The NCAAs Are Where They Belong

NCAAs

For the past two days – and for the next 10 – I have been in Athens, Georgia at the NCAAs at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. My Happy Place.

I’ve missed attending the NCAA Championships the past two years. For some reason, the Powers That Be thought there was a better place than UGA to host this premier college tennis event. Imagine that! And, after next Monday, Athens won’t see the Championships again until at least 2023. It’s at Wake Forest next year followed by UCF (i.e. the new USTA mega complex in Lake Nona), Oklahoma State, UCF again, then University of Illinois in 2022. Word on the street is that Lake Nona could become the permanent home of the Championships if all goes as planned in terms of attendance and the growth of the UCF tennis program under John Roddick’s guidance. I absolutely wish UCF all the best, but I hate to think of the NCAAs anywhere but Athens.

Driving onto the UGA campus brings back so many fond memories for me. My son attended Bulldog Tennis Camp starting at age 9. My middle daughter spent her Collegiate Tennis Hall of Famecollege years on that campus. And the energy it exudes during the Jewel in the College Tennis crown is unmatched. To top it off, this campus is the home of the Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame. If that doesn’t make you believe the Championships belong here, well . . .

Just walking around the tennis complex is like Old Home Week. I run into friends made at junior tournaments around the country. I runNCAAs

Maria Cercone

into coaches I’ve interviewed. I run into industry people I’ve gotten to know over the past several years. I run into fellow tennis fans that I’ve met on the court myself. It’s just an amazing atmosphere.

Today, I’ll be back out there for four more men’s matches. My alma mater – UCLA – faces my daughter’s alma mater and the host team – UGA – this afternoon. It should be a great match, filled with all the elements that make college tennis so great. And it will be enhanced by the fact that the home team does such a bang-up job at getting its fans out en force to create an energy that rivals any football game.

I’m going to soak up everything about this year’s NCAA Championships because who knows when it will return to its rightful place: the University of Georgia Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

For everything you need to know about this year’s NCAAs, click here to go to the official website. For updates on scores and results during the matches, be sure to follow Bobby Knight @College10s2day on Twitter. I’m tweeting updates and posting on Instagram as well (@ParentingAces).

Today’s schedule: Men’s Quarterfinals

Noon:
#10 Texas vs. #2 Virginia
#6 TCU vs. #6 Ohio State

4pm:
#13 UGA vs. #5 UCLA
#9 UNC vs. #1 Wake Forest

Tomorrow’s schedule: Women’s Quarterfinals

Noon:
#6 Texas Tech vs. #3 Ohio State
#7 Stanford vs. #2 UNC

4pm:
#9 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Florida
#12 Pepperdine vs. #4 Vanderbilt

Note from Lisa: I seem to be having trouble formatting the photos so that they appear right side up on both computers and mobile devices. Please bear with me as I try to sort this out!

 

PlaySight Livestreaming 2017 NCAA Championships

Playsight livestreaming at Stanford

PlaySight, the company behind the video and analytics SmartCourt, is partnering with the University of Georgia to provide livestreaming throughout the upcoming 2017 NCAA Championships.

PlaySight SmartCourt technology is powering over 40 NCAA tennis programs. Among the 16 teams entering the third round of the tennis championships later this week in Athens, 10 on the women’s side and eight on the men’s side use PlaySight technology for video and analytics training, performance and livestreaming.

To tune in to the livestreaming throughout the 2017 NCAA Championships, bookmark this page for the live video and live scoring.

PlaySight technology is helping to shine the spotlight back on college tennis after years of losing out to other sports. The sport is full of great stories, coaches and athletes, and together with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, PlaySight is giving the very best sports technology to players and coaches across the country.

Coach Manny Diaz and the University of Georgia Bulldogs were the first NCAA tennis program to invest in PlaySight technology almost four years ago – so it is fitting that one of the finest facilities in the nation is now wired from top to bottom with PlaySight video and streaming technology.

Several schools across the nation – from USC in Los Angeles to Oklahoma State in Stillwater – credit PlaySight technology with improving various aspects of their programs, from training to fan and alumni engagement. Check out what the coaches from the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Cowgirls had to say about PlaySight after the 2016 season (click here to read).

