A Look at the Inaugural USTA All-American Combine

I’ve posted 2 articles and devoted an episode of the ParentingAces podcast to USTA’s first college combine, so it’s only fitting that I do a follow-up piece on the event.

Players checked into the National Tennis Center at Lake Nona in Orlando on Wednesday, June 14th 4-7pm. Match play and fitness testing conducted by Mark Kovacs (click here for a video of Mark and Stephen Amritraj during the event) began the following morning at 8am. All play and fitness testing was finished on Friday by 1:30pm giving players and their families time to travel back home or stay and explore all the offerings in the Orlando area for the weekend.

USTA should be very pleased with the number and diversity of participants for its first combine. When I looked at the player list on the Match!Tennis App, I saw the 122 competitors ranged in UTR from 3 to 13, quite a large span of experience and expertise. Looking at the actual draws on the TennisLink page, it seems it was a challenge to provide competitive matches for many of the players, with several of the kids posting 6-0, 6-1, and 6-2 scores for the majority of the rounds in the main draw and more of the same in the consolation brackets.

To get the inside scoop on the combine since I couldn’t be there myself, I reached out to a junior coach who took several players to Orlando for the event as well as a parent who traveled there with her son (who, it turns out, won the boys draw). Interestingly, they had very different answers to my questions.

ParentingAces (PA): Why did you decide to travel to the Combine? What did you hope to get out of it?

Coach: When I saw the advertising for it, I contacted the event director to find out more details about it. I thought it might be a great chance for players to play in front of coaches and get a chance to talk with those coaches as well. Plus, we got to vacation in Orlando also.

Parent: We decided to travel to the Combine because my son was injured and out for over 2 years, and this was a quick way to get remembered and noticed by college coaches before regaining points and a ranking, etc.

PA: What is the most valuable thing you took away from the experience?

Coach: I really got nothing of value from the event other than seeing the USTA National Campus for the first time.

Parent: For us, the most valuable thing was touching base with college coaches and also getting another data point indicating that he is right up there with his peers again.

PA: How did the match play competition compare to other junior tourney experiences?

Coach: It was not good. The main draw played one 6 game no-ad set and the consolation played one 4 game no-ad set. I had 2 issues with the scoring format they used. 1. Playing a 4 game short set means that it will not count for UTR rating for the players. So only the players that stayed in the main draw will have their matches count for UTR. 2. Because they used a tournament format, the NCAA coaches were not allowed to talk with the players in the tournament about recruiting. So you put on an event that is advertised to bring players together with coaches and they can’t talk with each other about recruiting. Not thought through very well at all.

Parent: It was a little spottier in the beginning rounds because the UTRs ranged from around 6 to 13+.

PA: Did you have a chance to interact personally with college coaches? If so, what did you learn from those experiences?

Coach: I was able to learn that most college coaches were only there for the ITA college coaches workshop and not the combine. Some came to see a player or two that they had already been talking to, but for a majority of players at the combine, they still went unseen.

Parent: Yes, there was ample opportunity for that as the college coaches were easy to identify. I learned a bit about different programs and how players are supported and developed.

PA: Was there a parent education component? If so, what was the most valuable part and what would you like to see improved for next year?

Coach: There was nothing to educate the parents. They split the kids up into 3 groups that they rotated between the 1. fitness testing; 2. college info session; 3. how to talk one-on-one with a coach session. I will talk about fitness testing later. The college info session had the potential to be great, but they didn’t have any college coaches there. They brought in 2 of the USTA player development coaches to talk with the kids, one of which admitted that he did not go to college and didn’t really know anything about the process. They put a list of 10 things to do in recruiting on a TV monitor but gave no details on how to execute them and did not give a handout to the players with the list on it. They spent a majority of the time telling about and selling the USTA PTM Professional Tennis Management program to all the kids. The how to talk to a coach session was for players only and they wouldn’t let the parents into it.

Parent: No there was no parent education component. The event was just 1 1/2 days and was jam packed with 6 one set matches and fitness. I think the parents would have had a hard time not watching the tennis because it was exciting with all the sudden death points, etc.

