What does it take to get a college tennis scholarship? Outstanding answers came from tennis professionals at the recent College Knowledge Workshop held at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego. The event was sponsored by the USTA and organized by USPTA Pro Amanda Fink, a former tour player and ITA All-America pick. The goal was to hear from the professionals about many types of tennis opportunities at the collegiate level including NCAA Division I, II & III schools, USTA’s Tennis on Campus program, NAIA opportunities, the importance of fitness, and the benefits of Community College tennis.
Over 50 coaches, parents and players attended the free workshop. It was a great opportunity to ask key questions to expert panelists including USC Assistant Women’s Coach Chris Wootton, San Diego Christian College Women’s Coach Priscilla Jensen, USD Assistant Men’s Coach Rich Bonfiglio, San Diego City Men’s and Women’s Coaches Brandon Lupian and Jami Jones, Andrea Tyndall of Athletic Evolution, and Madeline Segura of USTA’s Tennis on Campus (TOC).
Fink opened the workshop by sharing her personal story of how tennis helped her in college and beyond, as she now holds a prestigious teaching position at the Santaluz Club in San Diego. She works with high school athletes on and off the court.
“Parents this is your chance to get real answers from some of the best,” Fink said. “You can ask the coaches questions in general but can’t specifically ask about your child.” General information that was shared includes the following:
- Women’s NCAA Division I and NAIA programs offer full scholarships where Division II schools typically offers partial rides to female athletes. Men’s Division I and II colleges usually offer partial rides. Men’s and Women’s Division III schools can’t give athletic aid.
- Community Colleges are great opportunities to get an almost free education and play college tennis while in pursuit of an Associate Degree or transfer to a four-year school.
- USTA’s Tennis on Campus (TOC) is a USTA Program at 25 colleges across the country, and they offer great tennis at a high levels while not being a varsity sport. Perks include great competition and travel. Scholarships are not needed to play TOC.
“The level of commitment is the biggest difference between Division I, II and III schools,” Wootton said. “Tennis is a fulltime job in Divisions I and II. In Division III, academics come first. “
All coaches on the panel agreed high school athletes making the transition to college need to learn how to find balance in their lives. Organizational skills and learning to live away from home are big adjustments.
Questions included: What is the recruiting process to identify players? All agreed they look at a combination of USTA rankings, UTR ratings and TennisRecruiting ‘s star system. However, there are additional factors.
Jensen said her NAIA program in San Diego can offer scholarships and it is typically for those suited to those seeking a smaller private school. “We are looking for that unique individual who has tennis skills plus the right personality to make it a perfect fit,” Jensen said.
Jones, the San Diego City College Women’s Coach, suggested Community Colleges are great options for many student-athletes. “It’s the perfect time for recent graduates to grow as individuals and players in lower pressure atmosphere.”
Segura is the Assistant Director of Adult Tennis at the Southern California Tennis Association. She said TOC is a step down from NCAA varsity tennis yet a step up from recreational club tennis. They are student run programs that are lively and social. Practices are held during the week and players participate when it works into their schedules.
Another angle of preparing for college tennis includes fitness, which is an area of specialty for Andrea Tyndall, a strength and conditioning coach based in San Diego. She has worked with other high profile programs such as Tennis Australia.
“If tennis is your toolbox, fitness is a massive part of your program,” Tyndall said. “If you can’t get to a ball it doesn’t matter how good you are.”
Other tips came in the form of how to contact coaches, when players can expect responses, questions to ask coaches, and the importance of creating players’ resumes. One reality changer included player behavior off the court.
“I’m looking for good character,” Bonfiglio said. “A tennis team is a culture. We are looking for players who really like tennis. I know that sounds silly but it’s not always the case. Some players have a long list of accomplishments but there are over the process by the time they get to college. We want players who will take it upon themselves to get better. That reveals a high level of character.”