College Tennis:

Standing out as a recruit

Arthur Kapetanakis  |  December 3, 2019

This college recruiting primer is based on insight from the following coaches, who were on hand at the 2019 USTA All-American Combine presented by adidas, held at the USTA National Campus:


  • Sanela Kunovac, Head Women’s Tennis Coach at University of Pennsylvania (Division I)
  • Bruce Myers, Head Men’s Tennis Coach at Bucknell University (Division I)
  • Beverly Buckley, Head Coach at Rollins College (Division II)
  • Maddie Kobelt, Assistant Men’s & Women’s Tennis Coach, Kenyon College (Division III)
  • Paul Brower, Head Men’s & Women’s Tennis Coach, Nichols College (Division III)


What are coaches looking for in a recruit?

For most coaches, the recruiting process begins with academics. Potential student-athletes must meet minimum standards or benchmarks for acceptance into their particular school, with GPA, SAT scores, ACT scores taken into account.



Of course the level of tennis is the other major factor. But it is far from the only thing on coaches’ minds as they evaluate recruits. While specific athletic traits can be measured at events like the USTA All-American Combine, coaches are also interested in the many intangibles that fill out a player’s profile.


"Once we get the chunk of players that fit our [academic and tennis] benchmarks, then we look for players who love the sport," said Sanela Kunovac, head women's coach at Penn. "Once the adversity hits, those are the ones who are going to be able to climb over hurdles."


Among other desirable traits: "Kids who are just going to contribute and be good citizens on the team, work hard with a good attitude," said Paul Brower, head men's and women's coach at Nichols. "You can see some of the kids that get into tough matches and they don't act the right way or they get really down on themselves."


Rollins women's head coach Beverly Buckley has a similar wish list: "Someone who has a passion for the sport, that is a team player with integrity, and who's coachable." Bringing these type of players into the program makes a coach’s job easier throughout the year.

Other circumstances could also make a case for overlooked players. Maybe an injury kept a player’s WTN or ranking low, or maybe a player started playing tennis later in life and still has a lot of room to grow. All of this comes into consideration as coaches look not only for top-of-the-lineup players, but also for players that they can help mold into dependable starters. 


"We're looking for those intangibles," said Bruce Myers, head coach at Bucknell. "Maybe there was something that's held them back, maybe they focused on their academics so much over the past couple of years that they haven't quite focused on their tennis 100 percent. So if we can get that kid in our program, training with better players, hopefully they can start out maybe their freshman year as a No. 7. We can get them to No. 4 by their sophomore year, and maybe by their junior and senior year they're playing No. 1 or 2. So that's key."


As students get a look at schools on their first official visit, the coaching staff is also collecting information on the player and their family. As the recruit interacts with current players, often away from the supervision of coaches and parents, the players can inform the coach to help build a better picture of that recruit’s personality and fit with the program.


And be sure to mind your social media presence. Many schools will run social media checks to comb for any red flags.


In summary, while academics and athletic ability can help catch a coach's attention, it's the total package that really influences decisions on scholarships and roster spots.


For more information, visit the USTA College Tennis homepage.


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