PA: Anything else you’d like to share about your experience? Maybe the fitness testing component and its value?

Coach: The fitness testing was the only somewhat highlight of the event. I say somewhat because if they don’t send all the testing info to the players to use for recruiting purposes then it was a waste of time also. I will say the kids had a lot of fun doing the testing but I don’t think the organizers did a good job of telling the players how important it was to give 100% during the testing because a lot of players just coasted through it. But I understand why also, because they did the testing at the end of the day after the players had been playing tennis all day and most were exhausted.

I have to question the motives, other than money, for having the event. It cost each player $350 to play, they received a T shirt and a lunch voucher for the Net Post Grill on site. Of the 4 players that I had participate, 2 played one 6 game set & five 4 game sets, 1 played two 6 game sets & two 4 game sets, 1 played one 6 game set & three 4 game sets. And there was no award for winning the consolation draw.

In my opinion this event started off as potentially a great idea to bring players and coaches together, but the details were not thought through well at all. I grade the event an F and will not recommend this to my players in the future, unless major changes are made.

Parent: It was great!! It was the first time we saw the USTA national campus and it is beyond expectations! The fitness testing results will be emailed to participants in a week or so and will be helpful to identify strengths and weaknesses to work on.

I followed up with the parent once I learned her son had won the event. As the winner, he received a Wild Card into an upcoming USTA Pro Circuit tournament. I asked what it means to her son to win the combine and if he will approach the pro circuit event any differently than other tournaments he’s played? She responded, “In general this win is meaningful because it gets the attention of college coaches by letting his racket do the talking! It also shows them RJ is good at the fast-paced college format. Personally it is another great data point for RJ showing that although he was out of tennis for over 2 years, he is right up there with his peers and then some… He is psyched about getting a Futures wildcard too! He won’t approach it any differently from any other tournament though because he works hard any time he steps out on the court and gives 100% in any matches or tournaments he plays regardless of what it is or it’s perceived importance.” For those interested in watching the Combine Finals, you can do so below.

It sounds like there were many positive aspects of the USTA’s first combine and many areas in which they can improve moving forward. From my perspective, adding a parent education piece is critical to the future success of these events. I love the fitness testing component and look forward to hearing from those of you who were there how you’re using the information gleaned from the report.

Congratulations to RJ Fresen (age 16) and Anika Yarlagadda (age 15) for winning the event and earning the Wild Card! A big thank you to photographer Bill Kallenberg of Captured in Action and Kathleen Horvath for the photos in the slideshow. For more information on the combine, click here to read USTA’s article. If any of you were at the Combine and would like to share your experience, please do so in the Comments.


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!

  • 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)
  • 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.

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.

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!

Q&A with Tulane Men’s Coach Mark Booras

Tulane Men's Tennis Coach Mark Booras-2017-01-05

This is my second piece for the ITA website. I’m so enjoying the opportunity to get to know some of the college coaches better – hope you are, too!

Tulane men’s tennis head coach Mark Booras knew he had a huge challenge facing him when he agreed to move from Baton Rouge down to New Orleans. Not only was he accepting his first head coaching job, but he was also coming into a situation that no other tennis program had faced before.

Booras discusses the challenges he faced in bringing a former powerhouse team back from the brink following a devastating natural disaster.

Question: You were hired to bring tennis back to Tulane after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. What were some of the challenges in terms of recruiting players to a campus and a city in the process of rebuilding? Did you have to recruit differently than you had previously, and then you do now? Did anyone help mentor you during this time?

Answer: I looked at it as a great opportunity to do something special and unique that no one had ever done in men’s tennis. The Tulane team, pre-Katrina, was top 25 in the country. I wanted to start from scratch and bring it back to that level. We had nothing and had to get people to come to the school so we could start a team. There were so many media challenges and misunderstandings about what life was like at Tulane and in New Orleans. Perception of the devastation was a little off, to say the least. My coaching staff and I had to convince recruits that we were back and excited to be back and wanted to be a top 10 team in the US once again. The biggest challenge was getting people to buy into our vision and to jump on the bandwagon to help get us there.

