University Tennis is becoming one of the most popular routes for an aspiring Tennis player who still has an interest in their academics. It works differently for every player, some players want to go to University for a degree, and they play Tennis to represent their respective University on the side. Alternatively, and this is found more with American Universities rather than British Universities, some players simply go to University to play top-level Tennis full-time with the desire to becoming a professional ATP or WTA player. Whatever your motive, University Tennis is not for everybody, yet there are many reasons as to why it is one of the most enjoyable and positive experiences.
The typical age of someone going to University usually ranges from 18-20. This age is an extremely important time for many, as it is when players decide whether they want to and potentially can, become a professional Tennis player. But what do you get out of University Tennis? Can you really improve?More and more players are going to the USA with the aspirations of becoming a top professional Tennis player. To give you a brief overview, players Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors took to the courts at UCLA. John McEnroe studied at Stanford, on the way to an NCAA singles title. Althea Gibson played at Florida A&M, while Stan Smith and Billie Jean King opted for the West Coast, attending Southern California and Cal State Los Angeles, respectively. Of late, John Isner, Kevin Anderson and the Bryan Brothers are the most high-profile players to come out of the American University system. Isner has recently talked about his University experience. ‘“For me, to tell you the truth, I never even thought about going pro [after high school],” Isner said. “If I didn’t go to college, I really don’t even know if I would be playing tennis now. A lot of players leave high school and go straight to the pros, and they don’t make it and don’t have success, so they burn out after two or three years. For sure, if I hadn’t played for four years at Georgia, I don’t think I would be where I was now, making the finals of an ATP tournament – John Isner”. It’s clear that more and more young players are considering American University Tennis due to the rich history that exists between college programs and professional tennis.
However, even though it is growing in popularity, it doesn’t mean it’s the only way forward. We see many players leave for the USA, as they believe it is the best and most logical option for them to improve their game. If this is the case, great, however it shouldn’t be seen as THE best option as other avenues may pose different benefits to different players.
We recently spent some time speaking with a Masters student, who graduated from an American University, but then flew back to the UK to participate in a Master’s degree. the experience of University Tennis in both the USA and the UK has helped him in various ways, and he is now advising prospective students. He goes onto explain, ‘University Tennis is a superb experience for anyone whether that is in the UK or elsewhere. However there are different things to consider depending on where you want to go. American Universities are much more expensive, especially if you don’t have a high scholarship, however this shouldn’t hold you back. American Tennis is much more of a lifestyle, you train up to 6 times a week and it is compulsory to attend. If you want to continue at a very high level post A levels, America could be the one. The camaraderie is extremely high and the team feel very much like a family, as you eat, sleep, train and share things with each other week in week out. Also, there are over double the amount of matches played in the States compared to the UK.’
Interestingly, the UK do offer similar experiences. Camaraderie is always high and, depending on your chosen University, the amount of training is like for like. Some Universities offer extensive training programmes, however, depending on the coach and the scholarship, some of it may or may not be mandatory. You could almost say that the UK has more of a relaxed way of doing it, however that doesn’t mean the attitude and intensity is lower. The UK University system is a very popular one, and what is great about it, is the social aspect. You will make friends, and quickly. The coaches are usually young and very enthusiastic, and there is a sense of independence when it comes down to your training and improvements. Interestingly, UK Universities have a larger emphasis on its studies and some could argue that the degree comes before the Tennis. But don’t assume that going to a UK University will be of no good if you want to achieve things in Tennis. There are numerous top quality players within the BUCS system and one reason they are doing so well is because of what their respective University offers them. To give you an idea, Leeds Beckett University offer Tennis to their students 6 days week for at least 3 hours per day. With the right mind-set, we believe there’s no reason why you can’t achieve your goals at a UK university as much as a USA University
To summarise, some things to consider are:
The Cost, the stature of the University, the Tennis Programme on Offer, where the focus is (Studies or Tennis) and the standard of Tennis at that University.
To conclude, we believe that the too many players are simply jumping on the wagon, and immediately assuming that the USA is where they need to be. Essentially, if the facilities and offers are equal, such as court times and an extensive programme, of which most universities have, it essentially boils down to one thing, and that is your own effort. If you want to succeed, whether that is in the UK or the USA, it can be done with hard work, passion and a focus on your studies. The UK has some superb Tennis players within their BUCS system as does the USA. You could argue that tennis in the UK is slightly more independent, and for some this may work, for other it may not, however essentially it boils down to your specific needs, and how much you want it, and how much you’re willing to put into your Tennis and studies.
|Homework is reading and writing based||Homework is assignment based|
|Cost is high||Cost is moderate|
|Very high social activity within sport||Very high social activity within sport|
|Athletic scholarships are available||Scholarships are available but rare|
|Housing is usually shared in dormitories with a roommate||Room to yourself|
|Much more guided and look after||Lots of independence|
|22 matches a year||Roughly 10 matches a year|