11 min read
Universal Tennis (UTR) has truly become the global standard for working out a player’s skill level. As little as five years ago, college coaches would have to refer to a series of disparate international ranking systems (if they were recruiting from overseas), national ranking systems, and prospect-rating websites to work out the level of players they were recruiting. These days, they use UTR.
Tennis is the most international college sport. A 2018 NCAA study found that 63% of men and 62% of women in Division I tennis teams were international student-athletes. The statistics in Division II were similarly high: 58% for men and 38% for women. In this regard, the UTR Rating has been a boon to international athletes. College coaches need not be versed in the peculiarities of different ranking systems across the globe. They only need to know a player’s UTR. One of the major strengths of the UTR platform is that it allows international recruits to be evaluated on the same scale as American players. This dynamic has often worked in inspiring ways: Vikramjit Singh, who operates the ACE Tennis Academy in Punjab, relayed the story of one of his students, saying: “One of my players who recently registered on UTR, has got three offers from US colleges. He is the son of a mechanic… it’s life-changing for him.”
UTR Ambassador Darren Cahill also highlighted how important UTR has become for young players wanting to go the college route. In an interview with Australian doubles great Todd Woodbridge, Cahill commented that “What all the coaches and recruiters in the US look at first is the UTR Rating. It’s incredibly important for them. They don’t have to go out and scout a bunch of players. They can go onto myutr.com, they can see the athletes that they are recruiting, the players they’re playing against, their scores, their results, their ratings, and they can get a pretty good sense of what level of player they’re recruiting. So having a good UTR rating is incredibly important for anyone who wants to play in the US college system.”
While UTR is a powerful tool for connecting aspiring collegiate players with coaches and teams and is an important indicator of the level of a tennis player, college coaches also care about work ethic, character, and the attitude that a potential recruit might bring to their tennis team.
To provide a fuller, balanced picture, we’ve brought you the opinions of coaches and industry leaders in the recruiting space so that we can highlight what they look for in potential athletes. We’ve also interspersed advice on how to use the UTR platform effectively if your goal is to play college tennis or if you’re a coach who’s looking for their next student-athlete.
Improve your rating in High School—and make sure you build the right habits
High school is a great time to better yourself as a tennis player. As you approach your junior year, take a realistic look at where you think your UTR rating can be by the time you graduate. Factor in how much you train, how often you compete, and how much of your mental resources you’ve been able to devote to tennis.
While it is difficult to predict where your UTR rating might be in a year’s time, UTR offers a valuable feature which calculates your two decimal rating based upon your performances in the last three months. If you navigate to your profile, you will be able to find this feature next to your longest win streak. According to the pop-up, if you click/hover over the “i” icon, the “Three-Month Trending UTR is a subset of UTR in which a player's rating is calculated using only matches from the last three months.” Use it to sketch out in what direction you’re heading. Are you happy with your rating? If not, it might be time to work harder and get more serious about your tennis.
High School coaches encourage their players to think about improving themselves on many levels—not just on the tennis court. Corey Aldridge, Head Tennis Coach at Carroll Senior High School in Southlake, Texas, advises players and their parents on a balanced approach. “Although extremely important, a kid’s rating is not the ‘be all and end all.’ Collegiate coaches are interested in the entire package, such as an athlete’s academic status, work ethic, willingness to be coached, character, leadership skills, and much more. These are some of the skills our High School coaches highlight and address in meetings, team discussions, and our individual talks with our student-athletes.”
"Collegiate coaches are interested in the entire package, such as an athlete’s academic status, work ethic, willingness to be coached, character, leadership skills, and much more."
Troy Simonek, Head Tennis Coach at Midway High School in Waco, Texas, prefers to use the UTR rating as a goal-setting figure for his athletes. “We also let them know that they are way more than a number. A number is an external measure of performance and we want them to develop internally as players as well. One of the greatest lessons our players learn is the true essence of ‘compete.’ As Jeff Moore states in his book, ‘Strive Together : Achieve Beyond Expectations in a Results-Obsessed World,’ compete means to ‘Strive Together.’ We follow this belief, teaching our players to compete daily and strive to help each other become the best versions of themselves possible.”
Even high-performance academies, which develop some of the best college recruits in the country, try to emphasize that players should concern themselves with all aspects of their game, not only winning matches. James Bryce, Head of College Placement at IMG, says that “ instills in our players five core values that they can continue to strengthen while at the academy and take with them to college; open mind, passionate soul, absolute integrity, champions spirit, and helpful heart. I believe that all of these values are characteristics of a well-rounded student-athlete that college coaches are looking for. As a former college coach it was extremely important to me for our incoming players to fit with our teams core values and philosophy. This is how teams become successful by buying into the process, and also reasons why teams fall apart without it.”
