Special from ImRecruitable
By: Tarek Merchant, CEO ImRecruitable, Founder Collegiate Exposure Camps
I had the chance to catch up with Coach Geatz and asked him the several questions about college recruiting. He has had a lot of success in college tennis, so take his advice seriously.
Coach Geatz Background
Dr. David Geatz was a former college tennis player graduating from the University of New Mexico, a parent who went through the recruiting process with his son DJ and a successful college coach with over thirty years of experience . Coach Geatz is currently the Head Men's Tennis Coach at the University of Pennsylvania. His first head tennis-coaching job started in 1983 with the University of New Mexico, after he graduated. His coaching career includes jobs at Ohio State University, Cornell University and the University of Minnesota. Although he has achieved remarkable results at every college, below are some highlights of his 18 years stretch at University of Minnesota:
Men's Head Coach - University of Minnesota 1988-2006
5 Big Ten conference championships
45-match win streak in conference play (including four undefeated regular-season campaigns).
Three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year and also earned NCAA Regional Coach of the Year honors once.
12 straight NCAA Championship appearances
Led the program to a No. 10 national ranking which was its highest ever.
Coached Harsh Mankad to the No. 1 ranking nationally in NCAA Division 1 singles.
Questions and Answers
ImRecruitable (IMR): What set of skills do you look for in a potential student athlete (PSA)?
David Geatz (DG): I want to see some impactful wins. Show me some significant wins over people that I may know (highly ranked and rated players). Show me you're an athlete. Show me you've got desire and want to be the best tennis player you can.
IMR: What specific attributes are you looking for in a video?
DG: I never recruit someone straight off the video. I use the video to either eliminate people, or continue to scout them further. So, what am I looking for when I watch the video? Well, I look for athleticism, how well you move, racquet head speed.
If you are playing points, I look for a guy who can find a way to dictate the points. How do you take control of the points and get themselves out of situations? I want to see live point play, not something that has been edited. I want to see the real thing because I will eventually come watch you. I don't want anything too long unless it's a match video. I'm not going to watch for more than 15 minutes or so.
IMR: What is the difference of watching someone live versus watching the video?
DG: If you are watching a live match, you get a much better sense of how heavy the player's ball is. How much their forehand can impact other players. How high their second serve jumps. The player's body language and how he or she handles pressure situations. It's obviously way easier to evaluate in person, and that would be the truth for every coach. Live tennis is just easier to tell. Players have got to get in front of coaches. If coaches like what they see, they will be much more confident to offer you a spot, rather than just viewing a video.
IMR: What characteristics are you looking for when you meet and interact with a PSA?
DG: During my interactions, I'm always evaluating how the PSA is going to fit in with the rest of my team. I am thinking I'm going to spend a lot of time with this kid for the next four years. So, I have to like him and want to be around him all the time. Likeability is the big factor!
IMR: How important are the ratings and rankings versus your personal observation?
DG: Ratings and rankings are just a gauge, that's all they are. They are just one tool that is used to evaluate a player. Sometimes when I see a kid with a bad ranking and or rating but has some really significant wins, then that makes up for a bad ranking or rating.
That means he can play at a really high level. If he has some wins over some top 20 guys; that means that kid has some game!
Now, remember, rankings to some degree are huge. If you were top 10 every year in your age group, I wouldn't even have to see you play. Those results shows you are high level and I know you are a great player. Meaning if you have been top 10 in U14, U16 and U18, you have the ability to be a top 50-college player. Having said that, you have to have a good attitude. At Penn we have a very involved alumni and if we are financially going to support someone, then we want that person to represent the University of Pennsylvania well and make the alumni proud. That part is just as important as likeability. I want to like the kid and I want the kid to enjoy the experience.
IMR: What can a recruit do to stand out against the competition and increase their chances of getting recruited?
DG: If you have a solid ranking and rating that would be in line with what the coach is looking for, then being genuinely enthusiastic when you talk to the coach is important. If a player tells the coach how much they love and want to play for the college and how much they like the coach, it helps a lot. You know, each time a kid tells you he or she likes you, you tend to like them a lot more too! It's just a natural reaction I think. On the other hand, if a kid is real iffy with you and they are not sure, that doesn't get me excited. Everyone likes people that like him or her. Tennis coaches are no different. They also like a kid who likes them in return.
