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CAtennis is a passionate discussion for serious tennis players, parents and coaches looking for something different. No talk about technique, no talk about useless theory, no gimmicks; just practical advice from first-hand experience on how to improve your tennis. Kick back, drink the content, bounce ideas, and pitch articles (or friend us on Facebook).

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Discussion About College Tennis - The Idea Behind CAtennis.com


CAtennis.com came about from several discussions with juniors, parents and other coaches regarding junior development and college tennis in particular. Too many times, we found ourselves repeating the same information over and over and thought it would be more efficient if we could create a platform for people interested in raising the level of play for those with an interest in tennis and, specifically, juniors.

We expect that our authority will be challenged but, hey, if tips from the "names" are more to your liking - even if they are completely rudimentary and useless (e.g. keep your eye on the ball; move your feet; bring water on court on a hot day; put topspin on the ball if your shots are sailing) - there's not much we can do about that.  We hope that that kind information helps you out with your game. If, however, you are already familiar with those concepts and are looking for something more substantive..something that you can sink your teeth into, then perhaps you would consider giving us a chance.

With the foregoing in mind, here are some issues to consider regarding college tennis:

1. Scholarship distribution. Division 1 schools allocate 4.5 scholarship for men and 8 for women. This is not a trade secret nor is it confidential information. It's a simple fact. With an average of 100 schools (let's just go with a round number for the sake of simplicity) that means that every given year, there are 450 scholarships available for men and 800 for women, right? Technically correct; PRACTICALLY speaking - WRONG. Not every one of those scholarships will be "freed up" every year. In other words, the number of available scholarships for any given year fluctuates with the number of seniors who are graduating and who are liberating some money for incoming freshman. In some years, that number may be 1-2 per team; in others it may be 0. Therefore, the number of available D-1 scholarships per year is probably closer to 100 for men and maybe 200 for women. Still like your odds? 

2. Scholarship odds. Even assuming that you're one of the top 100/200 (nation) graduating seniors, you still have to consider the odds of actually getting a "full ride". In other words, it's one thing to receive a letter of interest from the coach, another to be good enough to play in the line-up and, yet another for getting your education (or part thereof) covered. This is because graduating seniors are not just competing against players from US, but also players from Canada, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Czech Republic, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, UK, and about 100 other countries. Even if you take 1 or 2 players from each country, that adds 200-300 players into the pool for competing against them. OOPS!!!! guess what?! You're not just competing against foreigners who have graduated in the same year as you but also with people (foreign AND domestic) who may be 1, 2 or 3 years older and have international/ATP experience (NCAA eligibility rules subject to change). Did I forget to mention the transfer students? How silly of me. Yes, some players may be OK when they graduate but will peak somewhat later. Maybe they only got decent training or more serious about the sport at a later point in their life and are just now catching up. These people may go to a junior college for a year or two and get better. So, the reality is that now you have a pool of at least 500-600+ players (for men) competing for the afore-mentioned number of scholarships. And, some of these players don't care if the school has/hasn't a good football program or if the town has a cool "college vibe" or some other nonsense that's deemed important by US players. They just want to come to the US, get their school paid for and have a chance to a better life than the one available back home. Scared yet? There's more.

3. Diminishing programs. Let's be honest here, tennis is the center of our universe but it's not exactly a revenue generating sport for colleges. Programs may be cut due to lack of funds in the annual budget, NCAA violations, Title IX issues or other reasons. We're not here to advocate one way or another but this just another thing to consider when figuring out the odds as your "dream school" might not have a program 2-4 or 6 years down the road. So maybe instead of 100 scholarships, a couple of years in the future there may only be 80-90 scholarships available/year. That has a further effect on the odds. 

4. Rankings. Chances are that if you're been around this game for a while, you've heard two sides of this issue: rankings are important v. rankings are, for the most part, meaningless. Here's one thing to remember when thinking that rankings will get you into a top program: each school, depending on its caliber and coach's level of interest, looks at rankings similar to a flight controller looking at a radar screen. Some coaches will only look at top 10 in the nation players; others may expand their horizons to top-30, top-40 or top-100. Once a player enters the coach's "field of vision" the evaluation doesn't simply stop there, however.

The coach will then determine HOW the player got there. For example, is this a top-30 player with a 30(W)-3(L) record, or is this someone who "bought" their way into the top-30 (e.g. 164(W)-130(L) record)? To a "top" school, what good is a player who's lost 130 matches?! That means that there are at least 130 players in the nation alone who can beat him (and that's only the players he's played against). The school wants to know that it can count on the player at 5-5 in the third set with the team match tied at 3-3. Someone who's lost as many matches as he's played - but simply traveled more and played more tournaments - is not a "lock" in these situations. The only points that really matter, therefore, are either ATP points or WTA points. Everything else comes down to winning ("if College X has player Y, can my recruit beat player Y so that our school will beat College X?"). Needless to say, a number of players and parents will think that they know better...that they have found just the right wool for pulling over the coaches eyes. They will find out the hard way how wrong they really are.

