The US College System is a great opportunity for student-athletes to continue their tennis journey post their year 12 studies. As a student-athlete, you will be attending college (university) studying your degree of choice, be involved with a full-time training program (on-court training, gym, strength & conditioning, and rehab) and traveling to compete against other colleges and individual tournaments.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the US College Pathway and the recruitment process can be complex. The following information can be used as a guide to help clear up some of the myths and provide you with a starting point. We must stress, that the NCAA eligibility rules & regulations often change, and we recommend you seek professional advice to ensure you receive the most up to date information.
Vida Tennis has partnered with Aussie Athletes Agency (AAA), the nation’s longest-running NCAA compliant agency, to help educate families about the benefits and the process. AAA has a former Tennis Australia Head National Coach at the helm and their team is entirely ex-US college players and coaches including 14 from tennis. AAA has a 100% success rate and you can read more about their outcomes here and their staff here.
First, here are some simple questions we get asked a lot?
Do I have to have Pro ambitions?
No! It goes without saying that only a small number of college athletes make the grade to turn professional. But college in the US offers so much more than that! The entire experience is life-changing and something you will remember fondly for the rest of your life. Plus, you will be obtaining your degree, which you will have for life once you’ve earned it. This degree will help provide you with further career options beyond university, which may or may not be in the world of sport.
But what if I do have Pro ambitions?
In the US, college sport is a rite of passage for any budding professional athlete. Many sporting stars from the NFL, NBA and MLS will attend college before being picked up by professional teams towards the end of their education. In fact, it is well known the roughly 50% of all Olympians (not just US athletes) have spent time in the US college pathway. While it still remains incredibly tough to make it as a professional in any sport, the college environment provides those with the required talent and determination with a fantastic platform to potentially compete professionally in the future. There are plenty of examples of tennis players coming out of college and turning professional, and now with the average age of the professional players being mid to late twenties, college provides a great pathway.
How does the system work?
There are three governing associations of US collegiate athletics:
- NCAA – National Collegiate Athletic Association
- NJCAA – National Junior College Athletic Association
- NAIA – National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
Approximately 570,000 student-athletes participate in intercollegiate athletics across the three separate governing associations. Athletic scholarships can be provided in full or divided partially between student-athletes, dependent on the sport and governing association.
What is a scholarship?
US college scholarships are in high demand. A scholarship is effectively financial aid for a student to attend that college. The amount of athletic financial aid you receive is often determined by your ability to be an asset for a particular university sporting program. There are also many other considerations when assessing the value and makeup of a scholarship offer. Scholarships can cover tuition, fees, books, accomodation and food. Being on a college tennis team also gives you your coaching, domestic travel, hotels and food on the road and your equipment and apparel.
I only want to go to a Division 1 school
This is probably the biggest misconception people have. What matters the most, is that the college you choose has everything you want from this amazing opportunity. The tennis programs, the degree, the environment, the location and so many more factors make up the ingredients for the individual student-athlete to get the most out of the life experience.
How do I know if I am at the right level and which is the best option for me?
As an aspiring student-athlete, it is important to know yourself and be realistic in the pursuit of your sporting goals. You should consider your current level and ability, your potential to improve upon your skills, and your commitment to your education. Be honest in your self-evaluation, establish appropriate goals, and you will be more likely to succeed in your pursuit of US college opportunities.
A good college program as well as your tennis coach will be able to help you target the most appropriate athletic division for your abilities, and the most suitable college for your educational goals, optimizing your chance of receiving a scholarship or funding package to attend a US college.
So what are the Divisions
NCAA Recruiting Facts
- The NCAA was established in 1906.
- 24 men’s and women’s sports are played across the 3 divisions of the NCAA.
- More than 460,000 student-athletes participate in NCAA sports each year.
- 1,121 colleges and universities nationwide, with 19,000 teams participating in NCAA intercollegiate competition.
- 54,000 student-athletes advance to NCAA championships annually, competing at 89 national championships.
- Division I and II provide $2.7 billion in athletic scholarships annually, awarded to more than 150,000 student-athletes.
- Only 6% of American high school athletes compete in NCAA intercollegiate athletics, with approximately 2% receiving an athletic scholarship.
- Less than 2% of NCAA athletes will continue on to play sports professionally.
- On average, the number of people that attend US college sporting events is 28.33 million each year.
NCAA Division I:
- 173,500 student-athletes, 346 universities across America.
