Why Leave the College Tennis Program Before Graduating?

by Dominic Tinodi

In Today's Friday Scholarship Guide we will take a look at a pattern, which often occurs once recruited tennis players start taking their bachelor's degree at college: leaving the college and thus the tennis program before graduation. In other words, some players stay less than 4 years at the university, where they received an athletic scholarship.

Photo credit: Dominic Tinodi

A bachelor's degree at a North American university takes 4 years. A student-athlete is permitted to compete at college for 4 full playing seasons, provided he or she was deemed eligible by the sports-governing association (e.g. NCAA). As a result, tennis players typically play for the same tennis program for the duration of their studies. But it does happen that student-athletes quit earlier than that. Let's take a look at the various reasons.

1. How long do coaches want you on the team?

Some time ago, we touched upon the fact that coaches look for students, who are committed to a 4-year stay at college. College recruiting is a draining process; not only for you as a player, but also for college coaches.

For that reason, a good recruit is a player who fulfills the coaches' expectations from an athletic (and academic) point of view and who is an integral member of the tennis team for 4 full seasons, before graduating successfully. It's important to know that you don't receive a sports scholarship for 4 years upfront. Instead, after each academic year the agreement is renewed for the next one to come.

Despite the above it's essentially up to each individual player whether to quit after the freshman, sophomore, or junior year. Let's take a brief look at what might trigger such a decision.

2. Why would you not stay for 4 years?

  • 2-year colleges
  • Not all universities offer 4-year degrees to its applicants. Graduating from a community college or junior college takes two years only, after which students receive a transfer degree. Athletes then have the opportunity to go for scholarship money at other 4-year colleges in order to complete their undergrad studies.

  • Turning professional
  • Consider the example of the Bryan Brothers, who spent two years playing for Stanford before eventually going straight on to the pro tour. Players with clear ambitions to turn pro might feel they need another year or so, before they are ready for the tour. We'd say turning pro is a pretty good reason to quit for top notch players.

  • Gain the college experience
  • A pattern among Internationals in particular is that they seek a scholarship offer, accept, and then leave again after a year or two. While this may have various reasons, it's pretty unfortunate for coaches in case they liked having the recruit in their lineup from an athletic perspective.

    However, taking this decision as college athlete is absolutely legitimate.

  • Loss of scholarship
  • According to the NCAA, scholarships are provided for one academic year, after which the scholarship may be renewed, which is typically what's happening. In case your coach decides to reduce or cancel your scholarship, this could cause that you will not graduate from (the same) college, and you could become a transfer student for instance:

  • Transfer student
  • Let's say you encounter issues with the coach and he or she wants to reduce your scholarship agreement to a much lower level. Or let's say the college you study at doesn't offer the degree you had in mind. You could then be exploring other options outside your school and thus not stay for the time of the bachelor's degree.

Closing remarks

We hope you got a better idea of what college could look like. It's not always the standard 4-year career at the same institution and the same sports program. Sometimes people actually find their perfect match at another college, than the original one. But very often, Internationals go to the U.S. with the attitude:

"I'll see what it is like for 6 months or a year. I can always go back home if I don't like it".

We're happy to see that the very large majority forgets about quitting very quickly and have a tremendous time.

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