The life of a college tennis player is different in many respects and similar in many respects. Here are some nuggets of information about college tennis life. More nuggets will be available in the next issue of Long Island Tennis Magazine.
In a team match, also known as a “duel match,” there are three doubles matches followed by six singles matches. Players can compete in singles and doubles.
Division I has a format where the school that wins two of the three doubles matches gets credit for one “win.” The six singles matches that follow each count as their own “win.” The school that gets four of the seven total “wins” gets the duel match victory. The “doubles point” often feeds momentum into the singles. In Division II and Division III, each doubles match counts as its own “win.” Therefore, it’s the best of nine matches.
There are few, if any, private lessons
With anywhere from eight to 18 kids practicing at the same time and only two coaches, private lessons are scarce. I probably got one private lesson a year. Practices usually consist of two to four kids per court, with the coaches roaming around the back of the court.
Balancing tennis and academics in college was probably more difficult in high school
Many colleges have academic support specifically for their athletic teams. Additionally, many professors have a soft spot for student/athletes who represent their school. To top it off, college players spend less class time and less commuting time to practice than they did in high school.
There are long breaks from official practices
The NCAA regulates the amount of days that a team is allowed to have official practices. An official practice is one organized by the coach and/or the coach is present. Some highly ranked national D3 programs have a four-month break from official practices! Even at Stanford, there was a six-week break and a two-week break. Players are highly encouraged to play on their own during these times, but it is not mandatory.
Being on the tennis team in college can give you an instant social life … which can be important as a freshman
Similar to high school tennis, being a freshman on your tennis team connects you to upperclassmen. This is especially true if you are guaranteed a spot on your team before you arrive on campus. Along with the other freshmen tennis players, I was “kidnapped” by the upperclassmen my second night of school while doing some dull freshman dorm activity. I enjoyed that kidnapping …
There are a lot of international players in college tennis … a faction of people are against this and a quiet faction of people support this
While approximately 25 percent of Division I and II players and less than five percent of Division III players are international, it seems as if there are a lot more. This is because the numbers skew a lot higher among the top players and scholarship positions. This rubs some American tennis people the wrong way, because it takes scholarships away from Americans. There are people in influential positions who quietly support the international trend because it provides stronger competition and perceived improvement to the top American college players.
If you win the “walk-on tournament” you are not always guaranteed a spot on the roster
The winner of the walk-on tournament will sometimes not automatically qualify for the varsity squad. Often, this person has to play a match against a lower-ranked member of the team to see if he or she can “hang.”
A lot more time is practiced on doubles than you are probably accustomed to
Even though doubles is only one “win” in Division I, the opening doubles point often sets the momentum for the duel match. In Division II and III, doubles accounts for one-third of the total duel match. A team that gets swept 3-0 in doubles must win five of six singles matches. Coaches like getting these points and spend a lot of practice time trying to get them. It’s also easier for a coach to watch three practice courts of doubles than six practice courts of singles.
The assistant coach is often a grad student who played college or pro tennis
Many high budget programs have an assistant coach who is on his/her way to being a head coach. Many teams have an assistant who is a former college player who is attending grad school. Often, the assistant is closer to the players than the head coach.