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College tennis scholarships to the USA are very popular for student-athletes across the globe because as well as earning a world class degree they also provide students with a positive opportunity to develop both physically and mentally in a team environment over the course of four years.
It is seen by many national governing bodies across the world as a fantastic pathway for tennis players wanting to either continue their education or/and for players wanting to go professional after they graduate.
It is this reason why so many of the worlds best tennis players have emerged from the US college tennis scholarship system, such as recent players John Isner, Benjamin Becker, James Blake, Irina Falconi and the Bryan brothers.
Recent history and results have shown us that it is extremely difficult, if not near impossible for a teenager to break through after high school onto the professional circuit, for men and women. Not only are they physically weaker, but also mentally and the financial implications on trying to pursue professional ranking points in Futures/Challenger circuit qualifying tournaments (training/accommodation/food/equipment/etc) every week around the world is extremely costly. In fact the average cost according to the USPTA is USD$143,000 a year!
When you compare the average income for a professional tennis player that is not ranked inside the top 150/200, then you start to understand how difficult it really is to go pro at anytime in a players life, let alone at 18 years old straight out of school! For example in 2009 Grega Zemlja only earnt $71,270 in prize money and he was ranked 250 in the world ATP! Walter Trusendi who was ranked 500 ATP earnt a paltry $16,197!!
When you also consider that the average age of the men in the top 200 ATP is 26 years old and top 100 WTA for the women is 24 years old, it's little wonder why wise national associations and tennis academies push their players towards the college tennis scholarship pathway. The chances of success are not only so much higher, but they are financially a lot more realistic!
To give you an idea the average cost of an NCAA Division one college education when you factor in tuition, fees, room, board and books comes to USD$42,000 a year. When you then include the average cost of coaching($15k), physical training($15k), mental training($1.5k), travel($15k), equipment and clothing($5k), you have a total that comes to over $94,000 a year! So for players good enough to get a full tennis scholarship (full-ride), that's USD$376,000 being spent on you over the course of your four year college journey. Where at the graduating grand old age of 24, when you are physically and mentally stronger, with four years of training and matches under your belt you will be rightly placed to give the professional circuit a proper and realistic shot if you are good enough. And if you are not like the 99.9% of players that try, then you have a fantastic college education to fall back on!
I know we are a little biased, but that is a no-brainer to us! ;)
However before you carry on researching into how many scholarship opportunities there actually are and where you could potentially go, it's firstly a good idea to have a better understanding on whether you are actually good enough to play college tennis in the first place?
Tennis scholarship opportunities in the USA vary considerably depending on each players athletic and academic ability, with the student-athletes that have the better rating/ranking/results (nationally and internationally) and have maintained the higher academic grades receiving the larger tennis scholarship offers from college coaches.
These scholarships are offered by colleges that compete within the various divisions in the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA and here is a brief outline on what they can offer in terms of scholarships per team, if their programme is fully funded by their university.
In the NCAA Division One mens college tennis there are 263 programs, with most being able to offer 4.5 full tennis scholarships per team to spread out amongst its squad of 8+, with amounts typically ranging from a full 100% to 25% in financial aid. The standard in the NCAA division one varies considerably with the strongest colleges and conferences being able to field players that are ranked inside the top 500 ATP and WTA, down through to some of the best ITF ranked juniors from around the world. The lower level division one colleges do recruit players that are lower national standard, however these students will be playing lower down the teams order so therefore must expect to contribute financially to their education.
The NCAA Division Two has 161 college programs and is similar to Division One with again 4.5 full tennis scholarships to spread out amongst its squad. The colleges in the various divisions are not separated as most people think based on standard, so the majority of division two tennis programmes also have great teams and scholarships that are not easy to find.
There are 5 full tennis scholarships within teams that compete within the NAIA (92 programs) and 9 within the NJCAA (120 programs). Although with the later only 25% of the team are allowed to originate from outside of the USA. The standard for both of these associations is mixed due to easier eligibility criteria that makes colleges that compete with-in these associations a great choice for students that are not eligible for the NCAA.
If you have not read our article on college tennis scholarship in the USA and the standards you need to be, I would highly recommend it to you.
In the womens NCAA Division One tennis there are 320 college programs and due to the Title IX rule in college sport, often have 8 full tennis scholarships available to spread out amongst its team.
To compete at the top ranked colleges in the nation within division one the student must have either a WTA or top ITF (300+) ranking or be considered a strong national championship challenger. The lower level colleges and conferences require less and students can find good scholarships if they are a consistent regional performer.
In the NCAA Division Two 212 college programs are able to offer up to 6 full tennis scholarships per squad. The standard of the girls competing at the lower end is not that strong so if you are a regional or top club player then a good private academic division two college could be the perfect fit for you.
The NAIA has 110 colleges spread out around the country that can offer up to 5 full scholarships and the NJCAA with its 141 programs 9 full scholarships. Each of these associations has its pros and cons for students considering enrolling into one, so please speak with one of our Recruitment Advisors if you would like some further information.
As well as the tennis scholarships that are available at the various associations and divisions across the USA, if the student-athlete has good academic grades it may also be possible to receive an academic scholarship as well to help with the families financial commitment. This is especially important if the player is not of a high tennis standard as the academic scholarship could potentially offset a large proportion of the families yearly fees.