- 53% of Division I student-athletes receive some portion of athletic financial aid.
- 81% success rate for Division I student-athlete graduation.
NCAA Division II:
- 109,100 student-athletes, 300 universities across America.
- 56% of Division II student-athletes receive some portion of athletic financial aid.
- 71% success rate for Division II student-athlete graduation.
NCAA Division III:
- 183,500 student-athletes, 450 universities across America.
- 75% of Division III student-athletes receive some form of academic grant or need-based scholarship – no financial aid allocated for athletics.
- 87% success rate for Division III student-athlete graduation.
NJCAA Recruiting Facts
- The NJCAA was established in 1938.
- 15 men’s sports and 13 women’s sports are played in the NJCAA.
- There is a 3 division system, similar to that of the NCAA.
- There are approximately 45,300 student-athletes that compete in the NJCAA each year.
- The NJCAA has 24 different regions, with over 50 national championships hosted annually.
NAIA Recruiting Facts
- The NAIA was established in 1937.
- Approximately 62,000 student-athletes participate in NAIA sports each year.
- The NAIA supports 13 men’s and women’s sports.
- 23 national championships are played annually.
- There are more than 260 universities competing in NAIA sports nationwide.
- $500 million in athletic scholarships provided to NAIA student-athletes.
How do I qualifying for Student-Athlete eligibility?
Each athletic governing association has established regulations for student-athlete eligibility. These regulations define athletic and academic standards that must be met in order to be eligible to participate in intercollegiate athletics. Eligibility is determined by the athletic association you are applying to, and all aspiring student-athletes must register online with either the NCAA or NAIA Eligibility Centres.
The registration process will involve providing your complete history; including personal information, academic transcripts, and a precise account of your sporting career to date. Academic criteria for student-athlete eligibility involves the courses you have completed throughout high school, your grade point average, and entrance exam scores (SAT’s or equivalent) to ensure that you are eligible to undertake a university degree. Athletic criteria for student-athlete eligibility predominately focuses on amateurism status and ensuring that you have not previously competed in paid sporting activities.
Once you have registered with the appropriate eligibility centre you will be allocated a membership number to identify you as an aspiring student-athlete undertaking the process of eligibility approval. Being granted eligibility status is an ongoing process, and you will need to continually update your information as academic and athletic tasks are completed. When you have completed all required eligibility fields, and have been granted eligibility status, you will receive a certificate that you can present to potential US colleges when required.
What are the Core Courses in High School?
Core courses are certain fundamental subjects that are deemed necessary by the various US college athletic associations specifically NCAA DI and DII. The structure of the Australian school system isn’t always comparable to the US high school system, so it is very important to get advice in this area. It is imperative you are aware of these core course and GPA requirements when choosing elective courses toward the final years of high school, especially if you are targeting NCAA DI and DII institutions. Failure to meet these requirements will render you ineligible to participate in collegiate athletics in those divisions…regardless of your tennis standard!
From what year level at school do my subject selections and grades count towards eligibility?
In general terms, year 9. This gives you ample time to prepare the next 4 years for academic and athletic eligibility. College coaches also recruit years in advance so it can be important to be in discussions early. Remember, there are restrictions on how much coaches can initiate contact.
Do I need to do a video?
Yes. A well-filmed skill video is a normal part of the recruitment process for tennis. Initially this should be edited practice footage. It is a misconception that a video alone will earn you a scholarship position. Your video should be edited to highlight the execution of specific skills in a particular format. Recruiting videos are an extension of your athletic resume, so quality of content and film construction is paramount. Some coaches request unedited match play footage later in the recruitment process.
Confused? Need help
Aussie Athletes Agency is a wealth of information and offers free consultations. Just click on any of the following links:
- Click Here to read more about who they are and what they do.
- Click Here to book a free consultation
- Click Here to read some reviews of their service
Aussie Athletes Agency has a 100 point checklist to ensure no detail is overlooked during the recruitment process. Their qualified team understands that even the minor details are integral to the future success of a student-athlete in search of athletic placement and scholarship opportunities within the U.S. college system. The goal is to ensure each individual is placed into an environment whereby you will have the best possible opportunity to succeed.
Vida Players in US College
Over the years, we have seen more than 50 players from Vida programs attend college in America. College is a great pathway for anyone who wants to combine their tennis and academics at the same time. This is another option in the tennis pathway and amazing life experience.