More PlaySight fast facts:

  • 12/25 men’s top 25 ITA-ranked programs use PlaySight
  • 13/25 women’s top 25 ITA-ranked programs use PlaySight
  • Vanderbilt University is the latest school to add PlaySight
  • PlaySight is now working with tennis programs across Divisions 1, 2 and 3
  • PlaySight has added two new SmartCourt products – the Live and Play – to provide a more affordable price point for all tennis programs
  • PlaySight successfully launched the PlayFair initiative this year along with the ITA, bringing video replay and challenge technology to college tennis – with plans to scale up for the future

To check out which schools are working with PlaySight, or to find out more about their three SmartCourt products, click here.

To watch PlaySight livestreaming from the University of Georgia throughout the 2017 NCAA Championships, tune in here.

Note from Lisa: I will be in Athens covering the 2017 NCAA Division I Championships beginning this Thursday. If you plan on being there, too, please find me and say hello!

Q&A on USTA College Combine with Stephen Amritraj

USTA logo college combine

The first college combine sponsored by USTA is coming up next month. I’ve fielded several questions about this new event, so I reached out to USTA’s head of collegiate tennis, Stephen Amritraj, to get some answers for y’all. You can also listen to my recent podcast with Stephen here.

ParentingAces: Why did USTA decide to put on a college combine and what does it hope to accomplish?

Stephen Amritraj: We understand the landscape for parents and players going into college tennis. One of the priorities of the USTA Collegiate team is to have more Americans playing college tennis and the USTA All American Combine is our biggest event to support that goal. We hope that by putting as many American players on as many courts in front of as many college coaches as possible, we can help increase the amount of Americans on College Tennis rosters.

PA: There are several other college exposure camps and events around the country. What sets the USTA Combine apart?

Amritraj: I would say there are several reasons why this is unique: 1) It’s only open to Americans. That in itself is a difference that aligns with our priorities and mission. 2) This will have tennis and fitness testing combined to showcase different sides of each athlete. 3) It’s at the USTA National Campus which is really an incredibly special place for the sport that we all love. 4) The various levels of players and coaches are going to be wider than other recruiting showcases mainly due to the fact that they are playing for a $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit Futures Main Draw Wild Card to the winner based on a combination of tennis and physical components. All of the results from their set play will count for Tennis Recruiting and UTR. 5) Finally, we have also partnered with the ITA to host a coaches symposium the evening of June 15th for the college coaches that attend.

PA: How many players and how many college coaches are you expecting? What regions and college divisions will the coaches represent (i.e. D1, D2, D3, NAIA? Southeast, West Coast, etc.)?

Amritraj: We expect a national pull of 60-80 players. Currently, we have entrants from over 15 states. We will have college coaches from all over the country with all divisions being represented.

PA: What were the factors USTA considered when choosing the date and location for the Combine?

Amritraj: We chose the National Campus to host the event because of its location and great facilities. However, choosing a date was difficult because there is some overlap with Sectional events across the country. We selected the June date the after the Florida sectional so that we could capitalize on the college coaches that attend the final day.

PA: How do players sign up to attend? How will players be selected?

Amritraj: You can sign up on Tennislink.usta.com, tournament ID 150025417 (click here). All American players will be accepted into the combine.

PA: Are there any grants or scholarships available to help offset the $349.88 entry fee?

Amritraj: This year we do not have any, but we hope to add in the future.

PA: Has USTA arranged any type of travel and lodging discount for the players? What about meals?

Amritraj: We have a room block at the Courtyard Marriott (call 407-856-9165 to reserve) with a discounted rate for Combine participants, and we will provide a lunch voucher on Thursday, June 15th.

PA: Anything else you’d like us to know?

Amritraj: There will be something for everyone in the USTA All American Combine and would ask parents, players, and coaches to do their research throughout the collegiate decision process. We truly believe College Tennis has a place, at some level, for way more American junior players than are currently playing in it and hope this event can help.

College Recruiting Info on ParentingAces

college recruiting infoI’ve recently added and shared several articles and podcasts related to the college recruiting process and figured it might be easier for my readers if I put all the new stuff into one post. In the following bulleted lists, you will find links to the latest information on choosing a college tennis program, collegiate exposure camps, college recruitment camps, and what to look for in a college coach.

