Similar to my last blog post about the path to playing college tennis, the benchmarks that junior players need to meet in order to be on track to play college tennis are not straightforward.. Consider that there are different divisions within the NCAA (D-1, D-2, and D-3), as well as the NAIA and NJCAA (junior colleges). Each division differs in terms of standard of play, scholarship availability, and vary in level from the top teams in the division to the lower level teams. There are also differences between the various divisions, and within each division, in terms of academic expectations, school entrance requirements, and emphasis on other factors such as sportsmanship, teamwork, leadership, service work, extra-curricular activities, etc.
There are just less than 1000 schools sponsoring men’s tennis and just more than 1000 schools sponsoring women’s tennis programs at the different levels. The maximum number of allowable scholarships per team is as many as 8 with D1 women and 4.5 with D1 men’s teams, down to D3 where no athletic scholarships are allowed.
With all that said, a great benchmark to consider as far as level of play in the different divisions of college tennis is the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR, www.universaltennis.com). UTR is a very straightforward rating system that college coaches generally put a lot of stock in for scouting and recruiting. The key thing to understand about UTR is that the rating is not based on age or gender in any way. It is strictly a measure of level of play. So, if there was a 14 year old boy that could beat a men’s college player, the 14 year old would have a higher rating. A 12 year old girl that beats an adult male would have a higher rating. So generally as a player ages, gets bigger, stronger, and more skilled, their rating will continue to improve. This is not the same as USTA rankings or www.tennisrecruiting.net, where a player might keep a similar rating relative to their peers as they get older.
To reach the dream of playing D1 men’s tennis, a player will likely need to be a 12+ on UTR. As explained above, there are fewer scholarships available to male tennis players than female college players at the collegiate level, so many strong players in middle and lower lineups at D1 schools are partial scholarship players. To be an upper lineup player that is recruited with a full ride scholarship, a player will likely need to be 13 UTR. Top players on the top teams in NCAA D2 and NCAA D3 men’s tennis teams are at a similar level to many D1 players. To be recruited on a full ride scholarships, in D2, a player will likely need to be a 12 UTR player, with players at 11+ UTR getting recruited for partial scholarships, and 10+ UTR being the level of many lower lineup players. NCAA D3 and NAIA have more variability from top teams down to the lower level teams. The top players and top teams are still at 12/13 UTR, but lower lineup players on weaker teams may be 8/9 UTR levels.
On the women’s side, 11+ UTR is necessary for top D1 players. Highly recruited mid major players are 9+ UTR level players. Top players on top D2, D3, and NAIA women’s teams still come in at 10/11 UTR, with 7/8/9 level players being recruited for the middle and lower lineup spots. There are more full ride scholarships available on the women’s side, so reaching at least the 8 level would indicate a highly recruited player. And as I said above, with the men, there is a larger drop off in D3 and NAIA to the lower lineup players on the lower level teams, which are generally 4/5/6 level UTR players.
One big challenge is getting to the level to play at the school of your dreams, but another big hurdle is making sure that the college programs at your level know about you and recruit you. I highly recommend College Prospects of America (www.cpoaworld.com) to help with this and every other step of the recruiting process. In full disclosure I am not only a fan of CPOA but I am a representative because as a former D1 College coach I believe in their results, process and the help they provide players in navigating the very confusing tennis recruiting process. CPOA has been trusted by college coaches for almost 30 years and can help you stand out from other recruits. If you would like to find out if you are on track in the recruiting process or have questions, leave a comment below or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 910-2329.