New England

College Knowledge: Smith College

James Maimonis, Manager, Media & Communications | September 01, 2021

NORTHAMPTON, MA - Caitlyn Lawrence is heading into her fourth season as the head coach of the Smith College Women’s Tennis Team. A four-year student-athlete and three-year captain at the DIII University of South Carolina Aiken, Lawrence is extremely familiar with what it takes to succeed as an NCAA DIII student-athlete. Riddled by two pandemic years, Lawrence is ready to get back into a normal coaching and recruiting routine and give the Smith College Pioneers a fresh start in the NEWMAC. 


Lawrence answered some questions about her program and recruiting process:


What type of athlete and person are you looking to bring to Smith?

I do not believe that there is any one type of person we are looking for. Smith Tennis values the diversity of experience and interests our student-athletes bring to our team and our campus. What makes our team great is that we can come together even with different backgrounds and pursue our common team values of trust, embracing challenges in pursuit of growth, and taking the opportunity we have to empower one another. 


As a coach, what are your main focuses with each individual student-athlete once they arrive on campus?

Having a good individual relationship with each of our student-athletes is really important to me. I want our student-athletes to know how much I care about them as a whole person. Building this relationship starts during the recruiting process and continues once they are on campus. Moving to campus as a first year is a significant life event - it is often the first time students are away from home and they are experiencing new independence. During this transition, I want our students to know I am here to support them both on and off the court.

On the court, we collaborate with each of our student-athletes to discuss how they want their game to grow over their college career. We then create a process to achieve that vision that we will revisit regularly. 


You currently have a couple New England juniors on your roster. Talk about the importance of recruiting locally and what they've meant to your squad. 

Since Smith recruits nationally and internationally, our team would not be complete without at least a few New Englanders. All of our student-athletes from New England have brought different strengths to our team. A common thread is that these student-athletes have been dedicated to creating a cohesive team environment where everyone is valued regardless of their roster position or the amount of time they have been on the team. 


What advice would you give to a New Englander starting the recruiting process at Smith?

I could write a book (or at least a long blog post) with advice on starting the recruiting process. To keep it short, remember this process is about you finding the best school for you. Take some time to imagine what you want your college experience to be like. Talk to other people you know who have gone to college - friends, family, coaches, teachers - to learn about their experiences and if there is anything that stands out to you. Taking time to visualize this will help guide what types of schools you should be looking at. 


As you start doing research on schools and reaching out to coaches, make sure you ask specific questions about that school and their team. This will help you start to determine if it is a place you can see yourself for four years. 

What is the first conversation you generally have with a prospective recruit?

To me, the recruiting process is about building relationships. In the first conversation, I want to get to know the prospective student-athlete as a whole person - what are their academic interests, what hobbies do they have outside of tennis, why are they driven to play collegiate tennis. Whatever is important to you, I want to learn about it! 


What can a New England junior expect from you and your staff during the recruiting process?

You can expect us to be honest, communicative, and excited! Our staff and our team really loves Smith and we love talking to prospective student-athletes who we think will fall in love with Smith as well. 

Talk about your experience so far in the few years you've been at Smith.

I will be entering my fourth year at Smith as the head coach this winter and I have loved every moment of working with this team - even though so much of it has been through a pandemic. Our student-athletes are truly exceptional and I am always amazed at the work they are doing from research, to internships, to volunteering. Smith students are committed to making the world a better place. 


Our team is relentless in their effort to support each other and are constantly in pursuit of growth. I hope that the team is most proud of how they have been able to make what is often seen as an individual sport, tennis, into a team sport. 


How excited are you for next year to hopefully get a full season under your belt with few or no restrictions after the past two shortened/canceled seasons?

We are very hopeful to compete in a full or near-full season this year. I also am aware that  vaccination rates across the country are hovering around 50%. We know we can’t expect a return to “normal” until a much greater percentage of the population is vaccinated. Because of this, our team understands that we need to be ready to adapt to last minute changes to ensure the safety of our community. Last year, our athletic department adopted the phrase “adaptability,” a combination of being flexible and adaptable. Our team is taking that mindset into the fall. 


Any other thoughts you'd like to share about your team or the recruiting process?

As you go through the recruiting process remember each school is different. What one coach tells you likely does not apply to all schools. You cannot ask too many questions! Good luck with your search! 


To learn more about Smith College Tennis, click here

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