My name is David Mullins and I started playing tennis at the age of 10. It all started when my father took me to a local park and threw some tennis balls to me. Since then…. blah, blah, blah, blah… I cannot tell you how many times I received letters like this from players, telling me their entire tennis history and life successes, both on and off the court. I am here to tell you that college coaches do not care about any of this, well, at least not initially.
Your parents, brother, sisters, coaches, grandparents, friends will all give you the same advice - that you should approach the recruiting process like a job interview, telling you to put together a cover letter and resume in order to “wow” your potential college coach. DO NOT DO THIS! Instead, come up with the most concise way to grab the coaches’ attention. Understand that most coaches are receiving several recruiting letters per day. They want to be able to sum up within a couple of seconds whether or not you can help their team get better and compete for a spot in their lineup. It all starts with the subject line.
The subject line should include your name and year of graduation, but right after that indicate something that might make you stand out from the all the other emails and letters the coach will inevitably receive that same day. I would include your UTR, TR placing, a tournament victory, recent win or even a recent loss to a player that you know the coach will know and be impressed by the close score line.
Here is an example:
Subject: David Mullins – Class ’18 – lost to Roger Federer 6/4 6/4
Once you get into the email, give clear bullet points as to what your most relevant rankings and results are and what events you will be playing, and where, in the months ahead. Including your coaches name and contact details can also be helpful. Coaches don’t care about what you accomplished in the U-12’s and they certainly don’t need to hear about how great you will be if only someone would give you the chance! Coaches care about what you have accomplished in the last year or two, what way your results are trending. Understand that it is their job to determine where they believe your potential may lie either by watching you play or speaking about your game and potential, with coaches they trust. If you can’t keep all that to one page or less, then it is too long. There should be no attachments and/or letters of reference. Obviously, a link to your video is a must to include in your introductory email.
The same goes for the video. Everyone looks like the next NCAA champion when you can only see their strokes and not where their ball is going and/or the type of ball they are receiving. Get right down to the points. I would always fast forward to the points at the end of the clip when I received a video. Who came up with the format that you must start with an awkward introduction which then leads into some crosscourt forehands with the latest Tiesto track playing in the background? Put your points at the beginning of the clip and leave the hitting to the end (if you want). The coach wants to see how you play and win & lose points, not what you look like when someone is feeding you forehand volleys out of the hand!
If you don’t have something relevant to put in the subject line, then that should make you stop and think whether or not you applying to the right college program. College tennis is not like the job market. If you have a catchy resume or some interesting life experience, or a masters in some obscure subject matter, Google or Nike may feel compelled to take a chance on you and give you a job. If you want to impress a college coach, impress them with your results. Results are a very good predictor of future success, not rankings. However, players who do chase ranking points obviously have more results; and therefore it is easier for a coach to get a clearer sense of their level, for better or for worse. It is important to remember that rankings are a very good starting point for coaches and relatively accurate correlations can be drawn between a player’s UTR or tennisrecruiting ranking, and their future success in college. But they are just that – a starting point.
If you are ranked 197 do not apply to the University of Virginia and expect a response. Maybe instead of putting down a ranking in the subject header, put down “WALK-ON prospect” and you may actually hear back from the coach. A coach is far more likely to take an email seriously if the player has a clear picture of what form of scholarship their results deserve.
Once interest has been established by the coach then they will want to hear about how you have been saving kittens from trees and the time you first beat your mother in a game of tennis!
In all seriousness, be concise, be realistic and if you get the coaches attention with your results or with the video of your points, they will contact you to figure out if you have the intangible qualities and mindset to be a part of their team. It starts with results (most of the time) and then the academics and human qualities follow after, and will ultimately be the deciding factor for the coach, as the level of your play has already been established from your very first contact.