“IMG instills in our players five core values that they can continue to strengthen while at the academy and take with them to college; open mind, passionate soul, absolute integrity, champions spirit, and helpful heart. I believe that all of these values are characteristics of a well-rounded student-athlete that college coaches are looking for."
It is easy for juniors to become fixated on their UTR rating. But what else makes an alluring candidate to a college coach? How are your grades? How well do you compete for the team? Are you willing to be coached? These are the types of questions that go through coaches’ minds when they compare recruits.
Similar UTR ratings: who is the more appealing candidate?
Many collegiate coaches pride themselves on building tennis teams through this team-first attitude. Though tennis might be an individual sport, collegiate tennis is unique in that athletes are encouraged to put the wants of the team ahead of their own. This might mean accepting tough decisions from coaches such as when another player is selected to play over you, even though you might have a higher UTR rating.
Keep in mind that the ratings of players in a potential school and how you compare should not be the only factor in selecting a school. You want to ensure that you’ll be a good fit for the program in terms of team culture and attitude. Coaches want to ensure that, too, because they might often be in a position where they have to choose between two players who have similar ratings.
“When it comes down to two players with a similar UTR rating, I think it's on coaches to decide who will be a better fit for the team and the team culture they have,” says Katarina Adamovic, Assistant Coach of The University of Cincinnati’s Women’s Tennis program. “I think players' personality plays a key role in making that decision. What kind of work ethic do they have and what kind of goals do they have? What's their athleticism like and their style of play? Lastly, I think the most important thing is whether they are a team player and do they have the ability to become good leaders for the team. I think that's what makes the difference in a coach's decision.”
"The most important thing is whether they are a team player and do they have the ability to become good leaders for the team."
Aaron Paul, who is the Assistant Coach of Tennis at Princeton University, said there were lots of factors that came into play when deciding which player to pick when they have similar ratings: “First, we look a lot at potential—athleticism, areas for improvement technically/tactically, gamestyles that may take longer to develop, skills/attributes that are hard to teach, or someone who hasn’t played a ton of tennis yet. Second, we are assessing character fit. Team culture is the foundation of our program. Our team is a group of girls who love each other, are always there for one another, and are truly a family. We want players who will add to that and thrive in that environment!”
Experienced coaches know the importance of building a team with members who understand its shared culture. It’s often better to have high-level players who have bought into the values of the team than to recruit a superstar athlete who might disrupt a program.
Use UTR to find your best fit
How do you want your college tennis experience to play out? Do you want to attend a university where you’re outside of the starting lineup, so that you can keep working and improving and eventually play in your sophomore, junior, and senior years? Or do you want to play right off the bat and contribute in the top 3 lines?
No option is “right” and players and coaches have different philosophies on what is best for an athlete’s development. Whatever your decision, UTR can help you and your team make the appropriate decision for your collegiate career.
Your profile says a lot about you so make sure you build it in a way that represents yourself well—especially if your goal is to play college tennis. Ensure that you navigate to the “Student Info” tab and fill out all relevant fields as coaches often check this tab to be certain that a potential recruit is a good fit academically.
The UTR College Fit tool, which is available to all users, allows you to enter your UTR rating, select where you’d like to play in the lineup, and then see which school’s roster you could potentially play in. Use the tool to gauge where you would fit into the lineup at a potential school.
From a coach’s perspective, UTR is a valuable tool for finding the right student-athlete. Gone are the days when college coaches had to take educated guesses on a player’s potential and skill level based upon a series of disparate factors. The UTR platform offers a much more precise, measurable way of gauging a potential recruit.
One factor that college coaches look out for when recruiting is whether or not a player has an excessive amount of withdrawals against their names. Coaches want to recruit players who are dependable and willing to be tough in match situations. Too many walkovers raise red flags in the recruiting process—especially if these walkovers occur against lower-rated players in an effort to protect your UTR.
Power 6, another great feature on the platform, is a metric created by UTR to measure the overall strength of a college team. It’s calculated by adding up the individual UTR ratings of the top-6 players on a team. For example, the Stanford Men’s Tennis Program has a UTR Power 6 rating of 81.70, as the range of their top-6 players is from UTR 13.29 – UTR 14.07.
College coaches can use UTR Power 6 to assess rival teams and to help set up their schedules. Prospective collegiate athletes can use it to see where a school stacks up in a conference, or even measure two schools which have never played each other.
For a young athlete who wants to play college tennis—wherever you may be located in the world—UTR offers a unified rating system which allows those in recruiting positions to instantly gauge your skill level. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing tennis in Fresno, California or in Bangalore, India. With the global recognition that a UTR rating offers, the ability to attend the right college is within your reach.