Is it too late for me to be recruited for tennis by good schools?

Answer by Jeffrey Wan on Quora:
So, I played tennis at Amherst and captained the team. I also played a lot of junior tennis growing up. Although I am not an expert on the subject, I will give my two cents because I think I am in a semi-decent place to answer this question. Here it goes!

The recruiting process is a mix of subjective and objective data points. A coach will recruit players on his radar and that is a function of your objective ranking, and his subjective memory of you which will largely be a function of your proactiveness in reaching out to the coach.

Your first step probably should be to just intro yourself to coaches. Find their emails on the respective school’s website and send out like 15 generic emails (be sure to change their name and the school’s name!) asking specifically how to get recruited and what they are looking for in terms of ranking and experience. Since you need to compete with other recruits, I’d enter some training programs, play against the wall, play some tournaments, and see if you can get some competition experience. You’ll need a ranking because otherwise, you won’t have a strong case for recruitment in front of an admissions committee. Get a ranking, and try to win some matches. Join the USTA, play some level 1 tournaments, try to enter a national open to obtain a national ranking. You need to play matches. You need a ranking!

Most of the time… a ranking is a necessary condition for recruitment since your case will be presented in front of an admissions board which will require objective measures to get recruited. The other part is just hustle. Contact the coaches and get on their radar. Prior to the hustle though, you somehow need to get good enough at tennis so you can enter and win matches at sectional tournaments and national opens, because wins at those lower level tournaments will help you qualify for super national events (or whatever they’re called now). It is at these highest levels where you will have a chance to take down a top dog. You will have a chance to beat some seasoned, lower-seed-junior-who-probably-won’t-make-it-as-a-pro-but-probably-will-play-at-Dartmouth-type, in front of a recruiting coach, and then introduce yourself to aforementioned coach in your post-match glory. If that seems difficult, then you need to get practicing. Start out by thinking about what people hate doing (usually it’s similar to what you hate doing and I bet you don’t like 1) hitting high backhands, 2) sprinting side to side and hitting on the run and 3) playing at the net, especially when you just wind up there as a result of an adept opponent’s dropshot and not your own approach shot). Tailor a game around these exploits and you’re well on your way. Also consistency is a necessary condition but not sufficient one for success, in case you were thinking of going the pusher-route.

The above national-level experience probably only applies to top Division 1 programs by the way. If you want to play at Division 2 and 3 schools, the above criteria are somewhat relaxed. You can get on the team with a lower ranking, but you sure need to get some good high school grades and SATs to play at Division 3 schools like Amherst, Emory, Santa Cruz, Pomona, Hopkins, Middlebury, Claremont, possibly trade-schools like Williams (I kid!), etc. A decent state ranking and some national level experience + pretty great SATs and a high school GPA seems necessary these days to get into academically rigorous schools. Those programs are only getting better and you should check out The Tennis Recruiting Network to verify what I just claimed.

Lastly, even if you don’t make the team, see if you can walk on the team in whatever school you enroll in and just try to learn. Some coaches have open policies regarding walkons, but others are kind of stringent (and in my opinion, backwards) about the size of the team they carry…. but the best thing you can do right now is practice, find a practice center, and try to learn independently by playing against a wall. Google some training videos. Hit buckets of serves. Play practice matches for money… you need to get over match-time jitters and I think betting on your outcomes with your practice partner is a great way to raise the stakes and experience those jitters. Good luck!
Is it too late for me to be recruited for tennis by good schools?
Written on October 21, 2014