Welcome to Interview #98
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 1 Men’s Tennis Coach of Arizona State, Matt Hill.
I am so excited for this interview. Coach Hill is an amazing man. His care for athletes and attention to detail is so evident.
Coach Hill was hired to resurrect the men’s tennis program at Arizona State. In 2008 men’s tennis had been cut for budgetary reasons. A decade later, Sun Devils Tennis is back! Their first match was January 13, 2018 vs Duke.
Coach Hill has extensive experience recruiting international athletes. We have a large number of international readers at The Recruiting Code. Coach Hill has helped me bring international athletes much needed advice and tips to come to college in the United States.
You recently returned from an international recruiting trip where you signed 5 players from 5 different countries. Congratulations. You have been coaching at the Division 1 level for many years and recruiting internationally since 2008.
Our most recent recruiting class was top 5 in the country if that’s important to the article at all.
Let’s start off with a story: Tell us about your first international recruiting trip. How did it go?
Super rough start although I did sign the player. I went to Mexico to recruit a player to Mississippi State and had an amazing time there with his family but to say it started off a bit rocky would be an understatement. The player didn’t feel well so right when I landed and got to his home, he went up to take a nap while I sat in the living room with the parents who didn’t speak 1 word of English and unfortunately for me I didn’t speak but 2 words of Spanish.
What are a few of the most common mistakes that prospective international student athletes make in the NCAA College recruiting process?
- Do your homework… Not doing their homework on the coaches and players on the team. The only resource for information about the program can’t be the coach recruiting you because his opinion and view is obviously incredibly biased.
- Don’t live on the past results… too many players put too much emphasis on the rankings. A lot of players don’t realize that the rankings are based on the previous year’s results or the current team’s results which isn’t always indicative of the team they will be joining. While I believe it to be a good indicator of the program as a whole, it’s certainly not the end all be all in terms of the fit for the player.
- Articulate the WHY… They need to know why they are coming to the US for this experience in order to make a good decision for them. Many players don’t put their desires into words and therefore it’s impossible to prioritize those desires and make an effective decision to find the best FIT for them.
Therefore, I believe too often it can solely come down to who makes the better financial offer. I am not saying finances aren’t a component to the decision making process, but it hopefully isn’t the most important one, and certainly not the only one.
How do you use social media when recruiting internationally? What is your advice to recruits about their use of social media?
We use social media to contact players and then also to help get to know them through their pages. It’s becoming more difficult because they are getting inundated with so many coaches that it’s not nearly as efficient as it was 10 years ago.
As strange as this might sound, I wouldn’t give the advice of hiding things on your page or keeping certain things off the page (within reason) because I think it’s a good way for coaches to get to know the real you. The last thing either person wants, coach or player, is to get a misrepresentation of the team, school, or player and then a year or two in realize that this isn’t what I was told or had signed up for.
How should international players and coaches initiate the college search in the U.S.?
Making a list of what is important to them and then narrowing down the searches accordingly. I think also choosing schools that realistically fit your level of play will save a lot of time and energy as well.
What are some of the hurdles international athletes should be aware of when looking at colleges in the U.S.?
The main two that come to mind are naturally the NCAA process and the high school transcript process matching the needs of the university or NCAA. Hopefully they have someone in their corner back home whether it’s a college placement company, friend or coach that has been through the process. If not, the college coach should walk them through the process to make it as easy as possible.
What would keep international athletes from realizing their dreams of coming to the U.S. for college?
Making decisions that affect their eligibility with the NCAA would be the most common problem when it comes to this area. Whether that is not taking all the proper core courses in High School, or not putting enough prep time in for the SAT/ACT or the TOEFL exam.
What do students have to consider regarding a visa?
It can take some time to get your I-20 from the university, then acquire an appointment with the embassy, then get your visa issued to you. This is typically a 2-3 month process at most in my experience.
What is the role of the parent in international recruiting?
In my opinion it would be to help their child make the best decision for their future, not to make the decision for them. This is a huge decision in a young person’s life and allowing them to feel empowered to make the decision for themselves I think is important. I am not saying don’t guide, help and support them in it, I am merely saying, be the Co-pilot. Help them articulate what’s important to them, help organize information, trips, research, but allow them to make the big decisions.