Recruiting definitely changed. We had to find guys who wanted the opportunity to compete at the Division I level, and we knew we weren’t going to have all four-and-a-half scholarships to use in that first year. Most of the guys we recruited were walk-ons that first year. Instead of having a set number of scholarships to recruit with, I had to rethink it so that I could spread out the scholarships over the next four years of incoming classes. Everything was a little bit tougher. I had to get people to buy into something that wasn’t there yet. They had to buy into a vision. I had to reinforce that vision not only to all of our recruits but also to the assistant coach and to the administration. We searched for and found guys who wanted to jump on board and help us go forward. I had to build the right kind of foundation for the program. I had to get the right kids academically and with the right character who were going to help us build the program. I was looking for the best fit academically, athletically, and with what we were trying to do. I knew that if the foundation was off, then in the future everything else would be off, too. It was just like building a house – you have to start with the right foundation.

I didn’t have anybody I could ask questions of. I was going off what I thought would be the best way to build something from scratch. I knew the foundation had to be right. Rick Dickson, the Tulane Athletic Director, was a mentor and encouraged me to take the ball and run with it. He was very helpful during recruiting and wanted me to make sure I was recruiting the right kids academically. There was no blueprint for how to do this, but I followed my gut and my idea of how to build anything. The Tulane administration was very patient with me building it the right way. They understood that it would be a longer process to reach the place Tulane had been before Katrina. I shared my vision of the program with Rick during my initial job interview. He liked that vision and helped me execute it.

Q: After your collegiate career at the University of West Virginia, you decided to try your hand on the ATP tour. What made you decide to leave the tour and return to school for your master’s degree?

A: I came to that crossroads when I started running out of financial support. My family had put a lot into my tennis – financially and emotionally. I was ranked in the 200’s, but needed to be ranked a little higher to earn enough money to continue, so I stopped. I knew I wanted to get into coaching if I had to stop playing. I saw improvements in my own game when I started focusing on the mental side of it, so I wanted to learn more about that and decided to pursue a masters in sport psychology. I knew it would make me a better all-around coach.

Q: What did you learn as the director of USTA’s Summer Collegiate Team that has helped you be a better college coach?

A: That was a great honor to be selected to coach the Summer Collegiate Team. Getting to work with those top players for the whole summer – work with them, manage them – opened my eyes to another aspect of the coaching game and the college game. I was grateful that USTA and ITA selected me. Working with that level of student-athlete consistently – we had 4-6 guys who were the top college players in the country – and getting to see how they did things on and off the court in such a professional way showed me how they prepared every single day for success at that level. It clarified what I was doing as the Assistant Coach at LSU but also taught me some things that I needed to incorporate in my coaching. I went into the next year with more confidence as a coach.

Q: How important is it to you, as a coach, to see your players excel in the classroom?

A: My first conversation with every recruit or parent is as follows: You are coming here to get a degree, first and foremost. I know you want to play tennis and maybe be a pro player, and I want to help you do that. My biggest job is to help you get that degree and help you become a man of integrity.

Guys hear that during recruiting, then if they come here, they hear it every day. All coaches are educators. We’re trying to make sure these guys are getting educated in all aspects of their life. It’s important when they’re around me that they learn what I feel is important to being successful in life. I can teach forehands and backhands and how to be successful on the court, but in the meantime you’re going to be here getting a degree and that’s what the student-athletes need to focus on.

There are three factors to being a student-athlete: sport, academics, social. All three factors have to be working well in order for the student-athlete to be successful. If any one of the factors is off, it negatively impacts the other two. At Tulane, the academics are very tough, so I want to be sure my guys are doing well in the classroom so they can do well on the court.

Q: Last year, one of your players, Dominik Koepfer, was the top-ranked collegiate male in the country. What do you think led to Dominik’s success and what role did you play in helping him achieve such a high level? How does that impact your recruiting now?