5. Level of tennis. Ultimately, your level of tennis is determined by who you beat (not how many close matches you lost or how matches you lost at big events). Therefore, it's important to start getting addicted to winning early. Set the standard by dominating your back-yard first, then try to be the best in you club, then in your town, then in your county, then in your section, then in your state, then in the nation. Learn how to win and focus on developing your game. Entirely too much energy and money is spent on chasing "national" points. Before signing up for a "big" tournament, have an honest discussion with yourself: am I in a position to push 4-5 rounds into the main draw or am I simply wasting everyone's resources? Am I only going there to collect a tournament T-shirt and player's badge? Have I done everything possible - physically, mentally, technically and tactically - to improve? Have I dominated my local events and playing this tournament is the next logical challenge? Am I willing to become cannon-fodder for superior players and provide them win a "W" and a confidence boost? If I don't have a good result, can I bounce back from it? Am I willing to put in additional hours on the court? Is this what I really want to do with my life or am I doing this simply as an excuse to not get "A+" in school work? Do I enjoy tennis for the purity of the game or is something that I'm doing to put on the college application? Etc. 

To summarize: tennis is hard. The reality is that if you want to be recruited, make the team AND get a college scholarship, you better be good; REAL GOOD. With the competition being spread among players from so many countries, your goal (particularly as a male) should really be closer to become a professional player. The college ranks are full of players who may have played on the tour for 1 or 2 years and simply were not good enough to break into the ranks where they could become self-sufficient from the earnings. Logic dictates that a college coach (especially one a top tier program) will, more likely, favor a world-class/accomplished player over a junior with a couple of tournament T-shirts to his name. This is particularly true if competing programs have managed to acquire one or two world-class players.

Therefore, our advice, for players with BIG dreams, approach tennis as you would mountain climbing: ATP/WTA = Himalayas; college tennis = Mt. Baldy. Who is a more accomplished climber - the one who has striven for the highest peaks or the one who is aiming for half-way?! Tennis is no different: some players who push for ATP rankings might not make it but they would have worked harder, longer and more serious than players who look at tennis as a mere after-school activity. This is the completely un-sugarcoated reality and it's not intended to scare anybody away from the game or dissuade them from following their dreams. It is, however, intended to assist some players in focusing their objectives and priorities. Cue in the Rocky Soundtrack and get to work 'cause time's awastin'.

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Reader Comments (8)

thank you! sharing immediately!

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Thanks, Lisa. Please do. More parents need to know the truth.

October 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterCAtennis

I love this reality check article. Hate to share more, but after personally talking to a currently top 50 ranked ATP touring pro (as of 2011), he said that a player needs to be ranked in the top 100 of the ATP to actually truly make money on the pro tour. It is one thing to have played on the ATP tour, but it is a totally different thing to be good enough make a living from prize money collected on the ATP tour. The chances of all this happening are astoundingly small. So the next level beyond college scholarship seems to be a billion times more unlikely to happen than even a college scholarship. I hope this chills out some tennis parents on the realities of today's tennis.

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTweener

okay, so now that we've heard the bad news, what can we do about it? i mean, i have a 15 yr old son whose dream is to play college tennis at a D1 school. will he achieve that goal? time will tell, but given the present circumstances, the odds are stacked so heavily against him. so, besides love of the game (which i hope he'll maintain forever), how do we keep him and others playing the sport? and how do we attract young kids to it? it's a huge time and money suck, interferes greatly with his high school social life (which, from a mom's perspective, is a great thing, lol), and causes endless conflicts with academic commitments. but, still, he wants to play, even knowing that his chances of playing at his dream school are very slim and his other dream of being a successful pro are even slimmer. what needs to change? how do we make those changes happen?

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

One of the primary purposes of our project is to expose the truth and also to provide a road-map for players/parents to follow. Not everyone has access to world-class coaching or people with experience so this is something to help them along. We don't presume to have all the answers but the time to start talking about these things is right now. More parents need to be aware of the situation in order for everyone to be able to make informed decisions. Perhaps in the future we will also cover some suggestions that the NCAA may consider implementing.

October 24, 2011 | Registered CommenterCAtennis

"One of the primary purposes of our project is to expose the truth and also to provide a road-map for players/parents to follow." KEEP IT COMING...

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHIGH-TECH TENNIS

I've never heard anybody speak this clearly on what is to me my life's passion - whatever I might be able to do to help contribute to the success of this venture please don't hesitate to ask - a clear voice of leadership in the direction of american tennis has up 'til now been decidedly missing altogether or simply been swayed by unpure agendas.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKarl Rosenstock

We're glad this resonates with you and that you will be joining us on our quest to revolutionize the tennis world :)

December 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterCAtennis

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