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Old Jan 3rd, 2011, 02:34 AM   #1
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College or turning pro?

Nice article here

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sport...articlecontent

Young tennis stars must choose between turning pro and college

TOM TEBBUTT

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010 8:36PM EST

How do you tell a young athlete to give up on her dream?
If the girl is a talented junior tennis player with hopes of being No. 1 in the world, it is by informing her that going to a U.S. university on a tennis scholarship would be her wisest career move.
The college option does not rule out eventually having some success on the pro tour, but it virtually eliminates the chance of achieving a place among the game’s elite. Time spent in college means time not spent in the survival-of-the-fittest lower rungs of worldwide competition that produces the great champions.
While many youngsters fantasize about being the next Serena Williams or Kim Clijsters, the number of players who reach their rarefied level is few. And over the roughly 130-year history of tennis, no Canadian has even come close.
The debate about turning pro or choosing the college option is more topical these days because Canada’s two best junior girl prospects, 13-year-old Françoise Abanda and 16-year-old Eugenie Bouchard, both from Montreal, have already signed with professional player agents or management firms and are thus ineligible for a tennis scholarship to a U.S. university.
“Agents are going after players at 10, 11, 12 and 13 years of age,” said Debbie Kirkwood, director of high performance for Tennis Canada.
About Tennis Canada’s approach to the most talented juniors, she added, “we’re really trying to encourage them to ensure they finish high school so it gives them options.”
The United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) National Collegiate Varsity Committee released an FAQ in October that estimated the value of a full-ride scholarship to a top tennis university such as Stanford, Duke or Southern California to be “approximately $90,000” (all currency U.S.) a year or “approximately $360,000” over a four-year-degree period.
That includes “tuition, fees, room, board and books, plus an estimate of expenses for coaching, physical training, mental training, travel and equipment.”
Geoff Macdonald, head women’s tennis coach at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said: “Private education in the States is ridiculous. It costs $55,000 a year and that’s not even counting racquets and strings, shoes, uniforms, travel, coaching and free tutoring. I reckon the benefits are more like an $80,000-a-year tax-free job.
“I’m so pro college tennis, at least for a couple of years for development physically, emotionally, and just becoming a person and getting an education.
“I think a lot of the tour has nothing to do with tennis as much as being able to handle the life, the losses etc.”
The average age of the WTA’s top-10 players is 26.3 years old.
“It’s been a big sea change,” Macdonald said. “Everything used to be about ‘if you weren’t good at 16, hang it up.’ Now there’s much more late development, [Samantha] Stosur, [Francesca] Schiavone ...”
Canada’s top player, Rebecca Marino of Vancouver, 20, has twice turned down a scholarship to Georgia Tech. Her recent results, from No. 182 at the start of 2010 to No. 105 and a spot in the 2011 Australian Open main draw, would appear to justify her decision to go pro.
But the USTA’s FAQ estimates players must earn about $143,000 in yearly official prize money (not counting sponsorships and other income) to break even on the pro tour.
Even Marino, with earnings of $90,587 this year, was not close. But, like other top Canadians, she gets cost-saving coaching, travel and expenses assistance from Tennis Canada.
Abanda and Bouchard are not alone in passing on the college scholarship route. Sharon Fichman of Toronto, who won the 2006 Australian Open and French Open junior doubles titles, had a full-ride scholarship offer from Stanford University.
An excellent student, Fichman, 20, preferred to pursue a dream of success on the pro tour and now ranks No. 251 after being as high as 114.
Marie-Ève Pelletier from Montreal, 28 and with career prize money of $505,300 and a high singles ranking of No. 106 in 2005, was a promising junior a decade ago and elected to turn pro. “I could have gone to any university I wanted to in the States,” she says somewhat ruefully today. “UCLA, Duke, they were two I talked to. I was 17 then and [now] I could be out on the tour with a diploma in my pocket. ... I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
As for the new generation, Pelletier says, “I encourage them not to jump in over their heads. College gives them the chance to really be ready when they get out on the tour. The first four years can be really tough mentally, physically and financially.”
Advocates of going pro often cite the fact that a young player can always choose to go to university later, albeit without a tennis scholarship. What that ignores is the broad range of benefits of a tennis scholarship, including playing on a team, travel and contacts with alumnae and others who could be helpful in a post-university career.
“You get to school and on day one you’re not just like everyone else, you come in with a certain status on campus,” said Vanessa Webb of Toronto, who is the only Canadian to have won an NCAA singles title, in 1998 while she was on a tennis scholarship at Duke University. “That’s a pretty neat thing to have when you’re young and you’re getting to school. It’s really a shame to give up that option when you don’t have to.”
But Webb still sees both sides. “There’s only so much depth in college, so you’re not going to improve as much as if you were on the tour. So, by no means am I [against going on the tour]. But it’s ‘just think about it and don’t close those doors if they don’t need to be.’ ”
Mélanie Gloria of Montreal had some success on the pro tour but decided to go the tennis scholarship route – at Fresno State University in California.
In 2004, Gloria reached the quarter-finals of the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, upsetting world No. 31 Daniela Hantuchova. After a year trying the tour, she decided to go to Fresno State under coach Simon Thibodeau, a fellow Quebecker.
Now, 23 and with a BA, she is studying for an MBA at Fresno State while working as an assistant coach on the tennis team. “I beat such a great player as Hantuchova but the next year my results weren’t that good,” Gloria recalled. “My dream was always to become a pro but at the same time school was important for me.
“Now I’ve got four years of all my studies being paid and I didn’t have to spend a penny. Basically my only expenses were my flights from home to California.”
Webb, 34, played on tour for five years post-university, reaching a career-high No. 107 in 2000. She eventually went back to school, getting an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School in Philadelphia, and is now a senior principal at the Parthenon Group, a management consulting firm in Boston. Her expertise is highly valued and she sits on the WTA board of directors representing players ranked from No. 1 to No. 100, and also helps with its financial affairs.
“I am very Canadian,” said the Boston-based Webb, “but I really have a very strong appreciation for the U.S. post-secondary system. They bring a lot of diverse, bright kids together and it’s a great environment, academically, socially and then you have the athletics on top of that. My life would be completely different had I not done it. When people ask, I say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
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Old Jan 3rd, 2011, 03:08 AM   #2
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Re: College or turning pro?