A: Dominik (Koepfer) was a prototypical student-athlete. He did a lot right. One of the things that led to his success was his effort on the court as well as his belief in himself. In those two areas, we really pushed him. He was a hard worker which helped him get better and stronger on the court. We helped him with the mental side. Dominik didn’t come in as a national champion in his home country of Germany – he played No. 5 his freshman year for us. The hard work he put in on the court, as well as his belief in himself, and the openness to listen to his coaching staff to try new things technically and tactically and to be positive on the court, allowed him to succeed.

It was a long process. During his junior year he broke through at the national events, and then he wanted to be #1 and see how far he could take it. He kept giving himself the opportunity to be successful. As a coaching staff, we kept encouraging him to keep doing the right things to get him there. He’s a very intense guy and was often quick to get angry on the court. We helped harbor some of those emotions and rechannel them the right way.

Having a No. 1 player has helped our recruiting a ton. We make calls or send emails and we now get replies! Especially with the German guys! It’s opened up some doors for sure. The past couple of years we’ve seen the student-athletes around the country have more interest in what we’re doing here. Now the team is back in the top 25 or 30. All of those things put together have helped our recruiting for sure.

The vision I was sharing seven years ago is now coming to be. I use that story of the vision to recruit the right guys for our team. That team seven years ago that had a 3-16 record, I tell them they’re the ones who helped us get to where we are now. It’s been a process just as I envisioned. I’m so thankful to all the guys from Year 1 to this year. Their investment has helped us put Tulane back on the map.

A Few Updates

latest-updatesI know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new – my apologies! My laptop died about 2 weeks ago, smack dab in the middle of the One Love Atlanta Open women’s tournament, and I’m just now getting up to speed on my new one. For the full results of the Atlanta tourney, click here.

For those of you with high school juniors and seniors, I know you’re in the throes of college recruiting. At the request of one fellow Tennis Parent, I’m researching upcoming college showcases, including the one held during the ITA Coaches Convention in Florida in early December. Interestingly, Tennis Recruiting is going to be running that showcase this year and will be posting an article on TennisRecruiting.net very shortly. I will share the link once it goes live. If you’re planning to attend – or have already attended – any showcases with your junior, I’d love to hear about your experience – please share in the Comments below.

Speaking of college recruiting, one of the most-anticipated recruits in recent months has been CiCi Bellis. She announced earlier this year that she had verbally committed to play for Stanford beginning Fall 2017. However, after her great run at this year’s US Open, she decided to forego the college experience and turn pro with representation from IMG. You can read more about CiCi’s decision in this article by Colette Lewis. I was really hoping she would give Stanford at least a year, but I certainly understand her decision and wish her all the best as she follows her dream!

The Fall tournament season is underway for the college bunch with multiple events happening in various cities around the US. Bobby Knight is keeping all of us updated with results on his website here. He’s really good about tweeting scores, too, so be sure to follow him @College10s2day.

In just a couple of weeks, I will be heading out to the West Coast to cover the Oracle/ITA Junior Masters tournament. In addition to covering the juniors, I will also be doing a little work for the ITA on the collegiate event running simultaneously at the Malibu Racquet Club. This is one of the only events – maybe even THE only event – where juniors have the chance to compete alongside college players in parallel tournaments, and I can’t think of a more beautiful place to host it than in Malibu! FloTennis, an ITA partner organization, will be livestreaming the matches at www.flotennis.com/.

In terms of junior tennis news, the only thing I have to report is that Katrina Adams was just named to a 2nd term as USTA president. As far as I know, this is an unprecedented move by the USTA. With the new Lake Nona facility nearing completion, maybe USTA felt it would be in everyone’s best interest to have some continuity of leadership. I hope this turns out to be a good move for our sport. I have been very impressed with Martin Blackman’s work as the head of Player Development since he began in June 2015 and am hopeful that he will stay on for a while.

There are several new podcasts on the ParentingAces YouTube channel, so please be sure to check them out. This week’s guest is still TBD, but stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter feeds for updates.

That’s it for now. More to come later in the week.