Welcome to Interview #102
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 2 Men’s Tennis Coach, of Roberts Wesleyan College, Tom Linhart.
Coach Linhart is in his seventh season as Men’s Head Tennis Coach after serving two seasons as Men’s and Women’s Assistant Tennis Coach at Roberts Wesleyan.
What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen?
Start the process early. Do your homework by researching the websites of the schools in which you are interested.
Once you have identified schools that fit your academic, athletic and social criteria, reach out to the coach. Send a personalized letter that addresses the coach by name and indicates that you know something about the school, program, players, schedule etc.
Respond quickly to coaches inquiries. Be honest about your level of interest. All this sets you apart from the hundreds of inquiries I would receive over the course of the season.
Be open and suggest that we Skype or FaceTime to get to know each other and answer questions each have.
All this establishes a more personal relationship and puts a face to the name. Proofread everything you send me and be professional. Never call a coach by their first name. Police your social media accounts, I.e Facebook, Twitter, phone message, email address…they tell a great deal about you, make sure it is positive.
Lastly, complete the college application and provide me with academic information…good students make good recruits!
What is the difference between the players who have a successful college career and those who make a college roster but never live up to their potential?
My most successful players all shared certain traits: they loved to compete, they hated to lose, they had strong work ethics, they were self motivated, they were team players and open to suggestions about how to improve their game. That last one, being coachable, is key. You have to adapt your game to win. This is often hard for some players who have had success employing only one style of play.
Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster and what is allowed by the NCAA Division 2?
Men are allowed 4.5 scholarships by the NCAA. We currently have 3.7 scholarships used. The women are allowed 6.0 scholarships by the NCAA. We currently have 4.0 used. I try to be sure that my top seven players on the men and women’s teams are awarded scholarship packages at the cost of tuition. That leaves the player to cover room and board costs for themselves.
When you go out and recruit what kind of events do you go to and why (high school games, tournaments)?
With budgets being tight, l need to get the most bang for my buck. Usually I attend regional showcases and state high school championships. I go to events where there is a high concentration of quality athletes. After identifying the athlete, then I will make contacts through Skype or FaceTime and make a visit to close the deal.
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
I am impressed by the parents who have raised student athletes who are poised and confident. The parents’ role in the recruiting process is to support their child, listen, encourage and step back. Remember, I am recruiting your son or daughter, not Mom or Dad. Help me get to know your student athlete by empowering them to step out of their comfort zone. I will ask them to do that on the court as members of the team.
My experience is that helicopter parents seldom produce players who excel in college athletics.
What advice do you have for recruits on how to prepare for their freshmen year in a college tennis program?
If I have recruited you to play, I know you have the skills and potential. To prepare to compete, you need to spend your court time competing. Play as many high level tournaments as you can, play against competition that challenges your game. This helps you identify your weaknesses.
Then go to you pro and work on those things that may be holding you back. COMPETE, COMPETE, COMPETE. Also, arrive in game shape. You will not have time to play your way into shape.
How should tennis players use video of themselves during the recruiting process?
I suggest that they not spend money on the glossy color brochures and professional videos. I want to see them compete. Use your camera or cell phone to record 10-15 minutes of unedited match play. I need to see how they compete and get a sense of the strengths as well as areas of needed improvement in their game. Keep it real and simple.
Roberts Wesleyan competes in the NCCAA in addition to the NCAA Division 2. Can you tell us what the NCCAA is and why Roberts Wesleyan chooses to compete in it?
The NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association) hosts a national championship every year for tennis in Mobile, Alabama. Besides providing another post season opportunity for our players, it provides high level competition against schools we would normally not compete against in our regional format.
Roberts Wesleyan College is a Christian school. Will all Christian schools be similar? What are differences that recruits should think about when choosing a Christian school?
Just like all public and private, large and small schools are not alike, so all Christian based schools are not alike. You need to do your homework and decide if the school is right for you.
There are Christian based schools of all affiliations that are very strict in faith requirements. If this is what you are looking for and the academics and athletics is a good fit…go for it.
Other schools are Christian in name only and have few or no religious requirements. For the most part schools with religious affiliations tend to be smaller and safer. Based upon Cleary reports we have ranked in the top ten safest schools for the past five years.
What should players expect from a Christian college athletic experience?
Exactly what they would expect from any other institution. Again, it is all about doing your homework and finding the right fit.
What gives you the most joy or satisfaction as a coach?
I am always amazed after coaching for over 40 years, that I still keep in contact with players from the early years of my career to now. Watching these young men and women grow up, marry, start successful careers, raise families and contribute to their communities is a great feeling. I am humbled to think that they consider me to have had a small part in their success and development. Coaching is the best job for making a difference.
Can you share a creed, quote or philosophy you try to instill into your athletes?
- “Effort is never wrong!”
- “Winning is the reward for not being afraid to lose.”
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?
Be honest with yourself, your parents and the coaches you contact. It does not matter what level you play, if you do your homework you will find a school and a tennis program that will provide you with a great education and the experience of being a college athlete.
Secondly, what division you play is less important than finding the right fit. Transferring is painful. Visit, Visit, and visit the schools you are considering. Do an overnight. You need to like the school, the team and the coach. You are going to spend most of your time at college with this group.
Good luck. It may seem daunting now, but playing college athletics is an experience you will remember for a lifetime.
You can find out more about Coach Tom Linhart and Roberts Wesleyan Men’s Tennis by clicking here.
Next, check out: Can I Ask About Scholarships? And Other Questions
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