While most of the links are for original ParentingAces content, some lead to outside sources as well. Please read and listen and educate yourself as best you can. The college recruiting process is complicated and can be riddled with potholes, so be sure you are well-armed before you jump in!

Articles
  • Showcases, Combines, & Camps . . .Oh, My! (click here)
  • UTR Adds New Recruiting Aid (click here)
  • The Relevance of College Rankings (click here)
  • Everything An Incoming Freshman Collegiate Athlete Should Expect (click here)
  • Go To College Or Become A Pro Player? (click here)
  • Get Recruited Faster (click here)
  • Intercollegiate Tennis Association Announces 2017 ITA Summer Circuit Powered By UTR (click here)
  • Home School Students (click here)
  • Preparing for College Tennis (click here)
  • USTA Midwest College Showcase and Information Session (click here and here)
Podcasts
  • What is the point of college exposure camps? With Ed Krass – includes discount offer! (click here)
  • Getting prepared for college recruiting with consultant Tarek Merchant – includes discount offer! (click here)
  • How a recruiting consultant can help before – and during – college with TennisSmart’s Sarah Borwell (click here)
  • What the USTA is doing to help American juniors get scholarships & succeed in college with Stephen Amritraj (click here)
  • Why you should consider D3 college tennis with Adam Van Zee (click here)

Please let me know if there are any other areas of the college recruiting process that you’d like me to address. I love talking about college tennis and am happy to answer any questions you might have via phone, email, or the Comments area below.

Showcases, Combines, & Camps . . .Oh, My!

If your junior has his or her sites set on playing college tennis, you’ve likely been investigating the various showcases, combines, and camps available for your child to get seen by a variety of college coaches. As summer approaches, there are quite a few of these events cropping up in the coming weeks, so let’s take a look at what’s available. Hopefully, this will help you choose the right event(s) and spend your money wisely.

USTA All-American Combine

The latest offering in the college exposure space is USTA’s All-American Combine (click here for the entry form on TennisLink). This first-time event will be held June 14-16, 2017 at the new USTA National Campus in Orlando. It is open to any American junior player age 13-18. The entry fee is $349.88 (food, lodging, and transportation not included).

Per the description from USTA, the All-American Combine is designed to give American juniors recruiting exposure and knowledge of college tennis programs around the nation. Participants will engage in a number of on- and off-court evaluations over the two days, including match play in front of college tennis coaches and presentations from industry experts such as Mark Kovacs. The players’ results will count toward each player’s Universal Tennis Rating (UTR). This event will be considered a Tennis Recruiting “National Showcase” for the purposes of ratings on Tennis Recruiting (TRN). At the conclusion of the event the overall boy’s and girl’s winner will receive a main draw wild card into a USTA Pro Circuit $15,000 event.

As of today’s date (April 14, 2017), I have not seen a list of attending colleges or coaches. Stephen Amritraj told me that as they get a finalized list of coaches in conjunction with the ITA, they will be posting it – I’m assuming it will be posted on both the USTA website as well as on the combine’s TennisLink page. I will update this article as more information becomes available. In the meantime, be sure to listen to my podcast with Stephen here.

Collegiate Exposure Camps

These privately-offered 3-, 4- or 5-day camps immerse prospective student-athletes into a simulated atmosphere of what it means to be a college tennis player, including on- and off-court training plus classroom time. They are geared toward players entering grades 8-12 and are held on college campuses staffed with variety of college coaches who work with the players in groups and individually. Participants can either come each day or stay overnight. The cost ranges from $850 to $1400 (plus an additional $100 for overnight campers) depending on the length of the camp. Enrollment is limited to a maximum of 5 players per court and is done on a first-come first-served basis. The 2017 dates are as follows:

  • June 16-19,  June 23-25, June 23-27 University of Pennsylvania
  • July 10-12 Yale University

Coaches attend from almost every level of college tennis who are not only there to help the campers but who are also looking to recruit players.  Since the recruiting process now starts as early as 9th grade, the opportunity to begin exploring and thinking about the college process and college tennis is invaluable for both older and younger players. The camp is a great tool for coaches to get to know your player’s personality, see how he/she interacts with peers, and how he/she trains and competes.

