You are convinced – college tennis is the way to go. You already can’t wait to meet your new teammates, move on campus, and wear your team’s colors on the court… but now you’re wondering: how do I get myself into a college team?
You’ve probably heard about it before – the SAT and the ACT are the commonly used standardized test for entering into a US college. The exams are comprised of 3 sections: math, reading, and writing. The math section is mostly based on logical reasoning rather than using formulas and advanced notions, but can be very tricky. The reading section includes text comprehension, vocabulary choices, sentence structures, etc. Finally, for the writing section, you will be asked to write an essay on an assigned topic.
It is highly recommended that you study prior to taking the test. The best way to study for the SAT is to take practice questions and exams. The official SAT practice book can be purchased online. The SAT can be taken as many times as one wants, but keep in mind that the costs can add up and that time flies – so better be prepared! You can sign up for the SAT on its official website. The SAT cannot be taken online – you will have to register at a testing center near you.
If you are not a native English speaker, a lot of universities will require that you take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), an English proficiency test, in order to assess your English level. This test is generally considered as being less tricky than the SAT, but can still be challenging. You will find all the information concerning the TOEFL test on the ESL website.
This step is one that is easy to forget. Logically, your transcripts will only be accepted with an official translation. To avoid delays, you should find an accredited translator or translating agency before your even receive your final transcripts, and get them translated and stamped as soon as possible.
Every student-athlete must be eligible to play. You will need to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center. No clearance means you are not allowed to play for your team, which in turns mean it will be very hard (read: impossible) to attract a college coach. To get cleared, you must register on the NCAA Eligibility website, fill all the information, and provide all the necessary documentation. These will include your SAT and transcripts.
This step of the process is, for a lot of student-athletes, the most overwhelming. There are many rules and requirements, depending on the division you will play in. For example, you must have at least a certain number of high school credits, and must not have played as a professional before.
If your situation is a bit tricky or if your school system doesn't translate well into the US school system, that's when having the help of an expert can come in handy.
Now, let's get to play! Some coaches will have a higher recruiting budget and may come visit you at home to see you play, or run into you at a junior or recruiting tournament. But most likely, especially if you live outside of America, you will need to send a tennis video to the coaches for them to assess your playing level.
Normally, you are expected to show a bit of every shot, from different angles, as well as a few point plays. College coaches usually like to watch videos with points from an angle where they can see where the shots are landing. If the coach wants to see anything specific, he will ask you directly.
Note that coaches now heavily rely on the UTR ( Universal Tennis Rating) to assess a players' level, and won't only look at your video to make their mind about you. In fact, the video may be secondary, so make sure you have plenty of tournament play and work on your performance.
Just like writing your resume for potential jobs, you will need to put together a professional letter to present you to potential coaches. It is important that you show motivation and professionalism. Your presentation email will also be a way to highlight your personal qualities and personality, which is difficult to carry through a ranking or a tennis video. Of course, you will also need to highlight your best results and achievements, your strengths, your game style, your academic record, etc.
Getting closer... ;) Now that everything is ready (or almost), it's time to talk to your future coaches. Some players just go ahead and send a massive email to hundreds of coaches at once. We do not recommend doing that. Instead, make a list of school that are realistically accessible and where you would be interested to go.
How to find the schools? College Tennis Online basically lists all the universities that have a tennis team. When a school gets your attention, you can visit their varsity website (easy to find if you type on Google, ex: "Charleston Southern University tennis"). There, you can see the team's roster. Tip: the more seniors they have, the most likely they will be looking for players to fill the gap. On the website, you can also find the coach's email, and that is generally true for every coach.
Even better than emailing coaches, first look within your contacts if you know anyone who has played for a team that you would be interested in. It's no secret, it's always easier to get in touch when you have a contact. Don't get discouraged, some coaches will never respond to your email, it's just how it is. But you'll get there ;)
These 7 steps can be achieved by yourself, 100%. However, a lot of players prefer to seek the help of an agent or an agency to make the process less stressful and more efficient. Specialized agents and agencies know everything in regards to eligibility and requirements, which will insure that no mistake is made along the way. Also, they may be able to negotiate more easily with coaches as they usually have a strongly established network within the college community.
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