San Diego tennis pro Amanda Fink has firsthand knowledge of the college recruiting process. She was a top high school player and learned the dos and don’ts of scholarship game through trial and error. Now she wants to give back to the next generation of athletes to pave an easier path. As such, she organized the 3rd Annual USPTA College Knowledge seminar at the Santaluz Club in San Diego.
Fink was a teenage tennis star at Calabasas High School in Los Angeles and later became an ITA All-America pick from USC. She reached a personal best of No. 269 on the women’s pro tour. Now she is a USPTA tennis professional at Santaluz and teaches high school athletes on and off the court.
Several college coaches and tennis experts spoke at the event including Coach Dee Henry of Biola University, Coach Dianne Matias of Cal State Fullerton and Coach Ryan Keckley from the University of San Diego. Other outstanding experts were Madeline Segura from the Southern California Tennis Association, who heads up the Tennis on Campus program, and professional player Danielle Lau.
Topics ranged from how to speak to coaches during interviews, college financial aid tips, NCAA recruiting rules, and how to contact coaches. Other areas of clarification included information on the Tennis Recruiting Network and the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) systems.
USPTA San Diego Division President Don Gomsi helped Fink organize the annual event. He is a strong supporter of player and parent education. Together they provided an outstanding service to the San Diego high school tennis community. “It’s a complicated process and can be hard to figure out,” Gomsi said. “Getting a scholarship is like a roadmap. We are trying to make that journey clear so college includes tennis at some level.”
Michelle Sikora, a sophomore at Scripps Ranch High in San Diego, was curious about how to find a tennis scholarship. (Photo below.) She learned it’s never too early to start the process although coaches can’t respond to her inquiries until her junior year. Sikora finished second in doubles in the Western League this season. “I’d never heard of the Universal Rating System or how it works,” Sikora said. “I also learned that I have to play a lot more tournaments.”
Sikora’s mother, Marina Shapiro, said she was surprise to discover the importance of encouraging her daughter to volunteer for community events. “This is like a part time job,” Shapiro said. “These kids have to play tournaments, practice, keep up with school, and volunteer in their free time. That’s a busy schedule.”
Henry, who is in her 45th year at Biola, suggested it is important for players to connect with perspective coaches early to see if it is the right fit. This involves all areas such as the size of the school, type of education, coaching styles, religious aspects and location of the school. “Everything has to be a match for a successful college experience,” Henry said. “That means the player, parent and coach have to be on the same page.”
University of San Diego Coach Ryan Keckly is new at the helm of the Torero men’s tennis program. His advice to high school players is to play tennis as much as possible in social environments with friends.
“There is something to be said for tennis experience that is fostered out of fun,” said Keckly, who replaced former USD coach Brett Masi. “I would tell kids just go out there and play without a coach standing by or a helicopter parent watching a kid’s every move. Play tennis with people of all ages. Learn how to compete and enjoy the process.”
Josh Jorgenson is the USPTA Vice President of the North County Coastal Area and a teaching pro at Club Torrey Pines in Carmel Valley. He attends almost every local tennis workshop because he strives to expand his knowledge of the sport in all areas. His key takeaway point from the seminar was to help kids consider playing tennis in variety of ways that can include the USTA’s Tennis On Campus program, intramural sports and recreation programs. He applauded Fink’s efforts to help others play tennis in high school, college and beyond.
“Tennis offers more options on so many levels,” Fink said. “If I can give athletes a glimpse of a future that includes tennis, than this workshop was a success.”
College Knowledge Seminars are offered at several locations throughout the calendar year. The next one will be at The Claremont Club in the spring. Watch for additional information in this publication during the 1st quarter of 2017.