There are several possible paths to playing college tennis. What works for one player may not work for another. As tennis parents, we have to learn as much as possible about our player’s options and try to help them navigate the proper path for their particular situation and needs.
A big thank-you to Dennis and Danny Bruce for sharing their journey with ParentingAces . . .
In the spring of his junior year of high school, Danny started getting letters of interest from about 20 or 30 college tennis coaches. Most looked like form letters – the coaches were fishing, looking to build their prospect list. Coaches have their wish list of players, and players have their wish list of schools. It’s great when the player and the coach are on the same page with that list!
Danny, with dad Dennis’ help, looked at all the letters then responded to those on his own list which included about 10 schools. Danny also wrote to his top-choice schools that hadn’t sent him a letter, expressing his interest in their programs. Several of the coaches wrote back, asking which upcoming tourneys Danny was playing so they could see him in action and meet him face-to-face.
One suggestion from Clayton State Coach LeTrone Mason is to create a recruiting video that you can post on YouTube, then email the link to the various coaches on your list. The video should include a short introduction by the player (your name, where you’re from, your goals) as well as shots showing your groundstrokes, volleys, overheads, serves, and point play. Check out this video from Pepperdine Coach Adam Steinberg.
As it turns out, Danny will be going to a school that wasn’t really on his radar. In fact, neither Danny nor his dad had ever heard of the school, and, based on its name, figured it was a religion-based university which wasn’t what Danny wanted. A little online research, though, proved otherwise and sparked their interest.
The head coach of Presbyterian College (a D1 program) had seen Danny play at the Georgia Qualifier tournament the summer after his junior year. The coach really liked what he saw and showed a lot of interest in having Danny come up for an official visit in the Fall of his senior year. After thinking it over for several weeks and doing a little more digging online, Danny decided to take the coach up on his offer, and he went for an Official Visit the following September.
Danny stayed overnight, met and hung out with the team, and toured the campus. He really hit it off with both the team and the coach and made an on-the-spot decision to join them after the coach got creative and found a way to offer him a half-academic/half-tennis scholarship. (Note to my son: See, it pays to have good grades in high school!) Meanwhile, Danny and Dennis visited a couple of other schools so they would have a better feel for how Presbyterian compared. The formal Letter of Intent (LOI) from Presbyterian came a few weeks later, in early November. Danny signed and now has the luxury of knowing where he’ll be spending the next four years.
I asked Dennis what Danny’s post-college plans are. Of course, he’s still in high school, and college graduation is eons in the future when you’re 18 years old, but Danny has given some thought to what he wants to do after college. Getting a solid education is very important to him. Because he loves sports, he could see himself being a sports agent or maybe owning and running a tennis academy. Depending on how his college tennis development progresses, he may try the professional tennis route and see how it goes, but he definitely has a Plan B.
Having some clear ideas of what you want from your college experience is key. For Danny, it was important to be a contributing part of the tennis team wherever he went – he didn’t want to warm the bench for a year or more before getting to play. He also wanted a good academic program where his degree would open doors for him after he graduates. But, he says, the main factor in deciding to commit to Presbyterian was the fact that he knew the coach and other players really wanted him there. He liked feeling that he was going to be able to make a difference for the team. I think that’s one of those “intangibles” that Coach Wermer was talking about (see What Are College Coaches Really Looking For).
Oh, and in case you’re curious – and in keeping with what Patrick McEnroe shared with me – Danny is ranked well-within the top 300 in the US and is a 4-star recruit on TennisRecruiting.net with wins over five 5-stars and one Blue Chip. Results do matter!
If you and your child have recently gone through the recruiting process, please share your story in the Comments box below.