There are more than 900 colleges offering women’s tennis programs that attract talent from all over the US and internationally. With so many programs to choose from, finding the right academic, athletic, social and financial fit can be daunting if a student-athlete doesn’t know how to properly research their options. Furthermore, once a student-athlete has identified a list of target schools, she must know how to market herself to those programs during the recruiting process. In our guide to women’s college tennis recruiting, we outline each step of the college recruiting process to help student-athletes and their families set themselves up for success.
The NCAA maintains recruiting rules and a calendar that dictate when and how college coaches and student-athletes can engage throughout the recruiting process. In May 2019, the NCAA made significant changes to the recruiting rules and calendar after Division 1 student-athletes across various sports reported in an NCAA survey that college coaches had contacted and extended verbal offers to them as early as freshman year of high school. These new rules are meant to support and maintain a positive recruiting experience for all parties involved.
College coaches at NCAA and NAIA institutions scout for tennis talent both in America and internationally. This makes the pursuit of a roster spot and athletic scholarship package extremely competitive. If a recruit is determined to play college tennis, they need to be aware of what college coaches want in a potential recruit, from tennis rankings to competition experience to physical advantages. Recruits can reference our women’s college recruiting guidelines to learn what college coaches look for at each division level.
When it comes to women’s tennis scholarships, NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 tennis programs award athletic scholarship packages differently. Women’s Division 1 tennis is a headcount sport, which means that every rostered athlete receives a full-ride scholarship but there is a limited number of athletes that can receive a scholarship each year. Under the NCAA headcount restrictions, women’s tennis programs can only have eight athletes on scholarship each year. At the Division 2 level, women’s tennis is classified as an equivalency sport, which means each program is given a maximum scholarship budget that college coaches can divide up however they see fit to award scholarship packages. If a Division 2 coach has a large enough scholarship budget to award each athlete on his or her team some form of financial funding, they are permitted to do so. At the Division 3 level and Ivy League schools, athletic scholarships are not available, but merit-based scholarships may be awarded to student-athletes with a strong GPA and test scores.
Taking a proactive approach to the college recruiting process starts with researching college tennis programs to build a list of target schools. Recruits should also build an NCSA Recruiting Profile and capture footage for a recruiting video that will live on their profile. After June 15 of the recruit’s sophomore year, college coaches can begin communicating with recruits. During this time, recruits should be focused on building relationships with college coaches at their target schools. From the very start of this process, recruits should be competing and ranking well in tournaments, while maintaining their NCAA academic eligibility. For more details on the recruiting process, visit our section on how to get recruited by college tennis coaches.
Most college coaches begin their recruiting process by browsing recruiting databases, like NCSA, where they watch athletes’ recruiting videos. For many athletes, this is the first time a college coach will see their skillset in action, so it is crucial to include what college coaches are looking for in a recruit. This section provides a list of tips on how to create a recruiting video that will leave a lasting impression on college coaches.
To increase their exposure to college coaches, recruits should attend tennis camps, especially those held on college campuses. While recruits are developing aspects of their game through drills and mock play, they are also able to interact with college coaches who are leading the camp. Recruits should also compete in tennis tournaments to improve their tennis ranking; which college coaches consider when evaluating potential recruits. In this section, we include a list of college tennis camps and tournaments near you that will fit your needs.
Solidifying a strong support system ahead of the college recruitment process can be key to finding success throughout a student-athlete’s journey.
When identifying what makes up that support system, NCSA has routinely seen that considering a boarding school like our partner IMG Academy can make a world of difference. IMG has dedicated college placement advisors, experienced coaches, academic teachers, Athletic & Personal development trainers, mentors, counselors and other on-campus staff available to tennis student-athletes to ensure they’re prepared and equipped for the next level. When considering boarding schools, families should also keep in mind that the schedule and experience at IMG mirrors that of a collegiate environment, so student-athletes are already familiar with their schedule from the moment they step foot on a college campus.
Within IMG’s college-preparatory environment for 6-12th graders, as well as gap year student-athletes, athletes will:
Not only can NCSA’s resources aid in a student-athlete’s college recruiting efforts, but families who have chosen to apply to IMG Academy have seen enhanced results and support when it comes to being recruited to play college tennis.
Finding the right tennis program for a recruit and her family takes a great deal of research. Recruits should start by identifying a list of reach, target and safety schools that meet their athletic, academic, social and financial needs. Of course, this can be challenging when there are more than 900 colleges with women’s tennis programs across the US. To help recruits through the process, we’ve created a section that includes a complete list of colleges with women’s tennis programs.
While we provide an extensive recruiting guide for women’s college tennis here, there are additional resources that recruits and their families can rely on during the college recruiting process. Websites such as USTA.com, collegetennisonline.com and wearecollegetennis.com provide insight into collegiate tennis.
Additionally, recruits can find a list of the top women’s college tennis teams by checking NCSA Power Rankings and the NCAA’s website. We developed the NCSA Power Rankings to help student-athletes find the right college fit by analyzing schools based on size, cost, location, academics and more, using resources such as U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, 2017 IPEDS graduation rates and 2017 IPEDS institutional net cost.
Insider tip: Despite the impact that coronavirus had on college sports, as of June 1, 2021, the NCAA resumed its regular recruiting rules and activity! Coaches are actively working to fill their rosters, so student-athletes should be proactive in reaching out to coaches. Read up on how the extra year of eligibility granted to athletes who were most affected by the pandemic in 2020 will impact future recruiting classes.