USTA Releases "Going to College or Turning Pro" FAQ

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SKILLMAN, NJ - The USTA National Collegiate Varsity Committee recently released the study: "Going to College or Turning Pro? Making an Informed Decision!"

With the USTA's emphasis now placed on the collegiate game as a pathway to pro tennis,graduating junior players have steadily been increasing numbers to the collegiate system to find professional success -- and it's working. In fact, the majority of today's top-ranked collegiate players, and their coaches, will all tell you that it's one of the smartest decisions any young player can make and that the United States actually has a huge advantage over many countries with the collegiate sports infrastructure we have.

Some of the major questions posed in the study of whether to attend college or go straight to the pros are:

(1) What is the USTA player development pathway? 
(2) What is the monetary value of a college tennis scholarship? 
(3) What are the annual costs for playing the professional tour at a highly competitive level? 
(4) What ATP and WTA rankings (earnings) are needed to break even financially playing professional tennis? 
(5) What can you can make as professional tennis player at the progressive levels of professional tennis? 
(6) Can you share any sample case studies of professional careers, including career earnings? 
(7) What are the average ages of tour professionals at various rankings? 
(8) What does a career progressions of playing records in the developmental pathway look like for a successful pro, including the average number of years it takes to become top 100 and the "life expectancy on the pro tour"? 

While many of the questions equate to financial reasoning, there are also references to the many advantages of being a collegiate student-athlete such as experiencing the thrill of competitive rivalries in a team-oriented environment and the high-pressure situations gained by playing four years of college matches, not to mention the social and educational advantages of spending four years in college, especially when preparing for life after professional tennis.

Even though attending college while focusing one's attention on the court can be a balancing act, a predecessor such as Georgia's John Isner, who is currently ranked No. 19 in the world, explains why he never second-guessed his decision to attend college and says he would not hesitate telling a talented high school senior to do the same thing.

"The thought of going pro never crossed my mind because I wasn't developed at all as a 16-, 17-year old, and I knew going to college would give me a better chance of playing professional tennis, whereas just going straight out of high school, I definitely wasn't strong enough and probably not mature enough, either, to go out there and try to make a living out of it right away", said Isner. 

"I would definitely tell him or her to go to school because it's the best thing for you. When you're coming out of high school, you're 17 or 18 years old, and if you're going out there trying to make a living for yourself, it's very difficult, no matter how talented you are. And if you go to college, everything is paid for. You have all the personal attention, and you get an education. Definitely, definitely go to college instead of going pro because you're going to get stronger, you're going to get better, and you'll definitely be more mature when you do decide to go pro."

The study indicates that a truly elite junior tennis player should have a proven track record of success before even considering embarking on a professional career.

The study also provides estimates of the expenses of competing full-time on the pro tour and contrasts it with the value of the college scholarship and the coaching, fitness, and travel expenses that are provided free to college players. 

From a financial perspective, unless you can get at least $250,000 of "real money" (hard cash dollars) placed into an escrow account in your name (e.g., not promises, not simply clothes, etc.) you should go to college.

Luke Jensen, a former ITA and ATP Champion, who is now the Women's Head Coach at Syracuse University and will be serving as the guest speaker at the 2010 ITA Coaches Convention further explains the many advantages now offered by attending college prior to pursuing a pro career. 

"My job now is to get more players ready for the pro circuit in the future.  Many players overlook the non-sports benefits that college holds. There are so many life lessons in there too. Being a complete person; the social experience; dealing with pressures in the classroom and pressures from your peers. It's truly an amazing time in your life", Jensen said.

"If you're 16 or 17 years old, you need to go to college. Clearly, if you're not in the Top 100 in the world, you aren't making money. There are a lot of kids who have made that jump and have not been successful, and they pretty much ruin their chances for college."

This is a must read on a very important subject for anyone involved at the highest level of competitive tennis. Click here to access the full eight-page study prepared by the USTA National Collegiate Varsity Committee.
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