Tennis Canada’s College Program helps Canadian players obtain university scholarships that fit their academic, athletic, social and environmental goals and needs.
The U.S. college tennis experience is more than just raising a player’s game to a higher level. It also represents an opportunity to grow as a person through tennis. A student-athlete is introduced to valuable life skills such as sportsmanship, perseverance and time management. There is extensive traveling and camaraderie developed amongst student-athletes from all over the world through a strong teamwork environment. U.S. colleges and universities have a unique system that provides special academic and athletic support to student-athletes. In addition, U.S. colleges and universities draw tremendous support from local communities. Each school’s athletic department has the resources to ensure each student-athlete’s success both in the classroom and on the tennis court. For more than a century, U.S. College sports have been governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association - NCAA.
National Collegiate Athletic Association
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a voluntary association of over 1,200 U.S. colleges and universities, athletic conferences and sport organizations devoted to the sound administration of intercollegiate athletics. One of the many core values of the NCAA is a commitment to protecting the best interests of student-athletes. The NCAA is comprised of three divisions that correspond to different levels of competition. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association – ITA – is responsible for administrating all three NCAA Tennis Divisions.
About $1 billion in athletic scholarships are awarded each year. Over 126,000 student-athletes receive either a partial or full athletic scholarship. A full scholarship covers tuition, books, fees, as well as room and board. To earn a scholarship, the student-athlete must meet NCAA academic and athletic criteria with the number of scholarships per team strictly enforced by the NCAA. A player’s scholarship is renewed for each new school year. Student-athletes must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA (“C“ Average) to remain eligible for a scholarship. In addition, many coaches will assist athletes in obtaining additional financial aid to supplement partial athletic scholarships.
Next to the ATP and WTA Tours, NCAA tennis is the highest level of available competition and has served as a successful venue for many players who turned pro during or after their college tennis careers.
However, most players have academic and athletic goals that lead to a balanced college life and a career outside of tennis. There is a wide range of training and competitive programs available between different colleges and universities, making it possible for athletes to find the right mix of study, sport and social life that satisfies their needs. This also enforces the importance of appropriate guidance in finding the right college for a student-athlete.
The NCAA, Intercollegiate Tennis Association ITA, is administering college tennis in three levels of competition:
Division I and Division II schools offer athletic scholarships while Division III schools and Ivy League schools do not. Instead, they support their athletes using Financial Aid based on each individual’s financial needs and academic grades.
NCAA competitive tennis consists of a team dual match format in order to compete with different schools. Each team competes with six singles players who also form three doubles teams. In a dual match, a team wins one point for each singles win and a single point for winning 2 out of 3 doubles matches. Most teams carry squads of 10 -12 players, with varying opportunities to practice with or challenge the top-ranked players. In NCAA tennis competition, on-court coaching is allowed during a change over.
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics - NAIA, is composed of 300 U.S. and Canadian universities. It seeks to create an environment in which every student-athlete, coach, official and spectator are committed to the true spirit of competition through the five core values: respect, integrity, responsibility, servant leadership and sportsmanship. The 113 men’s tennis teams and 133 women’s tennis teams are allowed five athletic scholarships (two international scholarships) per team. While NAIA rules hold strict academic requirements, the process of establishing eligibility is streamlined since there is no Clearinghouse, thus less restrictions to compete.
The Tennis Canada College Program is committed to helping qualified high school student-athletes enjoy the enriching and rewarding experience of competing in their favourite sport while earning a university degree. Players and parents should have qualified assistance to guide them through the complex evaluation and recruiting procedure. Ultimately, earning an athletic scholarship instils a great sense of pride and achievement for players, parents and coaches.
This page provides general information about what it takes to qualify for an athletic scholarship. It is most important to note that a student-athlete’s academic and athletic requirements must be evaluated by the time he/she completes Grade 11. If a player meets the requirements, the recruiting process can start immediately on July 1.
NCAA Requirements & Responsibilities
To earn an NCAA athletic scholarship, a student-athlete must be an average student and an outstanding athlete. Academic requirements are more complex and students must meet the required core courses from Grade 9 through to high school graduation. Athletic requirements are measured by individual player rankings and the ability to compete at the U.S. college level. To earn a scholarship, a Grade 12 student-athlete must go through a recruiting process as early as possible to be exposed to all opportunities available for that year.
Student-athletes who wish to compete in Division I and Division II sports and earn an athletic scholarship must complete core courses throughout high school as determined by the NCAA Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse is an independent U.S. institution that evaluates a student-athlete’s high school courses and the results of the Scholastic Altitudinal Tests (SATs), to determine if he/she meets the required academic standards to compete in these top two divisions. These core courses are defined by the NCAA Clearinghouse. A high school guidance office is familiar with these courses and should be able to adjust a student-athlete’s curriculum in order to meet NCAA Clearinghouse standards. For Division I and II schools, a Scholastic Altitudinal Test (SAT) is mandatory. It is important to note that if the Clearinghouse does not declare the student-athlete a qualifier, he/she is not eligible for an athletic scholarship. Apart from being declared a qualifier by the Clearinghouse, a student-athlete must be academically admitted to the school that is offering him/her an athletic scholarship. Division III schools do not use the Clearinghouse evaluation. They evaluate student-athletes according to their individual school’s academic admission standards.
To recap: Student-athletes in all Divisions must meet academic standards to qualify for an athletic scholarship or financial aid. The initial academic status of a student-athlete can be determined upon completion of Grade 11. The Tennis Canada College Program provides this initial evaluation of a player’s academic and athletic status.
Athletic requirements for a potential tennis scholarship recipient are much easier to evaluate. The international, national and provincial rankings provide a good general assessment of a tennis player’s ability. However, U.S. college coaches have difficulty relating to and accurately assessing mid-range national and provincial rankings. The program evaluates at which level he/she can compete within the various NCAA Divisions. A proper level of assessment, as provided by the program, is crucial in seeking an athletic scholarship to enter a suitable tennis program.
As the new director of the Tennis Canada College Program, Greg Novak is responsible for evaluating and encouraging high performance Canadian tennis players to pursue athletic scholarship opportunities in the U.S. college system. He is determined to guide nationally and provincially ranked players to reward their talents and hard work with the best option for both their post secondary academic and athletic careers.
As a former tennis coach with the University of Michigan, Novak possesses a great deal of first-hand knowledge about U.S. university athletics and is able to provide students with the necessary tools to earn an athletic scholarship. His goal is to expose every qualified, young Canadian tennis player to a college tennis experience that truly suits his/her academic, athletic, social and financial needs.
“This is a once in a lifetime chance for young men and women to pursue their dream, one that was given to me and that I will always be grateful for. I truly enjoy introducing talented student-athletes to the right opportunities,” Novak said.
Coaches play a major role in determining which athletes get scholarships. First, the coach has a quick one stop evaluation of the player's profile, rankings, match play history and video link. Each registered coach will get a 'Players of Interest List' of their own, which they can customize based on their school's criteria (SAT. scores, gender, etc.) They can also create an online wish list to track their favourite picks on their password-protected account.
Our program director, Greg Novak, handles an initial evaluation for academic eligibility and athletic ability for each player. Coaches subsequently give a more efficient and reliable evaluation once they have been introduced to the programs best suited for their qualifications.