For more information, click here to go to the website and click here to listen to my podcast with the founder, Tarek Merchant – be sure to listen all the way to the end for a special discount offer on Collegiate Exposure Camps for the ParentingAces community!

Ed Krass Collegiate Exposure Camps

Another highly-recommended exposure camp is the series offered by Ed Krass (click here), now in its 29th year. These camps are open to players age 14-18 and are held at UVA, Lehigh, and Brandeis universities for 2017. If you register before April 30, the cost ranges from $645 to $3300 depending on the length of the camp. If you register after April 30, the price increases $50.

The Krass camps helps players:

  • Improve matchplay strategy, shot selection and shot placement
  • Achieve better results against higher ranked players
  • Improve footwork, speed and level of fitness
  • Learn about the college recruiting process and how it works
  • Learn how to conduct a college tennis search
  • Understand the various levels of college tennis
  • Identify the profiles of specific college tennis programs
  • Network with head college coaches from across the U.S.
Showcases

There are many options for college showcases around the US and abroad. The following is a list of showcases that parents have recommended along with links to their websites. Be sure to compare the dates, cost, and list of attending coaches/colleges when choosing the right showcase for your child.

  • Donovan Showcase: This year’s showcases are being held at Yale and Harvard with a showcase coming in January 2018 at the Claremont Colleges in Southern California. The cost ranges from $395 to $550 with a substantial discount for Donovan Recruiting clients. Click here to go to the website.
  • I’m Recruitable: This showcase is held between the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl tournaments in December in South Florida. For information on the 2017 showcase, click here.
  • ITA College Showcase: TennisRecruiting.net sponsored a showcase during the ITA Coaches Convention in Naples, Florida, in December 2016 (click here to read about it). Entry was limited to 32 boys and 32 girls currently in grades 9-12. According to TRN’s Julie Wrege, they are still in discussions with the ITA about doing another showcase in 2017, and I will post an update once I get more information. In the meantime, TRN is sponsoring a College Coaches Forum in conjunction with the Georgia Junior Open — the largest junior tournament in the state of Georgia – on Saturday, July 15th, at 7:30pm. This will be their 7th year conducting this forum.
  • TennisSmart: Former top British player, Sarah Borwell, offers a college showcase to her UK clients free of charge. If you live and train in the UK, you can get more information on TennisSmart by clicking here. You can also hear more from Sarah about her services in our podcast here.

If your child has already attended a camp or showcase, please share your experience in the Comments below.

Q&A with Georgia Gwinnett College’s Chase Hodges

Here is my third piece for the ITA website. It was very interesting to learn more about the NAIA and how it compares to the other college sports divisions.

In 2012, Chase Hodges was offered a unique opportunity: move to a small 4-year NAIA school in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and start both a men’s and a women’s tennis program from scratch. At that point in his career, Hodges was working as the head men’s coach at Georgia State University (Division I) where he had just been named Co-Coach of the Year for the Colonial Athletic Association. Prior to his stint at Georgia State, he had coached at Drake University, where he was named Missouri Valley Coach of the Year three times.

The Georgia Gwinnett College position would prove challenging, but Hodges wasn’t fazed. In the almost-five years since he started the program, he has led the Grizzlies to two women’s national championships and three men’s national championships, and expects to add many more to the team resumé.

Question: What is your overall coaching philosophy?

Answer: It’s pretty much been the same since day one, since I started coaching: recruiting the best possible student-athletes from around the world who fit the high academic profile of the college where I’m coaching. With each recruiting class, you want to find the best possible fit athletically and academically so players can jump right in and be a contributor. I think a lot of schools and coaches are looking for players who can be good two or three years down the road. I’m looking for contributors as freshman, players who can come in and be ready to go.

Q: Why did you decide to make the coaching move from Division I Georgia State to NAIA school Georgia Gwinnett College?

A: That was the toughest thing about taking the Georgia Gwinnett job: going from Division I to NAIA. Initially, what really swayed me was being able to start something from the ground up and put my own stamp on it. It’s very rare that you get to start a program at a school that has never had athletics. The opportunity to build something has given, and continues to give, me such a sense of accomplishment. We started from nothing – no players, no tennis balls, no clothes. I wasn’t sure I’d ever have that type of opportunity again so I took full advantage of it.