IMR: How often should a PSA analyze their recruiting situation?
DG: I think you have to assess the process continuously. Each PSA needs to sit down and take an honest and realistic view of what level they are at in their tennis and academics. If your grades and rankings move up or down significantly, then you need to reassess each time that happens. Your list may change directions.
In Division I tennis (most of the time) if you go into a team as a freshman and don't start, you tend to get "recruited over" the following year. Therefore, a higher percentage of those people will never play. So the colleges you target is so important. You really have to take a realistic view of where your level is each time you decide to write to a specific coach of a college.
There are a lot of tools to help you. For example, TennisRecruiting.net will tell you. If you want to go to the University of Virginia and the roster is populated with five blue chip players, and you're a four-star kid, well that's a school I'm probably not going play at. So do your research and make a list of colleges that you can realistically play for as a freshman. You can look at a team's number six player, look up his TennisRecruiting.net rating, his Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) - and if your rating is the same, higher or lower, then you can decide if that particular college is a good fit for you or not. Use all the resources and opportunities you can and start to get an understanding.
IMR: How important is it for PSA's to communicate with college coaches and keep them updated with their recruiting process?
DG: I think it's really important. If you are interested in the college, you have to stay on top of the communication and keep showing interest. But even if you aren't interested in the college, you should let the coach know. You create a lot of goodwill amongst the coaches and they appreciate it. You don't need to go into a lot of details, but something like "Thanks a lot for your time coach, I really appreciate your interest, but I'm not interested at this time, but if anything changes I will get back to you." Coaches love to know the truth. No coach wants to waste their time and they don't want to bug kids who don't have an interest in their college.
Many kids are great at communicating, but many are not. It's nice for coaches to know where you stand with your recruiting and we appreciate each kid's honesty.
IMR: When should PSAs start the recruiting process?
DG: The recruiting process in the last five years or so has been tremendously accelerated. It used to be that players would take all their official visits in August, September, October and early November of their senior year and decide on early signing day. Or, if you didn't sign early, you would commit anytime between end of November and April and sign on regular signing day.
Now kids are committing way earlier, and it happens all of a sudden. I think when one kid commits, all the other kids and parents start getting nervous that all the spots are gone and then the college coach starts getting nervous because they haven't committed any players. It's not a big secret that recruiting is way faster now. If you would have asked me this same questions five years ago, I would have had a completely different answer, but I think right now kids in ninth grade should start sending out some letters to coaches. Even if the coach can't respond due to NCAA rules (which vary for every division), tell the coach that you're interested and ask them to follow your results. Then you can maintain contact when it's time to communicate. It's not going to hurt your chances - just put you on the radar.
If you haven't written a coach by junior year, you are behind; you have to be on top of the recruiting process by the start of junior year. I think the exposure camps are great. You can go to a camp and actually have the opportunity to meet the coaches and interact no matter what age. You get to be on the court with them and see what kind of drills they do with their college teams. You can find out if that is what you want to do and what divisions, locations and levels you fit. You can go to one exposure camp and have access to a hundred coaches or more because the coaches now establish a relationship with you. This is why I run the UPenn exposure camp. It's the best exposure kids can get!
IMR: In your 30+ years of experience as a college tennis coach, what do you think was the difference between the stand-out college players and the average college tennis player?
DG: I've always heard and learnt that in anything you do, three things stand out:
(1) Ability is up to genetics and the natural talent you're born with. You can say it's up to God or whomever you believe in.
(2) Opportunity is up to your parents to provide you with the best coaching, taking you to play tournaments around the country or world and sign you up for exposure camps, etc.
(3) Desire is up to the player. How badly do you want it? Desire doesn't always exist but I think desire means a lot!
I have never had one kid that has really made a big jump in their game without the burning desire. Tennis was really important to all of them. It was important for them to be really good, and it was important to them to be the best they could be. And those are the kids that have excelled the most in their college career with me.
If I see a kid with good ability, lots of kids have good ability (big serve, live arm, great footwork), but whichever coaches can determine who really has big time desire, then you're going to be really successful at recruiting.
IMR: What similarities and differences can you identify between the public and private College versus an Ivy League college?
DG: The similarities are easy. I think everyone wants to compete and win really bad!
