Why Playing College Tennis Is a Good Choice
By Denny Schackter
The tennis industry today is blessed with thousands of students playing high school tennis. No-Cut tennis and dramatically improved coaching over the last 20 years have helped about 350,000 students continue to play in high school. Most states have high school tennis coaches associations with yearly clinics, newsletters and websites.
I’ve had some wonderful tennis experiences in my adult life, including coaching high school and college tennis, and being involved with the growth of the USTA’s very successful “Tennis on Campus” program for over 10 years. As I see participation grow in high school tennis, I also see the opportunities for play beyond high school growing as well. This is important for our industry because the tennis players coming out of college are hungry to continue tennis in their lives.
Here are my reasons why high school players should be encouraged to play in college, either on a varsity team or in a club or “intramural” program:
- Social Needs: When students arrive on campus, they need to make friends and belong. What greater way than being on a tennis team with kids who share a love for the game? Timon Corwin, chair of the USTA Collegiate Varsity Committee, says, “We’ve seen it around the country where both varsity and recreational club teams [Tennis on Campus] co-exist on the same campus and build strong social bonds.”
- Stay In Shape: Singles tennis is rated in the top 10 sports for physical conditioning. What better way to work out than hitting a tennis ball for several hours a week, especially if it’s with people you like.
- Networking: Many of my former players have maintained strong relationships past college and into adulthood, often playing together if they live close by. And let’s face it, tennis players, for the most part, are very successful people. A college tennis experience will most likely be a conduit to your adult working life. Tennis players gravitate to tennis players.
- Time Management: Playing tennis on a team in college gives you structure. Practices, matches and travel need to be scheduled with classes and studying, requiring you to budget your time, which is a key when you begin your working life.
- Travel: College tennis at all levels gives students an opportunity to see the country. While club tennis may be limited to regional sites, the national events have been in terrific locations. Varsity programs at all levels have opportunities to travel coast to coast.
- Community Service: Tennis is an opportunity to give back and many programs require hours of community service. Many teach tennis to underprivileged kids. Other requirements may be helping with a community building project or volunteer work at a hospital.
- Establish Identity: Many young people struggle with being “lost in the crowd” or “not fitting in.” Being part of a tennis program gives you stature, higher self-esteem and confidence. “College tennis is for everyone,” says Corwin. “Whether you are a top junior or the No. 4 singles player on your high school team, there is a spot on either a varsity or club team for you.”
- Teamwork and Leadership Skills: I always say tennis is an individual sport, but a team game. Hence, teamwork and selflessness is a requirement in a college program. People lead in many different ways, and a college team, whether intramural or varsity, promotes leadership skills.
- Consensus-Building: While teamwork is working together for the common good, consensus-building reaches agreements. Doubles team selection, extra work goals, relationship with advisors and coaches all teach us consensus-building.
- Competitive Fulfillment: Many of us have a need to compete. High school sports provided an outlet to achieve lots of competitive experiences, but in college, if sports are absent, that need is never fulfilled.
- Goal Setting: Participation in college tennis can parallel other goals needed to become a successful adult. “The collaborative effort of being on a college tennis team and the laser focus on specific goals serves as a guide for our student-athletes in all walks of life,” says Brad Dancer, men’s tennis coach at Illinois.
Tennis club owners, tennis directors, teaching professionals and facilities all have a vested interest in college tennis. Future players and members of tennis facilities are the byproduct of college tennis. Whether a facility’s young people are Division I, II or 111 or Tennis on Campus candidates, you simply can’t measure the maturity, bonding, and lifetime relationships that will emerge at the end of their college experience.
Those who participate in college tennis will find benefits that last a lifetime.
Tennis industry veteran Denny Schackter is a member of the USTA’s Tennis on Campus Committee and an active volunteer of the USTA Midwest Section. He formerly coached men’s tennis at Wisconsin and was a 22-year territory manager for Wilson Racquet Sports. He is a PTR and PTA member, teaches tennis part-time and owns Tennis Priorities, a recruiting firm working on finding young talent for tennis teaching.