If you’ve been reading this column, you’ve read a lot of good things about college tennis. It’s a great way to get an education (sometimes paid for) while doing something you enjoy. The experience can also help lead the way to a professional career as it did for John Isner, the Bryans, and the McEnroes. But how do you become a college tennis player? The quick answer is hard work and dedication, but there are a few things that also help.
Read the Rules, and Then Share Them
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is the governing body of college tennis, but first, you have to go through the real rule maker — the NCAA. There’s the amateur clearinghouse and the eligibility center. And then there’s that (not so) little thing called academics. It’s not just about what your high school wants you to take, the NCAA has certain requirements you must meet if you want to play college athletics. Fortunately, the NCAA Eligibility Center has a lot of the answers for you online. Read them, study them, and then take them to your guidance counselor.
Use the Resources
The NCAA is there for the technical stuff, but there are also places that can help you understand it a bit better. I do a Monthly Guide to College Planning on College Sports Connect (and the more specific College Tennis Connect) that can help you make sense of some of the rules. You will also find articles there with helpful hints for prospective student-athletes. Tennis Recruiting is another place for articles about becoming a college tennis player and they offer the opportunity to post your profile. The USTA (United States Tennis Association) has also been expanding its information for those who want to play club and varsity tennis.
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Play, Play, and Play Some More
Junior tennis is the obvious road to college tennis, but high school tennis is a great addition or substitution. It’s true that you won’t find scouting at high school tennis matches the way you see in football or basketball. That doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. Every match you play garners experience and exposure and that’s what you need if you want to become a college tennis player. So don’t rule out high school tennis as a step toward a college tennis career.