Top 4 Things on a College Coach Recruiting Checklist

by Dominic Tinodi

It's recruiting season in college tennis and coaches are currently evaluating a big number of potential recruits they come across. But how do they assess the players? What's their #1 priority when looking at a prospect? In other words, what is their checklist of things a tennis recruit needs to fulfill? In today's Friday Scholarship Guide we offer you our take on it.

Photo credit: Dominic Tinodi

So the leaves are slowly turning yellow, teams are touring around the country for competing in Fall Invitationals and coaches are pushing their players to take their game to the next level.

Maybe you're one of the many players looking to receive a scholarship for the fall next year. Isn't that still quite some time until then? Well, yes; and no at the same time. Almost a year to go, but coaches are looking for players to add to their roster as we speak. This is one of the really hot times of the year with assistant coaches and head coaches going through their extensive screening routines.



And with literally hundreds to thousands of different players, coaches naturally need to have an effective checklist of things their potential recruits should fulfill. We will go through them step by step below. Before doing so it's important to know how coaches recruit:

Recruiting Channels

- U18 ITF Rankings

The ranked teams in men's and women's tennis go through the rankings and reach out to this elite pool of players. Competition is fierce for two reasons:
Firstly, many of them obviously want to go pro right away and coaches need to invest considerable time and effort in persuading the players, let alone their coaches and parents. For one of our most popular blog editions ever, see our "Top 4 Reasons College Tennis is the Best Choice for Aspiring Professionals" here.
Secondly, all teams at the top try to continuously improve and strengthen their programs, which means that all of them aim for the best-in-class juniors; in the end, a lot of teams aspire to sign the same players. First contact is often established via social media and directly at international tournaments.

- Scholarship Services/Recruiting Agencies

Especially Internationals often sign up with scholarship services, who guide them through the entire process of finding a college tennis scholarship. These scholarship services then reach out to college coaches and present their players to them.

- Personal Contact

One way coaches learn about new prospects is by athletes taking the first step and reaching out to them by e-mail. Coaches generally really do appreciate this channel, as it shows that recruits have done their homework and are proactive. We from Smarthlete are a big fan of the "Do-It-Yourself"-approach and encourage young tennis players to take this path:

- Smarthlete

Call us a network, a platform, or a tool, which enables players and coaches to find each other and establish first contact. Our model encourages both sides to set up a profile basically once and for all, which contains just the information you need to form an opinion about the coach or the player, who is looking to be recruited.

And it's exactly these pieces of information about the players that we will list below: the coaches' checklist

Coaches' Checklist

Tennis is competition and coaches are competitive. Any head coach is trying to improve the team and by doing so, a coach has two options:

  • Improve the quality of signed players
  • Help players get better once they are on the team

We'll focus on the first option - the actual recruitment - today, and as coaches are driven by athletic goals, the coaches' checklist clearly starts with athletic factors:



  1. Ranking/Rating
    #1 on the checklist are rankings and ratings. Above U18 ITF rankings are gold, but increasingly more important and a wonderful scouting help is the UTR ranking - Universal Tennis Rating. Finally, national rankings of course, though more difficult to assess for coaches. Rankings really reflect what the athletes have been able to deliver on the court so far, but it does not necessarily indicate reliably what they will be able to do at college. That's why #2 on the list is equally important, as coaches want to form their own opinion about the player.
  2. Video/Live Match
    The clearly vast experience of coaches will let them conclude in an instant whether a recruit has what it takes for their team. A couple of shots, some points in a match, and a player can be classified as a potential or not. Actually seeing the player in action in some form or the other is really key, because it shows whether there is substantial room to improve or not.


  3. Academic Scores
    The importance of #3 depends on the academic level of the college. Does the school care a great deal about academic scores and high school GPAs or not so much? Is the school very selective, such as Ivy schools, or is the bar rather low and a large pool of athletes can thus fulfill the requirements? The importance of #3 Academic Scores differs, depending on the school. If the athletes meet the academic standards they remain interesting prospects and the coaches can assess #4.
  4. Personality
    If athletes have come this far, this is were it gets exciting as coaches may show varying deals of gut feelings. Coaches seek recruits for four years of playing time: how do they fit in with the team, the school, and are they capable and willing to improve and perform? Remember we spoke about the importance of seeing the player in action in order to find out about the long-term potential? Personality plays a major role in this matter as well, because coaches really want to add people to the team who die to play college tennis and compete.



What's My Takeaway?

But why are we dedicating an entire blog edition to the coaches' checklist?

Because we realize almost every day that at least 5 out of 10 athletes don't understand the way coaches recruit. As a result they often contact the wrong coaches, and they do so with a great deal of missing information. The first impression matters tons and coaches simply don't have enough time to revise poor "applications".

This is a call for all athletes to do your homework and do it sooner than later! Get your recruiting video in place, know your GPA, register for SAT or ACT tests, if you are not from the USA - take your TOEFL. And very important: get started good time in advance, so you can start talking to coaches a year before you want to enter college!

Having kicked off Smarthlete some time ago, we believe that our platform gives athletes the perfect tool to present and promote themselves: fill your free profile with all the information, coaches have on their checklist. Coaches in turn know that it takes exactly one click to get to athletes' profiles - saving a great deal of time. As an athlete you have two options: Either you contact the coaches at Smarthlete, who have already signed up or you simply copy the link of your profile and send it to them per e-mail. Either way, you contact them with a complete profile and you show that you are active and careful about making the right recruiting decisions :)

Speaking of contacting coaches. Yes, that's the ultimate fun part of the job prior to being recruited. But besides all the fun, don't forget that you want to make a good impression as well, and be respectful and mature in your communication. Far too often, we hear of poorly written "chat-style" messages, rather than nicely crafted e-mails. Click here for an older edition of our blog, in which we advise you how to write to coaches.

With all of this being said, Have at it coaches and athletes, and enjoy the fall recruiting season!

Got curious about Smarthlete and how it works? Just sign up here for free and explore all the players and coaches online! Make sure you follow us on our social media accounts on Facebook or Twitter to not miss out on any of our upcoming blog articles!

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