as setting up a time to call the coach or inviting them to a tournament or game where they’ll be able to evaluate the athlete’s skills.
High school and club coaches are a great resource that athletes can turn to during the college recruiting process. Here’s a look at three ways a recruit’s coach can help them in the tennis recruiting process.
It’s common for high school and club coaches to develop strong relationships with college coaches during their coaching career. These relationships can be a benefit to student-athletes, as high school and club coaches can introduce recruits to college coaches and kickstart their relationship building.
Recruits often need help understanding what college division level they are best suited to compete in. High school and club coaches can help recruits answer this tough question by providing honest feedback on the athlete’s skillset. As someone who watches the recruit compete and practice throughout the year, high school and club coaches can use their knowledge of the athlete’s talent and their understanding of the various levels of competition at the college level to identify a realistic division level for the recruit.
According to the new NCAA recruiting rules, college coaches are allowed to contact high school or club coaches for general feedback on a recruit. They can ask coaches about the recruit’s character, attitude, work ethic and talent. The way a recruit’s coach answers these questions can have a huge impact on their recruitment. If an athlete is being recruited by college coaches, he should give his high school and club coach a heads-up that they may receive a call from the college coach looking for general feedback.