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Being an International Student-Athlete

No one can prepare you to play college sports and you will have a unique college experience.  Remember that you are not alone as your teammates will be going through the same experience you are, and you will have the support of your coaching staff, Athletic Department and the International Student Department.

Below you will find information pertaining to a student visa, the NCAA clearing house and employment opportunities for students while they attend school in the United States.

As an international student athlete in the United States you will have all of the academic and athletic opportunities that the institution offers within your visa regulations. The benefit of becoming a student athlete is well worth the initial change. Each institution will have an International Student Department that will be able to assist you with any questions or concerns regarding your visa and government documents.

Visa information

If you have been successfully accepted into an institution you will receive the paperwork for an F-1 student visa that allows you to attend that institution with working restrictions. Take these documents to the United States Consulate within your country to receive your student visa. It is important when you arrive in the United States you bring all your visa information (ie. F-1 visa, I-20, passport, I-94 and United States visa) so you can be successfully admitted. Failure to provide these documents at your first port of entry in the United States may lead to legal implications.

NCAA Clearinghouse

As a prospective student athlete from a foreign country it is important you send your high school documentation to the NCAA Clearinghouse as early as possible. Please follow the guidelines set out in the area titled Academics. It is essential that all documentation you send to the NCAA Clearinghouse is in English or has an English translation. For further information please refer to the NCAA Clearinghouse website at www.ncaaclearinghouse.org


Employment as an international student is restricted to the institution that is signed on your I-20. You are allowed to legally work a maximum of 20 hours per week. These and other regulations can be attained through the international student department at your institution. They will have updated information for on campus employment and immigration regulations.

In this section you will learn what it takes to be a student-athlete.  This section will give you an idea of a yearly calendar for tennis players as well as competition structure, tournaments, team environment, practice guidelines and what a daily schedule would look like for a student-athlete.

Annual Calendar

Tennis is one of only a few sports that compete throughout the yearly academic calendar.  The tennis season is divided up into a fall and spring schedule.  Below is a general breakdown of how each team will play its calendar year.  For more information about a team’s schedule, you should access their athletic page directly.


National tournaments:

  • All American Championships
  • National Indoor Championships

Regional Tournaments:

  • ITA Regional Tournament

Institution Tournaments:

  • Many institutions hold fall tournaments (these could also be exhibition tournaments)


National Tournaments:

  • National Team Indoor Championships
  • NCAA National Team Championships
  • NCAA Singles and Double Championships

Dual Matches:

  • Conducted from January through to the middle of April
  • Conference Tournament is conducted at the end of April with the winning team gaining an automatic big to the National Team Championships

NCAA Dual Match Protocol:

One of the most exciting aspects of college tennis in the United States is the ability to compete as a team. The spring season is devoted to dual matches where institutions will compete against each other with the goal to win a national or conference championships.

Below is a brief explanation of the current dual match protocol in D1 tennis:

  • Dual matches are competed until a team has won the best of seven points.
  • Three doubles matches are played in order of merit. Each doubles match is one pro set (8 games). The team who wins at least two of the three doubles matches will receive on point.
  • Six singles matches are played after the doubles. Each singles match is the best of three sets with each match earning one point for their team.
  • Service ‘let’s’ have been removed from the men’s competition of D1 college tennis.

In D2, D3 and NAIA dual matches the only different to D1 tennis is that these divisions have a total of 9 points (all three doubles matches count as 1 point each). With the exception of the NCAA tournament and a few other are extenuating circumstances. All matches are played to conclusion and not stopped after the team winner has been determined. However, if a team has already won the match they may decide to play a super-tie-break for the third set instead of playing it out in full.

Summer Tournaments:

During the summer the Intercollegiate Tennis Association conducts tournament throughout the United States. Check your institution or on the ITA website, www.itatennis.com for tournament schedules. There are also many Futures and Challenger events located throughout the United States during the summer (May through August). For more information contact the United States Tennis Association at www.usta.com.

Team Environment:

With hundreds of men’s and women’s programs throughout the United States there is a good chance that they are all conducted differently. When you arrive at your institution in the fall or spring you will enter a team that will have certain goals, coaching styles, facilities and staff associated with it.

Coaching Staff:

Each institution will have a head coach that is responsible for the daily improvement and well being of the team. Their responsibilities will range from player development, conducting practice sessions, scheduling matches, budget management and recruiting. Some institutions will have an assistant coach, graduate assistant or volunteer assistant coach who will assist in these areas.


College teams predominately have 8-12 players on their competitive roster. The benefit of this is that you can always find someone to practice with and there will be a variety of playing styles to learn from and plenty of new friends to make. Some institutions will have international athletes so you will have the ability to experience other cultures within the one place.


All institutions with an athletic program will have a training room and a certified athletic trainer. The athletic trainer will assist with injuries, rehabilitation and referrals for medical concerns.

Other Staff:

Depending on the institution, you may encounter any of the following staff members who will assist with your tennis program.

  • Administrative Assistant
  • Team Stringer
  • Team Manager


Within the guidelines of the NCAA, each tennis program can officially practice for a maximum of 20 hours per week and this includes all on-court official coaching, conditioning programs and private lessons with at least one day off per seven day period.  You can practice voluntarily outside these hours and most institutional coaches will encourage extra hitting with team mates.

Below you can find an example of a day of a student-athlete at some top D1 programs. Please note that this is an example of a demanding schedule and that the average day can vary drastically depending on the school you choose.

7:00 am –   7:30 am   Wake up, breakfast

8:00 am – 11:00 am   Attend classes

11:00 am – 12:00 pm   Lunch

12:00 pm –   1:30 pm   Private lesson or extra practice

2:00 pm –   5:00 pm   Scheduled team practice

5:00 pm –   6:00 pm   Physical conditioning

6:00 pm –   7:30 pm   Rehabilitation, dinner

8:00 pm – 11:00 pm   Study, relax, catch up with friends, watch a movie

11:00 pm – 11:30 pm   Bed

In any given week student-athletes may also travel for competition, be required to participate in extra practice sessions on the weekend or attend some of the other institutions’ athletic events.