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Paul Hutchins talks to Ed Corrie about tennis and benefits of a US College.
US College tennis is a well established system and a good way of a player improving their tennis potential as well as gaining a good academic degree.
Spending up to four years at a college with a good tennis program and a keen coach, linked to studying, is a positive way of maturing physically and mentally in an enjoyable team environment.
The information below will help you to better understand what the criteria are to getting accepted for university tennis
Knowing the application criteria, both from a playing standard and academically, will help you know how to position your application and what to aim for. American degree courses normally take 4 years, the rules and regulations are often complex and need researching well but the below will give you a starting point.
There are three Associations which can be considered depending on age/academic qualifications and playing standard, the three associations are;
Five different academic subject passes at GCSE/Standard Grade with an overall average of grade of C and must include: English, Mathematics and Science and social studies (history, geography, economics, citizenship, sociology or psychology).
A/S and A-levels and Scottish Highers (A-C) are acceptable whilst students with Higher National diplomas will be considered transfer students. The Btec National Diploma (or extended diploma) in Sport is now also considered.
There are strict rules around ‘gaps’ in your education and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) do not allow potential students to ‘leave education for more than six months before enrolling into a College otherwise a student loses eligibility and even if they enroll in a College, may have to sit out of playing matches for a period of time’. Therefore it is important to check your eligibility here.
NCAA Div I - will ideally require a 4.1 rating and better and a Top 100 ranked college may want 2.2/3.1 plus the normal academic qualifications NCAA Div II - will require a player with a 5.2/6.1 rating plus the academic qualifications requiredNCAA Div III - It is unusual for a division 3 College to provide tennis scholarships but some do offer International Academic Scholarships with tennis being a positive influence.
Find out more about the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
An average C grade overall in GCSE/Standard Grade subjects or an alternative qualification such as BTEC or GNVQ, if the student can show that he/she was in the top half of his/her class.
The NAIA does not require any specific core subjects, does not prohibit alternative qualifications and does not have any age limits, although the student must be able to show that he was in the top half of their class or have an overall average of 'C'.
NAIA - will require players with a 6.2/ 7.1 rating and there are often opportunities for players who cannot match up to the academic qualifications needed for NCAA Division 1 or 2 colleges with the top ranked NAIA colleges comparable to NCAA Div I.
Find out more about the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
Players who do not qualify for either of the above, but who play their sport at a high level, can sometimes get on the higher education ladder by starting at a junior or community college and then transferring to a 4 year college for the final two years of the degree course.
NJCAA - will require players with a 3.1/4.1 rating to get a scholarship; 7.1+ to get accepted but all probably be without a scholarship
Find out more about the National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA)
Playing scholarships are available from many of the colleges depending on your rating or ranking. Academic scholarships are also available if the potential student has good grades and the required academic qualifications.
In many cases the college coach recruiting male players have the equivalent of 4.5 scholarships per year available to split how they see fit ranging from a full 100% scholarship to 25%.
For female players Title 9 is an American College rule involving equal rights for women athletes. As there is a large number of male American football and basketball players on scholarships Title 9 ensures equal scholarships to women so often the college is able to offer double the number of female tennis scholarships than male.
Young British tennis player Luke Johnson talks about his decision to attend a US College and his experiences at the University of Florida so far
Steve Johnson, a top 100 ATP player, recounts his experiences at a US College to Paul Hutchins
Find out more about the benefits and challenges of US university tennis
How do you apply for a US college?
Find out more about US college eligibility criteria
US College tennis is split into two semesters, Spring & Fall, and their dates are as below, although this does vary from college to college.
Spring - Mid January to end of April
Fall (Autumn) - September to November/December
Many coaches arrange for up to 25 regular season matches and tournaments for students throughout the year excluding conference and NCAA tournaments
This means a player could play 20-30 matches in the fall and 30-40 in the spring depending on the success of the college team and the conference the college is in.
In Division I there are fall semester regional championships in October and individual National Indoor Championships in November as well as fall tournaments late September to early November.
In the spring semester, besides the dual matches mid January to late April, there are Team indoor Nationals in February and NCAA Team and individual Championships in May and a Conference tournament late April.
Depending on standard and time allowed from college, players can enter Futures events individually but at the cost to the player. However some colleges will take their top players to participate in Futures as part of their fall semester schedule.
In the summer vacation players often return to the UK and play in ITF and British Tour events.
If you have ambitions to play full time after graduating it is advisable to play as many ITF tournaments as possible during time at College to keep abreast of the world standards.
Want to find out more about AEGON British Tour?
All divisions are very competitive and if a player has been recruited on a scholarship they will need to work hard to keep their standard up and win for the College. Team and individual rankings are important and the precise win/loss records and rankings are recorded and analysed as the coaching staff are given targets to meet.
Find current results and rankings