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.

TeamUSA Forum on College Tennis

Logo courtesy of USTA
Logo courtesy of USTA

 

Earlier this week, the TeamUSA division of USTA Player Development held its 3rd quarter online forum entitled “College Tennis: A Pathway to the Pros”, and I was able to sit in for the entire session hosted by USTA National Coach Kent Kinnear.

Speakers for the webinar included UCLA Women’s Head Coach, Stella Sampras-Webster, USC Men’s Head Coach, Peter Smith, and USTA’s head of collegiate tennis, Stephen Amritraj. You can click here to watch the forum in its entirety, but here are some of the highlights that I tweeted out yesterday:

From Stella Sampras-Webster:

  • Coachability & being willing to do what’s best for the team are key factors in recruiting.
  • Coaches have to be careful when signing athletes because most have a 4-year scholarship agreement. Editor’s Note: This is NOT a widespread practice, except for the very top recruits.
  • College coaches have to put pro events on the calendar now so their best players have an opportunity to play pro events in between college events and schoolwork.
  • There is now pressure on college coaches to sell the fact that their program can help players transition to the pro tour.

From Peter Smith:

  • How does a player treat his parents? This is an important factor during the recruiting process.
  • Recruiting is a very inexact science.
  • “A complete person makes a great pro. A complete athlete makes a great pro.”
  • Recommended reading for all parents: CHANGING THE GAME by John O’Sullivan
  • Tennis is tennis. Playing college tourneys is just as valuable as playing pro tourneys for overall development.
  • Tennis is a brutal, tragic personal sport. Players need to learn how to lose, especially if they are planning to turn pro.
  • There really aren’t many recruiting rules for kids. Coaches are the ones who have rules to follow. Kids should be reaching out to coaches!
  • The NCAA limits practice to 4 hours/day. Smith says kids have to do additional work on their own if they want to reach the next level.

From Stephen Amritraj:

  • The increased cost of pro tennis changes way we need to approach turning pro.
  • If you’re not financially ready to take on the cost of the pro tour, then college is right path.
  • Players have to go through the proper progression. There’s no easy way to the top.
  • The Collegiate National Team is a great transition opportunity for college players to get pro experience during the summers.
  • The new USTA Pro Circuit Series offers a cost-effective way for college players to dip their toe in the pro pool during the late summer/early fall.
  • USTA has put together an 18-month transition program for players meeting excellence grant criteria that includes coaching, strength/conditioning, and physio services.
  • USTA has put together a 3-part webinar to aid in the transition to the pro tour. Click here for the link.

The next forum is scheduled for Wednesday, November 9th, 8pm ET, and will focus on Mental Skills. All of the TeamUSA Forums are appropriate for parents and coaches to attend. Click here to register.