Throughout the summer we will be chatting with college coaches and professional players to discuss their tennis journey and learn tips for what it takes to be a great tennis player.
The first coach we chatted with was Chad Berryhill, head coach of a D2 tennis program at Saint Leo University.
Coach Berryhill grew up an avid basketball player and aspired to play college basketball. After playing basketball his freshman year of high school his coach asked him how he would continue training in the off-season. Since his coach was also the varsity tennis coach, he suggested that Chad play tennis. Coach Berryhill explained, “I went out for the team without any prior experience playing tennis. He took me to our first match in which he had me play doubles with a senior player on the team. Somehow, we actually were able to win the match and in three sets!” Chad and his doubles partner went on to be named the MVPs during his first year, and he continued playing tennis all four years of high school. Three years into high school Chad ended up stopping basketball to focus on tennis, and learned of Ferris State University’s Professional Tennis Management Program. Coach Berryhill focused his college studies at Ferris in PTM and marketing.
Chad began his coaching career during college, and he found success right away as a high school head coach and explained, “I took a team that won only 3 matches in my first year to 13 matches my third year, tied for the Conference Championship, and finished 13th in the State (last time they qualified for States was more than 30 years previously).”
Chad landed his first collegiate head coaching job in Tampa, Florida at just 22 years-old. He found success again, finishing # 2 in the National and NJCAA National Runners-Up in his first year (compared to the year before when the team only won twice). They went on to finish National Runners-Up two more times and won a National Championship in 2008.
When asked about the greatest myths in college tennis recruitment, Coach Berryhill cautions players to not discredit a school because it is D2 and not D1. He explains that D2 schools allow athletes to embrace the three “S’s” - studies, sports, and a social life. Chad explained, “know that many Division II teams can beat Division I teams and it happens quite regularly. I think most would be surprised on how well the top Division II teams would compete and compare against some of the top 40 Division I programs.” It is important to look at the team, academics, and opportunities of a school - the whole picture!
Coach Berryhill offered advice to aspiring college athletes, “My advice is to know that there is a level and place out there for you. You just have to find it. However, know that coaches want players who are responsible, hardworking, and who buy into a team culture. No coach wants a troublemaker so come to a college team with the right intentions, which is to represent your team and your school through the sport you love to play.”
Chad ended our chat by explaining that his largest piece of advice is, “to ask questions and really try to engage with the coach. Find out the information you want to find out and use them as a resource. That being said, take control of your own destiny. You will need to be proactive to find a school you want to attend unless you have the level where coaches will come find you. There is a level of tennis out there for anyone and everyone so don’t be discouraged when you hear a couple “no’s.”