On March 6, 2011, I spoke at the Long Island Tennis Magazine Expo covering the subject, "The Road to College Tennis" from a coaches' perspective. Here is an outline of that talk.
The Road to College Tennis: Developing a long-term plan for competitive players.
I. Consider your tennis plan.
►Stockpile tournament success equity so that a few bumps in the road are viewed over the context of a long career. Reflect the values of competitiveness, dedication, improvement and achievement so that a few losses don't matter much.
►Be a complete athlete: Fit, well-conditioned, versatile and resistant to imjury with the ability to adapt to the demands of a changing sport. Take great care of your body and focus on sound nutrition, efficient mechanics, strength, flexibility, functional mobility, cardiovascular conditioning and balanced rest.
►Develop a well rounded game. Coaches will be interested in what you are capable of doing, as well as what you have done. If you can play the whole court, you will be perceived as having greater upside potential for improvement.
►Don't attrition out. Many coaches have been burned by players who use tennis to leverage admission or money and then underperform or quit. Experienced coaches look for enthusiasm, character, and the desire for Improvement and growth when selecting a team.
2. Consider your personal qualities
►Be a fair and honest player. In college tennis, you represent the school, as well as your self. Many coaches will have concerns if your past behavior suggests that you may be unsportsmanlike and upset team harmony and reputation. Personal integrity matters.
►Be forthcoming in the recruitment process. Tennis is a small world in which players, parents and coaches know and share information about each others background. You might benefit from proving false information or withholding details about your interest, abilities and injuries, but it is very risky behavior. Dishonesty is not a healthy start to a potentially important relationship between a player and a coach.
►Be a team player. In regards to high school tennis, if you are top-ranked, then most coaches don't care if you opt out. If your record is less impressive than your participation as a member of a team as well as your community involvement demonstrate that you are sensitive to the team experience and the need to sometime make sacrifices for your team.
►Be independent. When players demonstrate that they can be responsible for themselves, they instill a degree of confidence in coaches that they will make an easy transition to college life.
Consider your academics
►Academics and athletics as a means for admission interact at many schools using an Academic Index.
►Athletics are not viewed in isolation from academics.
►The Ivy League for example, uses a three-part formula that combines high school performance with Standardized testing and athletics to establish a threshold for admissions, according to Dan Parish, director of admissions at Dartmouth.
►It is important to note that academics at many schools are a Performance Threshold, while athletics are a Performance Variable for admission.
►In the Ivy League, for example, 18 to 19 percent of each incoming class are recruited athletes which by some measures is the highest ratio composition of any athletic conference in the country.
Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve &Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally- ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.