College Knowledge: Wesleyan University
MIDDLETOWN, CT - Since Mike Fried signed on as head coach of the Wesleyan University men’s and women’s tennis teams in 2012, he has elevated both squads to greatness. The Cardinals have been one of the most dominant programs in New England during that span, consistently finishing with a national ranking and seeing multiple players earn regular and postseason awards. In 2019, Fried posted the top women’s recruiting class in the nation and capped off the season with the team’s first DIII National Championship.
He is one of only two coaches in DIII history to earn both the Men’s and Women’s ITA National Coach of the Year award.
Mike answers some questions on his recruiting successes and the importance of having former New England juniors in his program.
What type of athlete do you generally look to bring to Wesleyan?
We're looking to bring in driven, passionate, and committed student-athletes - recruits who can balance their academics and tennis and are excited to be part of a team and a family and to put in the work necessary to reach their full potential and compete for NCAA championships.
What personal characteristics do you look for in a recruit?
A genuine love of tennis; a fire to be part of a team; a desire to grow; passion; conscientiousness; resilience; grit; optimism; kindness; competitiveness.
You've had incredible success recruiting in your nine seasons at Wesleyan. What are some of your keys to success?
It certainly helps to have the academic opportunity of one of the best schools in the country as our starting point! On top of that, we've been fortunate enough, through the recruiting process every year, to build relationships with recruits and their families that are excited about what we're doing as a tennis program and the culture of support and camaraderie that we've built. We feel like it's something really special, and we've been very lucky to be able to successfully get the word out over the past several years.
How do you ensure an athlete continues to improve once they reach the collegiate level?
To the point above, a huge part of that is related to recruiting the type of people who have a tremendous passion for tennis and for the team. With those types of kids on our roster, our commitment as coaches is to make sure that we're providing them the resources, coaching, comprehensive training, and supportive environment they need to reach their potential and be successful at the highest level.
How has COVID-19 affected the Wesleyan recruiting process?
Actually, the early part of the process - initial emails/texts/calls has remained largely the same; it's the next and later stages that have completely changed. In normal circumstances we'd be out at tournaments and showcases watching kids play in person - and inviting our top recruits to campus for visits. Everyone's making the best of it, but I think we're all excited to get back to face-to-face interactions!
Talk a little bit about your Women’s NCAA Championship run in 2019. What combination of pieces made it so special?
Well, the short answer is, it was a blast! The long answer is also that it was a blast! We knew that we were a top 10 team and felt we could compete with anyone, but we had lost a 7-2 match to Emory earlier in the season, and we didn't win the NESCAC regular season. The girls did a great job of learning from those matches though, and our confidence kept growing with every match. When we won the NESCAC tournament, we entered the NCAA's with great momentum and were able to keep it rolling through 5-4 wins over Emory and CMS in the semis and finals.
- Wesleyan Women's Tennis captured the 2019 DIII National Championship.
- Coach Mike Fried owns the highest winning percentage in Wesleyan history.
- Former USTA New England junior Alexis Almy plays for Wesleyan.
And your phrase, "combination of pieces that made it so special," is a perfect one because there really are so many things that have to be there to make it that special and to be in position to win it all. Most of them are intangible - some I'm still not sure I can even define - and other's we're keeping to ourselves!
How similar is recruiting for the men’s team to the women’s team?
There are definitely some differences, but I think one of the biggest things that resonates with both men's and women's recruits for Wesleyan is the connectedness of the two teams here. With our coaching staff working with both men's and women's teams, the camaraderie between the two teams is extremely unique. We view ourselves as one family, and we do so much together - and that culture is a big part of both the recruiting process and being on the team here.
How pivotal have New England players been to your success?
New England recruiting has been critical for us - and we don't win the NCAA's without a huge contribution from Alexis Almy (Southborough, MA) including winning the clinching match in a 5-4 semifinal win. We were really excited to host the New England Sectionals in 2019 and hope to be able to continue that. We'll usually recruit at several of the bigger tournaments and showcases in the region throughout the year.
What advice would you give to a New England junior who is about to start the recruiting process with you?
I think I gave away everything we're looking for in the first few questions, but my advice (or tiny bit of insight) is that every school is focusing at the tennis level that is the right fit for them - so your tennis has to be a good fit; but beyond that, it really is the intangibles (and not a few ranking spots or tenths of a UTR point) that make all the difference. We're looking more for what someone's potential is and how likely they are to reach it than exactly where their tennis is in their junior year of high school.
What can a New England junior expect from you and your staff during the recruiting process?
Great enthusiasm, a huge excitement for what we're doing at Wesleyan, and some slightly above average dad jokes!
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