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Rankings Are Not Everything

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Having coached in the juniors for 25 years and having coached national junior champions (Nicole London, Lindsay Davenport), NCAA Champions (Debbie Graham, Stella Sampras) and WTA Professionals (Kimberly Po, Marianne Werdel), and more. I can tell you that your junior ranking does NOT always correlate with you becoming successful at the college level and/or the professional level. Now as head women’s tennis coach at Bowdoin College in Maine I can tell you that the rankings of players are only one of several factors that I do consider in my recruiting process.

Rankings are a computerized way to group players and give you an indication of where you are at in your own age group. It’s a system that does give students motivation and goals. It’s a system that allows tournaments to do a better job of seedings and pairings. Yet, it does NOT always give you a better indication of who is going to be a better collegiate player or professional.

There are many collegiate coaches who consider rankings a huge indicator of a junior players success. Some even require their recruits to be ranked a certain position in order to consider them at their university or college. I disagree with this position. I think that “results” and “direct wins/losses” are a better indicator of their future, in addition to potential.

Rankings can be misleading. Some players are ranked higher simply because they play more tournaments. Some have the financial means to play more tournaments and therefore are ranked higher. Some are ranked higher because they can afford to travel to larger and bigger tournaments. Some players are ranked lower because they play more than one sport, play less tournaments, live in an area where tournaments are not as prevalent or even have suffered some injuries that have caused their rankings to drop some.

My main point is for all juniors (and parents) to remember that rankings do not mean everything. College coaches look for improvement, potential, motivation, and good attitude. One of the first things that I do is to talk to opposition coaches of junior players. I like to find out what “others” say about this junior player. I like to look at results against other recruits. Plus, I like to talk to the recruits to find out what they are like as a person. No college coach wants to spend years with a player they do not like as an individual. At Bowdoin we have players that have improved in their years at college. College coaches want players that are going to get better in college, not just stay the same. Rankings do not always show that indicator.

So remember, rankings are not everything in the recruiting process. Be concerned with your attitude, your improvement, your desire. These qualities mean more than any computer number that comes up.

Paul “Hobie” Holbach
Women’s Tennis Coach
Bowdoin College


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