ESPN

World-Class Tennis On Your College Campus

“Ohio State is going to dominate the 2016 NFL draft. “

“His team could have as many as five players taken in the first round next year, with underclassmen such as Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott leading the way.”

“Here’s an early look at the NFL talent who will be lighting it up for Ohio State this fall.”

These are lines from an article posted on the Bleacher Report website from May 5, 2015. The article goes on to give a breakdown of each player and his contribution to the Buckeyes for the coming season. Every day journalists across the country reach out to their numerous sources to gather information for reporting on their chosen team and its players. Television, websites, newspapers, even smartphone apps are flooded with valuable information concerning the players from your favorite team/sport.

But not tennis. Why?

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AATT is ‘Owl In!’

College tennis rosters are full of players that any coach would give their non-dominant arm to work with. Players that have spent most of their lives training, traveling, and testing themselves against the best competition in their given region, both here and around the world. These are players that, if we were to play them ourselves, would make any one of us look like a clumsy, 5-year-old, uncoordinated, special needs child. And they all come together, at the same time, to go to college. So what happens to them after what many believe were ‘the best years of their life’?

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GO BUCKS!

When a top college prospect in football or basketball decides to go pro and declares for the draft, it sets a number of things in motion: agents, Pro Day, the Draft, visitations, contract negotiations, etc. Much of it taken care of by the player’s handlers so the player can focus on playing. In tennis, the player must be the CEO, CFO, HR, travel agent, administrative assistant, chief, cook, and bottle washer all at the same time. Once they leave college they are essentially on their own to navigate the treacherous waters of professional tournament tennis. And for what? A couple hundred dollars at the end of the week? It doesn’t seem worth it. In fact, a great many top college prospects burn out before ever realizing their dream of playing on the bigger stages. We can’t let this talent go to waste.

Virginia 2015 Champs
2015 NCAA Champs – Virginia

Tennis tournaments are a process of elimination designed to find out who’s #1. But how many #1’s can there be? You know the answer. But when the Denver Broncos, the Golden State Warriors, or the Kansas City Royals win a championship, how many #1’s are there? When the Vanderbilt women’s or the Virginia men’s tennis teams win the NCAA Championship all 11 players win the trophy. Unlike the Miami Open or US Open where only 1 player can take home the trophy, a greater number of people benefit from the success of the Team. And that number includes all of the fans, too.

A third of the top 25 college tennis rosters feature the names of players born outside the United States. And while some believe this to be problematic, the real story is the global nature of college tennis. When saddled with the responsibility of filling a roster of 10+ players, college coaches search far and wide for the best players available. Players who come up through the tournament ranks believing they might one day play professionally, are now filling college tennis rosters. In other sports they refer to college as a period of ‘maturity’. In tennis, college is the final destination. Washed up at 22?!? That is a very short-sighted view.

Follow me on this one: Imagine tennis as a Team Sport at the professional level, like it is in college.

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Top College Prospects

It changes the entire tennis conversation from “who will be the next #1” to “my team just signed a prospect out of the Ohio State University to a 3-year contract worth $1.2 million. He could be a starter right away. How do they fit into the system Coach Ken has in place? And can the veterans on the team bring along the rookies to put the team over the top?” I’ve just given you more content for TV and radio than most tennis tournaments (mind blown). Imagine the growth of the tennis industry when we have more than 2-3 people to talk about; the talk shows, segments on ESPN, news crews covering the High School State Championship. Things really begin to open up.

So the next time you’re looking for world-class tennis, skip the tournament (you’re not missing anything) and visit your local university. Players who understand the value of the team are definitely worth cheering for. GO TEAM!

AATT Field Trip To Wide World of Sports

FSU Head Coach Dwayne Hultquist speaking to our players

On Saturday November 7, our Youth Tennis League traveled to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World to witness the Collegiate Clay Court Invitational hosted by the Florida State University. It was a loooooong day for everyone which included watching matches in the morning at ESPN and playing matches in the evening at the Kiwi Tennis Club in Melbourne with a visit to Disney Springs in between. But even with the amount of time spent sharing a vehicle, our players will always remember the time we spent watching and playing tennis.

While attending the event at ESPN Coach Ken led the players from court to court gathering autographs from as many players as he could find, which wasn’t very hard because they were EVERYWHERE! You can see some of the autographs on the back of the shirts in the pictures.

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Josie Kuhlman of the University of Florida
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Spencer Liang of the Florida Gators

Josie Kuhlman and Brianna Morgan of Florida, Yukako Noi of Florida State, Florida Gulf Coast, Clemson, Georgia, and others gave each of our players a little bit of their time and a signature to go home with. It was a truly memorable experience for us and, I’m sure, for the players, too. You’re not going to get this kind of attention at a professional tennis tournament!

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But before we were ready to move onto our next destination, FSU Head Coach Dwayne Hultquist graciously accepted our invitation to speak to the group. So we all gathered around him while he spoke to the kids about being a part of the Team, doing your part to help the Team, and traveling with the Team to far away destinations like Hawaii. I just hope our players appreciated what it meant to have Coach Hultquist speak to the group. Because while he was speaking to us, the FSU Men’s team of Jose Garcia and Marco Nunez were embroiled in the heat of battle against the team from Louisville. Garcia and Nunez would go on to capture the title in the Gold division, taking out Pepperdine in the Final.

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On the Women’s side, Josie Kuhlman and Brianna Morgan of the University of Florida would face Gators teammates Spencer Liang and Peggy Porter in the Final to also win the Gold division. They would destroy the Clemson team 8-4 in the semifinal.

Seeing a tennis match in person makes the game feel much more real. And watching college tennis players play their hearts out for the benefit of their team makes it all the more special. It is why All American Team Tennis places kids on teams, and why I believe tennis would be more popular if it were a Team sport at the professional level. Who knows… maybe one day.

GO TEAM!