I gotta tell you. As someone who played junior tennis, high school tennis, the Junior US Open a couple of times and a couple of ATP tournaments back in the day, nothing at all compares to playing college tennis!!
Firstly, let's face it. When you play anything else, the only people who really want you to do well are your parents and coach. Ok, in high school tennis, your teammates care, but only to a certain level most of the time. Most people would leave when their match is over if the HS coach would let them. In junior tennis, one may have friends but most of your friends are just jealous when you win. Years later, I confess, when I did poorly at a national, I didn't root for the other Eastern kids to do well. I have spoken to others who felt the same way and I'm sure others felt that way towards me. Ever do well in a tournament? The weirdest feeling is having the tournament of your life and walking into home room the next day without anyone in your class having a clue.
In college tennis, your teammates are people you have been in the trenches with. You travel together. You study together. You socialize together. You confide together. These are your boys!!! Or your girls!! You want to win for you and your teammates. You get super tight watching your teammates play if its' a deciding match. It's the perfect combination of intense but fun tennis could achieve. Do you loathe the atmosphere in the lobby of an Eastern sectional (or any 12-and-under tournament)? Doesn't exist. Tennis parents yelling at their kids and being gossipy? Doesn't happen.
Your results actually mean something to other people. Results appear in the paper. Friends make a party out of the home matches. Professors follow your results. All cool stuff.
If you are 14-year old who doesn't love the tournament scene and is thinking where is the light at the end of the tunnel? Stay in there!!! College tennis is worth it. There is also club tennis at a lot of schools and they even have national championships too. And they are co-ed....
Ricky Becker is The Director of Tennis at Glen Oaks Club. Ricky also coaches high-performance juniors throughout the year and has been the Director of Tennis at three of Long Island’s biggest junior programs. As a player, Becker was the Most Valuable Player for the 1996 NCAA Championship Stanford Tennis team and ranked in the top-five nationally as a junior. He can be reached at email@example.com, 516-359-4843 or via juniortennisconsulting.com.