There’s been a lot of discussion lately about what is being called 8th grade red-shirting; that is, players changing their graduation year on Tennis Recruiting Network to repeat the 8th grade. The reasons being bandied about for this re-classing range from trying to game the system to ducking competition and everything in between. I’ve had several in-person and email exchanges with parents asking me to look into it, so I reached out to Dallas Oliver at TRN and have had numerous email and phone conversations with him over the past couple of weeks. Here’s what Dallas had to say:
1) Yes, there has been an uptick in recent months in players updating their classes, but the majority of these are for players updating their graduation year for the first time. We make guesses on graduation years based on birthdates (you will see those marked as “provisional”), but we are wrong about 20-30% of the time.
2) August and September are always our busiest months of the year with new users. Because of that, there is naturally an increase in the number of classes updated.
3) NCAA rules start the clock on matriculation in college once a junior players starts high school. For that reason, some parents hold their kids back in eighth grade for sports. There are lots of articles on this phenomenon:
We don’t support it – but we don’t think it is a widespread problem – and it is legal to do.
As our conversations unfolded, it became clear to me that the real issue underlying everyone’s concern is what college coaches see and will the re-classing put certain kids at a disadvantage when it comes time for college recruiting. Let’s look at the profile page of the current top 2015 recruit . . .
This is her public profile page, the one regular users of the site can view. We can see where she’s from, her graduation year, her star rating, her various rankings, some photos, and her player record (with the paid membership on TRN, you can also see the details of her player record, including specific wins and losses). If we wanted to look at the entire Class of 2015, we could also do that and see the same information for each player listed.
But, what the college coaches can see is very different. Through their paid memberships, they have access to all sorts of information and data on the players that non-coaches don’t get.
Here are just a few of the things college coaches can do with their TRN account:
- Have access to TRN’s Master Ranking List which includes every single player in TRN’s system ranked together regardless of age or graduation year
- Have access to private data such as birthdate, GPA, SAT and ACT scores
- Create custom ranking lists using different factors such as geographic location, interests, GPA, SAT, ACT, graduation date, and can even include international players
- Create “watch lists” of up to 100 players and receive daily notifications on each player on that list
- See which players look at their team page each day and can track interest in the school by player
If fairness in college recruiting is the concern, then it seems to me that TRN has done a great job at making sure the college coaches see the true picture of each athlete in its system, or at least the truth that the athlete him- or herself chooses to share. I suspect the coaches are pretty savvy at discerning the real age and character of these players based not only on their TRN profile but also on personal communication with the players and their junior coaches and peers. Sadly, there will always be those parents, players, and coaches who look for, and find, a way to cheat and game the system – the rest of us simply need to play by the rules and trust the college coaches to see through the facade. If we all keep our focus on helping our own kids develop to the best of their ability, then the college stuff will take care of itself, and each of our children will end up exactly where they are meant to be.
NOTE: For a refresher on how TRN determines its weekly rankings and bi-annual Star Ratings, click here.