Why College Coaches (Tennis) Care Where an Athlete is From

by Dominic Tinodi

Where are you (the athlete) from, where do you live and why does it matter? Coaches of men's and women's tennis teams care for several reasons, but foremost because coaches need to identify how strong you are in reality. Find out more about how your residency is an excellent starting point for exactly that.

Photo credit: Dominic Tinodi

To many of us where people come from is nice to know, but not necessarily any more important than that. For college coaches instead, region or nationality you come from carries a great amount of information.

1. "Small-world" tennis community

Ever heard of the "small-world experiment", stating that people in the United States are separated by an average six people? Or in other words, every citizen in the U.S. knows a random other person connected by 6 people in between. You may wonder, where on earth is the relation to this blog article? Admittedly, a fair question, but let's get to it:

Let's be honest, the tennis world is pretty "small" in the sense that people know each other. College coaches are well connected; they know colleagues around the country, they've scouted at tournaments before, talked to parents, or simply worked at schools or clubs in various states. There's a pretty good chance you know another tennis player in one way or the other separated by even fewer people than the above-mentioned six. Intriguing isn't it?

And here's the relation to today's topic, being why location is an important and interesting piece of information for coaches in their daily work of identifying and selecting the right members for athletic scholarship money. Knowing about a player's nationality and city of residency will help them activate their network of people, who might know this particular player. This could be limited to a certain area, country, or playing level. In essence, you'll have the community work for you in one way or the other: You might get the confirmation that a player is attractive for the coaches' needs or a clear no-go for various reasons.

2. Partner coaches & players

"Activating their network of people" comprises to a large extent partner coaches. The term "partner coaches" is to be understood as acquaintances of different kinds, who recommend potential student-athletes to the respective college coach. This could be the coach of a high school tennis team from Milwaukee providing the local college coach of a D-II school with attractive players for her lineup. But it could also be a coach from a renowned tennis club in Melbourne, Australia, having a great pipeline of young athletes interested to make the move overseas.

Besides partner coaches, another common pattern is that former or current players recommend their peers from the same club, region, or country. Ever observed the pattern of teams, having at least one German guy in the lineup over a period of say, 8 years? That is often no coincidence. It's in fact the common practice of referrals, which is much-appreciated by coaches.

The connection to today's topic is that when a coach discovers your profile (on Smarthlete for example) and realizes you're from the Midwest, chances are he knows 1-2 coaches and players, whom he could reach out to and check whether they have a little something to say about you.

3. International reputation

What's a Russian tennis player likely gonna be playing like? Well, chances are he is not going to play like a Spanish clay court specialist; probably grew up on fast indoor hard courts and carpet. What about a British player? French? And how does the #50 in Norway's Under 18 ranking compare to the #50 in South Africa?

Based on their years of experience, coaches have seen a hundred unique players. Different types, playing styles, and nationalities, leading to their understanding that where a tennis player comes from can potentially say quite a bit about the athletic profile, real strength, and shortfalls. Not to forget that college coaches have acquired a good idea about how different foreigners will likely do academically.

Again, athletes' international background tells a lot, and can account for a great complementing part of the coaches' interest.

4. The connection to Smarthlete

By operating Smarthlete, we aspire to offer a platform, which enables our users to set up a comprehensive profile. We strive to do so by providing a pre-defined profile form, containing all the relevant information for college coaches to start assessing the specific recruit further.

You have probably understood by now that where you come from and where you live signals a great deal of information to coaches. This is why Smarthlete offers a dynamic map, showing where our players come from at a glance.

You have already signed up or are ready to do so? Make sure to indicate where you are from by filling in:

  • "Country of citizenship"
  • "Country of residency"
  • "City of residency"

Closing remarks

Some of this article is by far no rocket science, but we think it's essential for athletes to call to mind. Being aware of the "small" tennis community, athletes have every reason to work hard throughout their teenage time. Make a lasting impression with coaches and other players along the way, in order to convince the responsible individual, who?s in charge of dividing sports scholarships: college coaches.

We have not touched upon another sort of information, regional or foreign origin signals: The cost of studying, which can be different for in-state versus out-of-state students, as well as Internationals. Check back in some weeks' time for another edition of Friday's Scholarship Guide.

Excited to get started? Sign up for Smarthlete, which will enable you to set-up a complete profile & connect with college coaches! Got any questions related to college tennis? Feel free to get in touch with us!

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