Are your athletes, who may speak English as a second language, able to succeed in the classroom?
Yes, our athletes have done exceptionally well in the classroom. As an athlete you have so much help and resources available to you over here that it’s incredibly difficult to not do well. If you are motivated to be successful and earn a degree while you are here in the US there is no reason the language barrier would keep you from doing that. As one can imagine, when immersed into another culture, it doesn’t take too long to begin adapting to the language, pending they don’t have 5 guys on the team speaking their same native language all the time.
Should international students use recruiting services? Are they useful or necessary to find opportunities and scholarships in the United States?
I believe that the recruiting services are extremely valuable. I have dealt with a lot of the major companies and they do an incredible job helping not only market these young players to the Universities they are interested in, but also help navigate the cumbersome process of the NCAA along with the University admissions process. Of course each player is different but generally speaking I think the majority of these companies do a great service for these players and their families.
What do your international athletes typically do when they graduate? Do they stay in the U.S. or return home? Are they successful getting jobs?
The beauty of coming to the US and earning a degree while continuing to train and compete is now the player has set themselves up for options… which is a very powerful thing at this stage in their lives.
When I think back to all my different guys, they all have gone different ways. I have guys that are playing on the tour right now and working towards making the cuts of the Slams. I have players who went on to get a Master’s Degree fully paid for by being an assistant tennis coach to friends of mine. I have guys that stayed in the US and got married to their college sweethearts and are coaching in the US or working on Wall Street. I have guys that went back home and pursued careers through medical school or PT school.
It is really up to the player, and they are all different. They can do whatever they want which is the amazing thing about what this opportunity creates for these young people. Whether you want to be a professional player or a doctor you can do both through the same system and platform. When I look around worldwide, that is the differentiation from most country’s systems.
What is your recommendation for young men from the U.S. with so much international competition for college roster spots in tennis?
I think the US players have a huge advantage in the fact that they know more about these programs and players then their international counterparts. I believe in building relationships. The sooner the US players can proactively work to build relationships with the coaches and players at the programs they are interested in is a big step in the right direction. And then realize that there is a lot of competition for these spots and scholarships so being professional about how they work to earn those spots is incredibly important.
What are the differences between competing in their local regions or on the ATP compared to the college level? What do incoming freshmen need to be prepared for?
Great question, and it is one our staff is working on daily right now since all our guys have a lot of ATP experience but no college experience.
Let’s start with the obvious. Some of the rules are different so that would be step one.
Secondly, when training or competing for a team, learning how to be a “teammate” by pushing and/or lifting up your teammates during adverse times is critical to elevate the level beyond what is capable by themselves.
There will be new forms of pressure when playing on a team so learning to manage those in a healthy way is important. Learning to become unselfish with how you operate since you have new levels of responsibilities and expectations when your actions affect more than only you now.
Lastly I would say the intensity level in training, the gym, and competition just seems to be greater as well because you have so many people involved in the process that care so much.
Can you share a creed, quote or philosophy you try to instill into your athletes?
The vision of our program is to help young aspiring pro’s make the transition from the juniors to the ATP (Challenger main draws and beyond) as efficiently as possible. Naturally that’s a very difficult task as most would attest to, so a lot goes into how we do that, but some of the main foundations of our program are:
Processed based thinking… we operate from a process based lens and therefore talk a lot about getting better one habit or session at a time.
Professionalism… operating in a place where you are actively make decisions that move you in the direction you are wanting to be in, whether that’s eating right, getting enough sleep, doing your pre-hab, etc.
Character… I don’t believe winning tennis matches trumps the way we treat one another or our opponents because at the end of the day relationships are one of the most important things in life.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with international athletes or tennis players in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
The process can be extremely fun and exciting or incredibly daunting and unpredictable much like most of life… it is all about how you choose to view it.
Coach Hill has an amazing story about his own battle with cancer and how that has shaped who he is as a coach. It is incredibly moving and motivating. I highly encourage you to read it.
You can also find out more about Coach Hill and Arizona State Tennis by clicking here.
Next, check out: How Can I Get a College Coach to Notice Me?
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