Players spend their entire careers trying to get a good “read” on their opponents in an effort to better understand their strengths and weaknesses, and achieve success against them. However, getting a good “read” on a college coach is a totally different ballgame, one which, when achieved, can lead to success on the court, with them.
A critical component in making the right choice for your collegiate tennis career is understanding the coach who will be leading the team you are considering. That being said, it also happens to be the hardest to get your arms around. It is the last piece of the three prong package that comprises a complete school package.
The first prong is choosing a school with the appropriate level of academics and area of study you need. As a student-athlete, you spend about 70 to 80 percent of your time studying in preparation for your future, your life. Better make sure you are going to be properly prepared to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
The second prong is determining if the current players on the team are one’s you can envision as a second or extended family. Typically, teammates spend 70 to 80 percent of their time with their teammates. It extends beyond the time on the court to the classroom, library, dining halls, social events, etc. No one has a better idea of what you are going through or the support you need than someone who is going through the same exact things you are or has been there before … your teammates.
The third prong is the coach. Choosing to play for the right coach can make all the difference in what kind of collegiate tennis experience you have. It can have a bearing on the success you have on the court and it will certainly determine if your game will grow during your time at the school.
During the search process, you will have a number of opportunities to interact with prospective coaches, either by telephone, e-mail or in face-to-face meetings. Some of the things one needs to better understand in order to make the most informed decision possible about a coach are:
- Understand what the coach wants in a player
- Understand what the team’s needs are for the year you will be looking to join them.
- Understand what the coach expects from their players.
- Understand how the coach goes about making decisions.
- Understand if the coach is a good communicator.
- Can this coach make you a better player?
- Does the coach provide clarity on how spots are earned on their team?
- Do the coach’s methods of operation coincide with how you operate?
- What kind of relationship does the coach have with the school’s administration?
- How is the coach perceived by others (other coaches, current players, past players, the school’s administration, etc.)?
In most cases, coaches welcome the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideology, because it gives potential candidates a sense of whether the program is right for them prior to getting to the school, but it also demonstrates to a coach your thoroughness in approach and that you really care about where you end up going to school. It is no greater complement to a coach that you haven chosen to attend their school because you want to play for them specifically. The amount of time and effort put into the due diligence of a school’s coach will ultimately pay off by providing you with a wonderful and fulfilling collegiate tennis experience, one filled with great memories, as well as taking your game to a level that perhaps you didn’t know you could reach or perhaps wanted to achieve en route to playing beyond college. Four years is a big commitment to make, so don’t put yourself in a position to be the recipient of unforeseen surprises that can adversely impact your game and your experience.