Q: What are some of the challenges of recruiting at an NAIA school?

A: The biggest challenge is that most of the kids I’m communicating with don’t really have much knowledge about NAIA. I’m constantly having to explain NAIA to recruits, teaching them as much as I can about the division. At our program, we can compete with anybody, and I just have to provide a little more background to recruits than I ever had to do at the DI level.

Q: What’s the main difference between Division I and NAIA that you have to explain to potential recruits?

A: From a competitive standpoint, at the top of the NAIA the teams are really just as good as any. Realistically, the depth is nowhere near where it is at DI. That’s the biggest difference, the depth at the DI level. The top teams in NAIA can compete with anybody. Being in Atlanta, we’re able to schedule a lot of high level teams on our calendar. Only about 20% of our schedule is actually against other NAIA teams. We schedule everybody, regardless of division.

Q: How do you balance coaching both the men’s and women’s teams?

A: It’s difficult. Before I came here, I was primarily a men’s coach though I did have the opportunity to coach both men and women at earlier jobs in my career. There are only so many hours in the day, and when you have two teams you have to manage your time extremely well. You have to provide a quality team practice where everyone can get what they need. You also have to have a quality assistant. My assistant, Courtney Rutherford, and I balance each other well.

Q: Speaking of Courtney Rutherford, how important to you is he? What unique attributes does he bring to your coaching team?

A: We complement each other. I pretty much handle the majority of the recruiting. Courtney loves being on court – he’d love to be on court 50-60 hours a week! – so he handles that aspect. That really helps our athletes continue to develop and get better. He has a passion for the game and is enthusiastic and energetic about making the players better. His strength is developing players. My strength is recruiting. When you combine both our strengths, we make a pretty good team.

Q: How do you manage the challenge of fundraising and promoting your program?

A: This past Fall, we did our first-ever tennis fundraiser: a pro-am event where area players had the chance to play doubles with our team members. Our national championships – we’ve won five (two women, three men) – have helped make the community aware of us and make our fundraisers successful. We’re in a unique situation because a lot of people don’t really know much about GGC, but we have 13,000 students and are the only 4-year college in our county and are continuing to grow. As the school becomes more recognizable in the county and state and even around the country, the fundraising will be easier, too. Our city mayor comes to all our home matches – she’s a great supporter! Our facility is fantastic – we host a lot of USTA tournaments which helps raise awareness of our school and our program as people come in and out of the facility. Our on-court results help, too. Our athletic director, Dr. Darin Wilson, has been a huge supporter. Our president, Stas Preczewski, is phenomenal as well and has been incredibly supportive of our athletic department and our tennis program. We only have six sports at our school. We’ve gotten great support from all areas of our campus. The Grizzlies, our name, is something that everyone gets excited about, too. Our program is continuing to grow and to get bigger and better.

Q: What advice would you give to a young coach just starting out at the college level?

A: Make sure you have a good relationship with your athletic director and/or the assistant athletic director, whoever is in charge of tennis. That’s key and will shape your success. You have to cultivate those relationships because they determine how successful you’ll be. They will be crucial to your growth, not only as a coach but also as a person.

Q: Who do you turn to for career guidance?

A: My 73-year-old dad is my mentor. He just retired as a collegiate basketball coach, head coach at a Division II school in North Carolina where I grew up, but also had a career as a high school athletic director and high school coach. I’ve been in the tennis profession since 1998, and my dad and I have communicated daily since the beginning. Like all coaches, we both have a competitive nature. My dad helps me balance to make sure my student athletes have the best possible experience. I’m very thankful that I’ve been able to trust him. It’s been great for me.

Q: How important is having a mentor in your life?

A: You can’t be successful on your own. A lot of people nowadays don’t realize that in order to be successful you have to have a team of people around you that you can talk to, communicate with. Mentors in general – they don’t even have to be tennis-specific – are very valuable because they allow you to maximize your potential. They are necessary, for sure. There’s no way I could have had the success I’ve had without the good people I’ve had around me to help me along the way.

UTR Adds New Recruiting Aid

The folks at Universal Tennis Rating are making it even easier to find the right fit when it comes to college recruiting.

