Got Tennis
  | By Clark D. Ruiz II

A major component of the search process—the search for the perfect school—is the “official visit.” Each prospective collegiate player is only afforded five (Division 1, Division 2) visits, so you have to make them count. These should be relegated to your “short list” of schools, the handful of schools that you would be happy to go to, wherever you end up. If you take the financial package being offered out of the equation, a player’s official visits should clearly uncover the best school for you. However, that clarity will only happen when a family and the prospective player have gotten beyond what I call the “wow” factors.

If this is your first child to play at the collegiate level, then the idea of playing at that level is an example of a “wow.” When you first see the size and beauty of campus and their tennis facility, that’s another “wow.” The thought of going away, for some the first time, that too is a “wow” moment. By now, you get the picture. The secret to making the right choice will always be having the ability to get beyond those “wows” so that you can put yourself in the right frame of mind to intelligently ask and seek the key information that will make your decision easier. My suggestion would be, when possible, visit the schools on your short list on your own, unofficially and unannounced. Get the experience of seeing the campus, the facilities and the imagery out of the way so that when you officially visit, your focus can be on asking the probing questions needed to make a good solid choice. All too often, the official visit is nothing more than a meet and greet, squandering an excellent opportunity to find out what the policies of the coach really are, what the players think of the coach and if the other players could be seen as an extended family for you.
While on official visits, the player needs to become a private-eye of sorts. During the course of the weekend, a player should attempt to get answers to questions like:
++Is the coach genuinely interested in you or is he/she simply going through the motions?
++How long has the coach been coaching at a collegiate level? How long at that school?
++What kind of rapport does the coach have with the administration of the school, those responsible for admissions and scholarships?
++What kind of rapport does the coach have with his/her players?
++Does the coach have a clear process of how spots on the team are earned and won?
++Where does the coach see you playing on the team?
++If the coach is recruiting a number of prospective players, where do you rank amongst the group?
++Can the coach help improve your game?
++Are the current players on the team a group that you want to spend as much as three years with?
++Do the players like the coach?
++Do they have any complaints about the coach and/or the program?
++What kind of support system does the program have (trainers, academic advisors, assistant coaches, etc.)?

I think you get my drift. Work your way through the fluff or “wow” portion of the process, and you will put yourself in a position to truly uncover the essence of the program you are considering. Trust me, its hard work. Official visits are not meant to be mini-vacations. They should be investigative and uncovering in nature. You should be interviewing the program, the coach and the current players the same way they are interviewing you. Also, if you are like most prospective players, you will get to the point that your head will be spinning from the number of schools you have visited, so make sure to take clear and concise notes on each school right after you have visited, while the facts are fresh in your mind. You may even want to set up a standard list of questions you want to ask at each school. This will make it easier to compare one program from another, side by side. When approached in this manner, believe me, the four years spent playing collegiate tennis will be extremely gratifying and rewarding, with many meaningful “wows” along the way.

Clark D. Ruiz II

<p>Clark D. Ruiz II is founder of <a onclick=",'AdvantageTennisStrategiesLLC','resizable=yes,location=yes,menubar=no,scrollbars=yes,status=yes,toolbar=no,fullscreen=no,dependent=no,status'); return false" href="">Advantage Tennis Strategies LLC</a>. He may be reached by phone at (917) 991-0088 or e-mail <a href="</a>.</p>