If you are a high school senior who plans on playing college tennis, get ready for the most rewarding experience of your career.
In order to learn more about how players can best prepare themselves, I asked one of the best and most experienced college coaches in the country, Paul Wardlaw, head women's coach at Brown University. Paul has some terrific suggestions and as a testament to how well they work, consider that last week, his team was ranked number 29 by the ITA for Division 1. This is a remarkable achievement for a non-scholarship school.
Here are some of his thoughts:
1. A plan of action for senior year should focus on readiness for the start of the fall school year.
2. Work on skills that translate well to the demands of college tennis, including net skills for doubles.
3. Conditioning and fitness are huge for incoming freshmen. Do the work in the summer and the year will go smoothly.
4. Be fresh mentally when you arrive, as college tennis is a year-long grind, especially for freshman with all the new adventures and experiences that await. Don't leave your best tennis on the summer courts.
5. The player, parents and pro should meet and put together a schedule for readiness with an emphasis on what the player wants in terms of frequency and rigor of schedule.
I would add that after a school commitment has been made, players have a unique and great opportunity to focus on improving weakness without the concurrent pressure of worrying about tournament readiness and results.
The challenges of college tennis are a little different than the demands of junior tennis. It is wise to start adapting to the road ahead, well in advance.
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 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.