UTR Fit is a new feature added this week – you can quickly search for all college teams where a college-bound junior’s UTR is above the college team’s number 6 player. You can further filter the search by Gender, State, Division, Conference, and Public vs. Private universities.

NOTE: Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of this article for a very special offer from UTR for ParentingAces readers!

While the Universal Tennis site shows the ratings of all players on a team’s roster, college coaches don’t necessarily field their lineups in order of UTR, so Fit isn’t a perfect tool in terms of determining where a junior might play in the actual lineup. Also, as recruiting consultant Oscar Miranda points out, most college coaches aren’t looking to recruit a #6 player; rather, they are looking to recruit players for the middle to top of their lineup. In that sense, juniors are better off looking for colleges where their own UTR falls somewhere toward the middle of a team’s top 6 players. So, while the current UTR Fit tool doesn’t specifically allow you to search for the average playing roster’s UTR – just as the UTR Fit doesn’t specifically return teams where a junior’s UTR would project them potentially in the top/number 1 position (though wouldn’t that be a great feature for future iterations?!?!), the Fit tool can narrow the field for junior players and help them target the best schools based on their own playing ability and that of the existing team members. Take it from me, with over 1000 college tennis programs out there, having the ability to narrow the field is a huge advantage during the recruiting process!

I asked Bruce Waschuk, CEO of Universal Tennis, a few questions to help clarify how the new Fit feature can best be used:

Lisa: What was the impetus behind adding the Fit feature to the UTR website?

Bruce: Our Team at Universal Tennis is always looking to improve our services and the functionality of the UTR system in an effort to promote level-based play. We believe that if event organizers can improve their ability to group similar levels of tennis players together, that the participants will more likely enjoy their matches, and improve their tennis skills faster.

Although the UTR system was not designed to be a college recruiting system, we understand that hundreds of college coaches use UTRs to determine if a prospective student-athlete is at the appropriate playing level for their team. And in turn, thousands of juniors, and their parents, use the UTR as a measuring stick to determine if college tennis is for them, and which teams a recruit would be a good playing level fit.

Our developers just added a new UTR Fit feature to our system, that allows someone to see within seconds, if their UTR would be at a high enough level to make the starting lineup of a college roster. The College Search report allows UTR Premium Plus subscribers the ability to see all the schools where their UTR is above the level of the sixth highest UTR roster player. From here, the subscriber can filter the school listing by state, public/private, conference and division.

Each college coach will have their own criteria for what they are looking for in a recruit, as well as the UTR level the prospect should be. We believe the UTR Fit tool provides a very quick reality check when setting level of play expectations a junior may have when starting to plan for college tennis.

Lisa: At what point in their junior careers do you recommend players begin relying on this feature to help them with their college search?

Bruce: We’re not in the position to say when a junior should start planning for college tennis, as our Team isn’t focused on the college recruiting process. This is one of the reasons we enjoy reading the many articles on this subject that get posted on your ParentingAces.com website. However, we would recommend the following article to help juniors better understand what type of college tennis experience best suits their interests: “Right Team, but Wrong Guy—How making the starting lineup can backfire” by Eric Butorac

Lisa: What tools do you see UTR adding in the future to make the college search easier and more reliable for juniors?

Bruce: We are working on a variety of tools and services that should help juniors enjoy tennis more through level-based play, chart their development, and show off their game to college coaches.

A few of these include:

UTR Events: Expect many more events in 2017 where juniors can play against current college players within a level-based event.

UTR Doubles: Our new individual rating based on doubles results will be released within weeks. Doubles is kind of important for college tennis.

Player Profiles: We just introduced the ability for UTR subscribers to claim their player profile. Lots of new profile features are planned, which will provide notifications, alerts, and communication among other UTR profiles, including college teams.

Video: The online world is embracing video at a rapid pace. The UTR system is planning to accommodate links to matches for parents to watch their kids, coaches to provide match play feedback, and college coaches to be able to quickly view prospective recruits.

College recruiting is difficult and complicated with rules that seem to change every year. The more tools junior players have at their fingertips to help avoid making a bad choice, the better. UTR Fit is a great addition to a player’s recruiting arsenal.

Now, as promised, here is a great offer for y’all from UTR (just click on the graphic below to go directly to the offer). Be sure to take advantage quickly as it expires the end of February!