In the last issue of Long Island Tennis Magazine, we discussed three myths:
1. Going to a school that you would want to attend if you ever stopped playing tennis.
2. The importance of liking your coach during recruiting.
3. Asking kids on the team about the coach and school is worthless.
In this issue, I’d like to discuss three more bits of misguided college tennis advice.
1. “Even though you may not start right away, you should have no problem starting after a couple of years.”
Anyone who tells you this has either never played college tennis themselves or wants you to buy into his or her agenda. You will quit or transfer before you start. Now, picture someone telling you that you need to maintain your level of tennis without playing a tournament for the next two years. You will start to hate tennis … no? Add college life into the equation and you will ask, “Why am I really doing this anyway?” In my 20 years of college tennis experience, the ratio of quitting/transferring to starting after two years is 10:1, especially at places that do not offer scholarships. If playing college tennis is important to you, go to a place where you expect to start right away. In my four years at Stanford, I played number six singles for four years. This is the last starter’s spot. Incoming freshman came in and either started in front of me permanently or sat on the bench permanently.
2. “You may not be strong enough to play Division I, but you are strong enough to play Division II or Division III.”
Simply put, there is an overlap. The top Division I teams are better than any Division II or III schools, but it is not as clear after that. There are probably 25 Division III teams that would beat 25 Division I teams and 60 Division II (33 percent) teams. If you are looking for a scholarship and your ranking is weaker than 300th, then you better look Division II though. As some people know, Division III does not offer athletic scholarships.
3. “You should find out ahead of time how your coach chooses the lineup.”
Your college choice should not be determined on the sales pitch of your college coach. The fact is, the lineup will be whatever the coach wants it to be! Coaches will point to challenge matches, individual tournament matches, head-to-head matchups, who is playing better at the time, etc. What coach is really doing is going with his/her gut and using the evidence they want to support it. You won’t be told this during recruiting though. It doesn’t sound organized enough. For your information, conventional college coaching wisdom says that the steadier player goes lower in the lineup and the player who has more upside/downside goes higher in the lineup.
A college tennis guidance counselor who actually played college tennis and is involved in college/junior tennis today could help you sort through the fluff and help you in putting your best foot forward!
Ricky Becker is the Director of Tennis at Pine Hollow Country Club. He independently coaches high-performance juniors and adults of all-levels year-round at Bethpage Park Tennis Center. He has coached hundreds of ranked junior players. As a player, Becker was awarded Most Valuable Player for the 1996 NCAA Championship Stanford Tennis Team and 1989-1992 Roslyn High School Tennis Teams, and was ranked number four in the United States in the 18 & Under Division.