When I was at Minnesota in the Big Ten, we did the exact same practices as we do at Penn. Twenty hours a week, three hours a day, six days a week, two hours of privates. Some people think the Ivys don't practice as hard, but it's not true. We put in as much time as anybody else.
I think the only difference is that the kids at Penn have to spend more time in their academics - its just way tougher. I see how much more the Ivy kids study on road trips compared to the others teams I've coached. The academics are more demanding. In the Ivys you really have to budget your time well and you truthfully only have time to excel in academics and athletics. I think if you want to do four or five other things like clubs and organizations, then you won't be successful at an Ivy League school. I'm comparing this to big state schools like when I was at Minnesota.
IMR: How can parents help steer their kids towards selecting the best-fit college for the child?
DG: I think this is tough to speak about this in general terms, because the process is so complex and a lot of factors are taken into consideration. However I think I can provide one sweeping simple generalization. Go to the best school you possibly can with the best scenario you can possibly find. At the Division I level, with a maximum of only 4.5 scholarships for your team (on the men's side) spread over eight to ten or twelve players, coaches are trying to get the best players they possibly can for the least amount of money. Ivy and Division III schools don't have scholarships, so they are trying to get the best players possible that match your academic and athletic criteria.
On the flip side, as a parent, you're looking to get your child the best school possible with the most amount of money. I've been on both sides of the table. So, as a parent, I feel like we will get cheap in order to pay for our kids education and will spend the money on them, rather than ourselves. Luckily I only had one kid and I didn't care where he wanted to go to school, I just knew that I would find a way to pay for him because he's my kid. Most parents would do anything for their kids and sacrifice their own enjoyment.
However, if you have more than one kid, then you do have to look at your finances and where you get the most in terms of scholarship or financial aid dollars. So, for example, if one college offers you 22% more, then it may be where you end up going regardless of whether they like another school a little bit better. Sometimes you have to go where the money is based on your situation. I don't have this problem as a coach recruiting anymore, because the Ivys give you an aid package based on your application.
IMR: Can you provide some insight on players that slip through the recruiting process?
DG: When coaches are scouting and recruiting, they look for the kid that fits the best prototype tennis player. A player that is 6'4", has a huge serve and big forehand, you know, a really big kid. But what I learned something from an expert at the University of Pennsylvania who analyzes and tells several pro football (NFL) and baseball (MLB) teams the best draft choices. His job is to determine who will be the best players out of the draft. The one thing that I learned from him is the NFL will put kids in certain categories. So for example, if you're a linebacker and you're 6'4" and 250lbs and run a 4.5 40 (yard dash) you fit the prototype, so maybe when it comes to draft day, your draft spot might be a little higher than you should go because you fit the prototype. However, there are many many good players that don't fit the exact prototype they are looking for - like Jerry Rice.
Jerry Rice went late in the draft because he ran a 4.4 40. Jerry Rice certainly had ability, heart and desire. Look how great he was! But it certainly was harder for him at the start. Similarly, I think there are a lot of guys that are 5'8" or 5'9" that have the same problem. Even if a player has had some good match wins and has a ton of heart and desire. It's still easy to slip under the radar. For the players, the key is to get you out and in front of coaches in many different ways. You need to write a ton of coaches, tell them how much you like them and the school, attend showcase and exposure camps because its tougher for you versus a kid who is 6'3" or 6'4" with a 130mph serve. You need to build relationships and showcase your talent.
I believe that the coaches that can scout those kinds of players who don't fit the mold end up well, because they find undervalued players. I always look for people who don't fit the norm because they tend to turn out to be very good. Maybe they haven't matured yet and hit their grown spurt, but once he does he's going to make a giant jump in his game. Some of those kids get left behind. You just got to hang in there and keep pushing to do your best!
IMR: Can you share some final comments or thoughts?
DG: For those of you who know me well, I love tennis and have a great passion for it. I really enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience as well as listening to others. I'm looking forward to the UPENN Exposure Camp this summer and having the opportunity to meet so many talented boys and girls who aspire to play college tennis in the near future and hope I can provide you with a lot of value on and off the courts!
If you would like to have an opportunity to be on court and learn more about college tennis from Coach Geatz and other top college coaches, join us at one of the Collegiate Exposure Camps at Penn.
By: Tarek Merchant, CEO ImRecruitable, Founder Collegiate Exposure Camps