How to Identify Whether You Are Good Enough to Play College Tennis in the United States

by Yannick Weihs

This edition of Friday's Scholarship Guide will introduce you to a tool, which will revolutionize college tennis recruiting. A new ranking system created by Universal Tennis Rating lets you compare the level of tennis in college to yours. That way you'll see within a minute whether you are good enough for a certain team or not.

Photo credit: Steven Pisano

Two weeks ago we outlined an approach applicable to all sports, with the focus on how you can maximize your chance of getting an athletic scholarship at a US college. This week we will focus on tennis players and address the biggest issue aspiring college tennis players face, while offering a solution which makes college tennis recruiting easier than ever before.

1. The difficulty of college tennis recruiting

Who hasn't asked the question before:

"Am I good enough to play college tennis and which school or coach should I contact?"

Unless you have ATP points or are one of the top juniors in the ITF ranking you were probably not sure whether coaches would be interested in you. Especially Internationals have a tough time evaluating their chances since there is no way of comparing a national player from Croatia for instance to a national player from the United States. Due to the differences in the depth of players between countries, national rankings are hardly comparable.

Even college coaches struggle with that task. College tennis has gotten increasingly international over the last decade, and many coaches still struggle with the task of identifying one's level of tennis based on their national ranking. It is actually pretty impossible to know the level of tennis of every single country on the planet. That's why some countries are represented much more in college tennis than others. Germany is a prime example of a very well-known country. Most college coaches can compare the level of German players to the level of American players. That way they can pretty quickly assess the level of tennis of a German tennis player based on their national ranking. This increases the prospect's chances of getting recruited significantly. No coach likes to take a "leap of faith", when it comes to recruiting. They will always go for the saver bet - the player where they are sure what his or her level of tennis is.

Based on the seemingly impossible tasks of comparing one's level of tennis to the college tennis level, many aspiring college tennis players approached personal scouts in order to evaluate their chances of receiving a scholarship. Most people don't know how difficult that task is though.

Even experienced scouts who have helped dozens of athletes get a scholarship, can only make an estimated guess. Currently there are 1,664 college tennis teams, with roughly 9 players per team. Can you imagine a single person knowing the level of tennis of those +10,000 tennis players? We can't and highly doubt anyone is capable of covering a market like that. Especially since the level of tennis of selected teams can change very rapidly. That's why every single scout is in contact with a few selected coaches and has an idea of the level of tennis of some college tennis programs, but definitely not all of them.

All of the above mentioned reasons show that college tennis recruiting has very often been influenced by some randomness. Unless you were a top recruit with an exceptional junior ranking you had to be lucky to know the right people, contact the right coaches, or pick the right scout with connections to a suitable team. Thanks to a new tennis rating system this will not be the case anymore.

2. The solution - Universal Tennis Rating

We came across Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) the last time we talked to head coaches of women's tennis teams. One coach mentioned how difficult it was to assess the level of tennis of an international tennis player until she found UTR. So we looked into their services and we were highly impressed by the potential it offers to the tennis world. It really is a tool that will redefine college recruiting, which is why we decided to write this blog post.

Explanation of the rating

The ranking system combines all other rankings, within a level system that ranges from 1 to 16, with 16 being the highest. This means that it combines all tennis players, playing certain tournaments, in one ranking. So far every country has had their own national ranking system and still does. Often this leads to issues when comparing players, who do not play a lot of international tournaments, since the national rankings of two countries are simply not comparable. Through UTR's complex algorithm this fact changes though. UTR takes into consideration up to 30 games that were played over the last year and cross-checks not only the results, but also looks at the competitiveness of the matches played. Depending on these data points it computes a rating for every player.

Implications for college tennis

This tool is therefore highly important and useful, when it comes to college tennis recruiting. Both, aspiring international college tennis players as well as college coaches can benefit greatly from the Universal Tennis Rating. It enables every player with a UTR ranking to see how his or her level compared to the level of tennis of players on the different teams. In the past, aspiring college tennis players highly underestimated the level of tennis in college, since a comparison was not possible. College coaches on the other hand have a tool that simplifies their job a lot. Since it is impossible for a coach to know the level of tennis in every single country, it was not possible to compare players with two different nationalities, who did not play international tournaments. Through UTR every coach can now see within a second how a nationally highly ranked player of Croatia is doing in comparison to a lower ranked player from France. That's why we believe that UTR will be a widely used tool for college tennis. We're not surprised already more than 300 college coaches use it.

Take a look at our Top 4 Things on a College Coach Recruiting Checklist to see where the UTR comes into play.

3. How to use UTR

The remaining question is how you as an aspiring college tennis player can use the Universal Tennis Rating to improve your chance of getting an athletic scholarship.

Identify your UTR

First of all identify your Universal Tennis Rating. Below your rating you will see the reliability of your rating in percent. This is important because depending on that number, the coach will trust your ranking or not. If you are not at a 100% reliability then you should play some specific tournaments which will help you achieve those 100%. If you are curious about what tournaments you should play, feel free to contact us at contact@smarthlete.com.

Here at Smarthlete we do more than just writing about college tennis. There is a whole tennis recruiting network behind, where you can sign up for free and connect with other college coaches right away. And the great news is there's an area for your UTR just waiting to be filled in for coaches to understand right away whether you are a potential recruit for them or not!

Find the right universities

The next step is to compare your rating to the ratings of the players on the different teams. You should screen for universities where your UTR is similar to the one of the top six players. Obviously you need to adjust your search depending on your scholarship expectations. Are you looking for a 75% -100% scholarship? Then make sure you look for schools where your UTR is at least as high as the top 3 players - preferably even higher than their #1 player. Once you find those universities make sure to check if they have a senior on their team. Most probably, coaches won't have a scholarship to give away if nobody is graduating the year before you intend to start.

Contact the coach

Lastly, contact the coaches. Make sure to present them the research you have done. In the header of your message you should state your UTR, since this is the very first thing coaches look at. As mentioned in previous articles coaches also look at players' personality and academic achievements, but the very first thing they look at, is the athletes' level of tennis. They want to know whether you are good enough to play college tennis and what your spot would be on the team. One particular coach even mentioned that he is looking foremost for players who "get the job done". Obviously not every coach makes such a strong statement, but all of them definitely look at the athlete's level of tennis first. Once they know you would be a good recruit for the team, they look at the other contributing factors such as personality, academics, scholarship expectations, and alike.

We hope this article helped you evaluate your chances of getting an athletic scholarship, while giving you a guidance who to contact. Are you ready to get the recruiting process started for real? Register with your free profile on Smarthlete, add your UTR and get in contact with coaches right away through our built-in messaging tool!

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