US College Tennis: A different path for players
Updated: May 27, 2020
Completing your further education in the USA might have crossed the mind of some junior tennis players in the UK – but for many it might be a distant dream. With over 9,000 UK students each year flying the UK nest, we sat down (virtually!) with University of Oklahoma Coach and former Top UK Junior, Amy Sargeant.
Amy (30), originally from Birmingham- was ranked within the Top 10 in the UK consistently during her junior days, competing against the likes of Jo Konta, Heather Watson and Naomi Broady. After completing the junior tour, Amy competed steadily in the difficult 10 and 25k ITF events– but found herself stuck in a potential predicament.
“The professional tour is a harsh reality; the level is really tough (…) I recall one moment at an ITF event in Wrexham where I’d lost and felt really disappointed.” It was post-match where she’d been chatting with another British female player who’d recently started her education and playing at Florida State University. After careful consideration, Sargeant leapt at the opportunity and ultimately had a successful College career, graduating in 2013 with a degree in Sports Management & Administration.
Now a successful coach at a Top 30 College, I asked Amy about the process of how to identify and work towards getting a place at a US college.
“Do your research and start early” she affirms. The process can be lengthy, so Amy recommends starting your research in Years 11 and 12 of your studies. She points towards help available in the UK, including that of Sarah Borwell – former Wimbledon player who founded Tennis Smart – which helps young British players through the whole process. “You need to identify what your goals are – education and tennis wise, to focus in on the most appropriate colleges”, resources such as the ITA.com and other College rankings highlight the quality. Colleges are looking for educational standards as well as playing – this is tested via the SAT Test, an exam focusing on Maths and Critical writing.
Once there, College can be an exciting, unique experience for those from the UK. “Each day is tough for students, often classes start at 8am and take up all morning – you’d then be expected to practice 2/3 hours of tennis in the afternoon and fitness work,” grins Sargeant. She says there can be a lot of pressure and competition within the College leagues, but it’s a great experience for those keen to progress.
Take for example, Lily Miyazaki, a British student – who under the guidance of Sargeant and the coaching team, made it to a Top 10 ITA ranking and is now competing regularly on the professional ladies circuit – having won her first ITF professional event in Japan in March.
College tennis seems a perfect opportunity for those wanting to stay in the sport and “create a different route” – with the skills and aptitude being crafted, applicable to the professional world. I asked Amy where she’d have been, without taking the College route – “potentially still in Birmingham” she smiles – “with an aim to eventually open an Academy in Austria” – now that’s for a different blog post!
Follow Amy Sargeant on Instagram at @coachsarge_
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