Welcome to Interview #25.
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NJCAA Women’s Tennis Coach of Broward College, Marlena Hall.
Marlena Hall, an ’09 graduate of Barnard College at Columbia University, was named Broward College’s Head Coach of Women’s Tennis in 2009.
In addition to Hall’s academic and athletic accolades at Columbia, she has worked for the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships (ITC), (the world’s only combined men’s professional ATP Champions Tour and ATP World Tour event) from 2007 to the present.
“I’m in a unique position where I can offer young women the golden opportunity to go to college and play college tennis, women who may have been discouraged or unable to due to financial reasons,” Hall says.
Coach Hall’s full bio is at the end of the interview.
Read on. This interview is full of priceless information!
How do you find players for your team? What type of student and athlete do you focus on?
We reach out to local and non local coaches, academies, recruiting agencies, and build networks with coaches and agencies around the world to find the right fit for both school and player. We look for a fully committed student athlete – who is looking to study and compete for what we believe are the ‘right’ reasons, getting out as much if not more than what they aspire to put in.
Why do you think athletes should consider a NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association)? What are the benefits of an NJCAA school specifically?
If a student-athlete is looking to remain local or get acclimated to the collegiate experience at a very high standard of athletic achievement (such as the 4-time National Champion team, Broward College), a two-year school is a very good option.
Often players’ academic grades need improvement or do not transfer well into other divisions and conferences and these students may need to get their AA from a junior college before matriculating on to other divisions.
What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen?
They should aggressively make a coach know and feel that they’d be an asset and provide a strong contribution to the program; both in the classroom and on the tennis court. It’s highly recommended to send clear and recent videos of their performance. Specifically, videos of them while competing are often preferred over videos of them hitting, as it may give the coach a better insight as to what kind of player and competitor they are.
If a tennis player personally contacts you by phone or email, what will you do next?
I will either ask for more information and perhaps a video of them playing/competing, and very often I will respond to that individual right away as I remember being on the receiving end of the recruiting experience, and prompt communication is appreciated from both parties – even if it’s to honestly share with a player that they may not be the right fit into your program.
Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster?
The coach’s goal is often to ensure that the players on scholarship are the students who will be contributing in the roster. It happens but not often that players on scholarship fail to compete on court.
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
The parent may ask many follow up questions as sometimes players are 16 or 17 years old, and understandably still need guidance from their parents in this significant life commitment as college tennis. Highly recommend for coaches, however is to hear predominantly more from the player than the coaches and parents so we can assess that the interest is mainly coming from him/her.
What does the off season, fall season and summer look like for a NJCAA tennis player?
Simply put although this may not answer your question well in detail): there is no such thing as an ‘off season’ in college tennis. Though hours and college/player participation may be modified, there’s always an urgency on a player to practice, strengthen and improve as another season is around the corner.
How does your school help players transition to a four year college? When looking at a 2 year school, what are some questions student athletes should ask about the help they will receive to get into a four year school and to continue playing?
A student athlete should start having an idea about where she may want to go to her four-year school fairly soon after enrolling at her two-year university. Naturally her perspective may alter (reality may hit in if her aspirations are perhaps out of reach) or she may want to stay in the area or know full well she wants a new scenery.
I sit down with my players upon commencement of their 1st year and again prior to the start of her sophomore year. I provide counsel on what schools may be an appropriate fit, how to go about contacting the school, and I work with my student-athletes on follow ups, videos, and my honest recommendation.
However, it should be added that a student-athlete should never rely on his or her coach to ‘get them into a four year school’ single-handedly. It should be seen better as the coach provides a mentorship role as well as a supplementary support system, but the player should be aggressive with her four year pursuits.
How do academics and athletics fit together?
They’re critical and I believe, what makes the student-athlete the best candidate for the ‘real world’ post-graduation. Understanding that your grades affect your athletic participation significantly is key. Your tennis may have provided you with recognition and a place on the roster, but it’s not enough to keep you. And alternatively, while your 4.0 GPA is outstanding, being on a college team requires you to make a direct contribution to its success – leadership is one way, and winning is also the obvious sibling.
It becomes repetitious to say but always holds true, that academics + athletics will teach you, whether you’re ready or not, that time management is the only way to succeed and actually try to enjoy the college ‘process’.
What are some myths or misconceptions about junior colleges?
- They’re not as difficult as other divisions
- You’re not a good student or a good athlete; because if you were, you’d have been admitted into a four-year school right out of high school
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or tennis players in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions as there aren’t any ‘stupid ones’.
Don’t be discouraged if a coach doesn’t respond at all or quickly as often coaches get emails by the hundreds a week from players all over the world.
Make sure your email or communication is personalized, sounds like it came from you (and not an agency or template mass email). A coach wants to feel like you want to go to their school with the same passion you want the coach to want you on his or her team. Make your emails personalized, succinct and equipped with all the necessary information without getting verbose. Share what about the coach’s school or program specifically encouraged you to attend there.
Follow up! One email is not going to make a coach feel like you desire their school.
Be respectful in your emails – even if English isn’t your first language, informal writing is not always smiled upon – still respect the boundary and the role of the administrator you’re writing to.
Hall, an English and Comparative Literature major, was a prominent singles and doubles player for the Columbia Lions and was honored for “Most Outstanding Contribution to a Team” (MVP) at her senior year athletic ceremony. The Award recognizes overall ability, competitive spirit, and team leadership. She was also a recipient of recognition from a General at The Pentagon as well as the Dean of the College for her athletic commitment and leadership.
In addition to Hall’s academic and athletic accolades at Columbia, she has worked for the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships (ITC), (the world’s only combined men’s professional ATP Champions Tour and ATP World Tour event) from 2007 to the present. Hall is the Director of Sports Marketing for the ITC, and grew the tournament’s reputation for progressive/new media and entertainment value.
A native of Plantation, FL, Hall was a four-time team captain, four-time #1 player, and four-time MVP Award recipient for J.P. Taravella High School’s Varsity Girls’ Tennis Team. During her junior tennis career, Hall was the Miami Herald’s and Sun Sentinel’s “All County Tennis” 1 Team Winner for four consecutive years, and was a Scholar-Athlete for Broward County.
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