College Tennis Due Diligence

college rankings

Men’s Collegiate Development Report (Click on the report name to open the Excel spreadsheet)

One of my son’s over-reaching tennis goals is to play at a Division 1 school where he can continue to develop his game.  He realizes that he is a stereotypical “late-bloomer” and that he’ll probably keep growing for at least the first couple of years of college, and he wants to play for a coach who can help him keep growing tennis-wise, too. So, Type A Tennis Parent that I am, I have been doing some research into programs and coaches, both those that are realistic schools for him and those that would be considered “reach” schools, to see what I could learn about player development at the collegiate level.  Luckily for me, I came across the spreadsheet in the link at the top of this article, which has been a great jumping-off point for my research.

It is the Men’s Collegiate Development Report, and it attempts to track how top US junior tennis players develop at the college level.  The purpose is to give new recruits an objective tool to see how previous top US recruits have or haven’t developed at schools they are considering and to provide college athletic departments another tool for evaluating their tennis programs. The report is by necessity overly simplistic.  First, the report tracks the top recruits based on Tennis Recruiting and includes any finishers in Kalamazoo’s quarterfinals should they not be included in the Tennis Recruiting list.  It includes information over 5 years beginning in 2004.  The report identifies the schools at which each player began their collegiate careers.  Then, it tracks their final collegiate rank at graduation time.  If the player ranked anywhere in the top 30 final ITF ranking in their last year of eligibility, then they are deemed to have continued developing their tennis skills during college.  If they transfer to another school, that results in a No Ranking score.  The transferred player is again scored at the school they finally graduate from.  Should a player turn pro prior to graduation, that is separately marked but considered a success since the player developed enough to allow that player to believe they should turn pro. Results were only considered sufficiently meaningful for ranking a school’s results if the school attracted 4 or more top US recruits during 2004 through 2008.  Obviously, the results are less meaningful to the extent a coaching change has occurred during this period.  Also, foreign players were not considered, which eliminates a large percentage of collegiate tennis players.  The results also ignore injuries in a player’s final year of eligibility. I’m hoping the creators of the report will eventually expand it to include 4- and 5-star players as well as the Blue Chippers already evaluated.  If they do, I will be sure to post the updated information for you.

If your junior player is planning to play at the collegiate level, I urge you to take a look at this report and to start doing your own research into the programs and coaches that might be best-suited for your child.  There are so many programs out there, and each one will have its own pluses and minuses depending on your child’s academic, social, and tennis goals (notice I put tennis last!).  I have been talking with Coach Chuck Kriese, who coached the Clemson Men’s Tennis Team for years, about creating a step-by-step list for parents to help their kids through the college recruiting process.  He and coach Kyle Bailey came up with the College Recruiting Timeline (click here to go to the page and download the pdf file), a To-Do list for parents and players through their high school years.  Tennis Recruiting also has a great guide on the Recruiting 101 area of its website – click here for the link.  Take a look and let me know what you think!


Mens Collegiate Tennis Development Report
Ranked Based on Players Reaching Top 30
        Based on More Than 3 Players
# of Top USTurned Pro
RecruitsOr Top 30
Ohio state4375.00%
Texas A&M5240.00%
Ranked Based on Players Reaching Top 100
        Based on More Than 3 Players
# of Top USTurned Pro
RecruitsOr Top 100
Ohio state44100.00%
Texas A&M5360.00%
SCHOOLTop RecruitsTop 30 FinishTurned ProTop 100 Finish
Texas A&M5240.00%360.00%
South Carolina10.00%1100.00%
Notre Dame3133.33%133.33%
Boise State11100.00%1100.00%
Ohio State4375.00%4100.00%
Wake Forest2150.00%150.00%
NC State10.00%1100.00%
Florida State20.00%0.00%
North Carolina20.00%150.00%
Mississippi State11100.00%1100.00%
Georgia Tech11100.00%1100.00%
UC Irvine10.00%0.00%
Sacramento State10.00%0.00%
San Fransisco10.00%0.00%

Growth & Development

My son is at an interesting place in terms of his tennis development.  As I’ve mentioned, he’s now playing up in the 18s even though he could still play another year in the 16s.  But, because of his July birthday, and because of his goal to play at Kalamazoo (which is the first week of August) next summer, he had to start working on his 18s ranking a year early.  That means he is often 2 years younger than his opponent, 2 years behind developmentally-speaking, 2 years behind growth-wise, and 2 years behind in the maturation process.

His goal during tournaments is still to win matches, of course, because he needs to get his 18s ranking to a place where he has a chance of getting into the National Hardcourts.  And, to that end, we look for tournaments for him to play where (A) he can get in and (B) he can, hopefully, win a few matches.

However, he also has another, equally (more?) important, goal:  to gauge his skill on the court against boys who are already playing the big national events and who are heading off to top college programs next year.  He needs to be able to see in black and white how his game holds up against more experienced players.  He needs to see where his strengths lie and where he still needs work.  He needs to see what specific developmental steps he has to take over the next 2+ years.

We were at a Southern Level 3 tournament in Hilton Head this past weekend.  First round, my son had the opportunity to play the 1 seed, a young man who recently committed to play at Clemson next Fall.  After the match, which my son lost 1 and 4, we all went to lunch together – my son, his opponent, his opponent’s dad, my husband, and me – and the boys talked about their match and about playing college tennis.  My son asked the young man for an honest evaluation of the match, and the young man told him that he made him work much harder than he anticipated and that my son is way ahead of where he was as a 10th grader.  I could see the smile peeking out from behind my son’s eyes!  Then, much to my surprise, my son asked his opponent if he would mention my son to the Clemson coach in hopes that the coach would take a look at him.  The boys went on to discuss the recruiting process and the things my son needs to be doing this year to get the ball rolling.  Mind you, it wasn’t anything that I haven’t been telling him for the past several months, but you know how it is with teenagers – they often don’t hear it until it comes from a peer!

The next morning, my son played another high school senior in his 2nd backdraw match and won.  It was a great boost confidence-wise for him to see that he had the goods to claim a victory over a solid player two years older and 124 ranking spots ahead of him.

Even though my son wasn’t playing his best tennis during the tournament, he found a way to eke out strong victories over two very experienced players and earn those precious ranking points.  He had the privilege of playing against someone heading off to the same post-junior-tennis life my son hopes to have and of putting his skills to a real test.  Developmentally, my son is still two years behind these guys – he still has two years to figure it out – but he needs to keep testing himself against these older players to monitor his progress.  As he has more opportunities to play these high-level guys at USTA, ITF, and ITA events, he’ll be able to keep a running tally of where he’s making strides and where he still needs work.  He and his coach will keep tweaking the training plan to help my son get where he wants to go.  And my husband and I will keep being the supportive Tennis Parents.