This is a fantastic article! It's great to hear from players who made each decision and what they think about it in retrospect. Thanks for posting!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2011, 04:48 AM   #3
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Re: College or turning pro?

In my view some of those USTA estimates are very inflated. They estimate the value of a full-ride scholarship to be approximately $90,000 a year. I would use just what a walk-on would pay out of pocket like the cost of tuition which is about $50,000 per year. The other 40K the athletic department pays for such as equipment, travel, coaching, tutoring etc.

The USTA estimates a player must earn about $143,00 to break even yearly. Again this seems inflated. This is probably for a player who played the maximum amount of tournaments allowed and had a full time traveling coach. For most players outside the top 100 who travels alone the cost is probably half of that or 50-70K which is what I would use. I've heard for men you need to be ranked in the top 300 to break even. For women it's probably ranked around 250 to break even yearly.
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Old Jan 7th, 2011, 10:04 PM   #4
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Re: College or turning pro?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gouci View Post
In my view some of those USTA estimates are very inflated. They estimate the value of a full-ride scholarship to be approximately $90,000 a year. I would use just what a walk-on would pay out of pocket like the cost of tuition which is about $50,000 per year. The other 40K the athletic department pays for such as equipment, travel, coaching, tutoring etc.

The USTA estimates a player must earn about $143,00 to break even yearly. Again this seems inflated. This is probably for a player who played the maximum amount of tournaments allowed and had a full time traveling coach. For most players outside the top 100 who travels alone the cost is probably half of that or 50-70K which is what I would use. I've heard for men you need to be ranked in the top 300 to break even. For women it's probably ranked around 250 to break even yearly.
The proper decision tree is to compare the value of turning pro to the value of a year in college. Thus, you should count equipment, travel, and coaching as you would have to pay for this yourself on the pro tour. The $90,000 figure seems reasonable in that light. You can also count the tuition, even though you wouldn't be paying for it on the pro tour, because it is an investment in a career post tennis, which you would have to pay for yourself after the pro tour, unless you are Kim Clijsters, and even then, most of them end up going to some sort of school, it seems.

I agree that $143,000 seems high. Let's use $70,000.

To break even, players would have to earn $150,000 per year on the pro circuit (assuming a 40% tax bracket, to cover the $90,000 tax free benefit of an education). Essentially, a player must notch four years in the top 100 just to break even. How many players do that? I'll tell you one thing: virtually no one who even has to consider college as an option will spend four years in the top 100.

I wish college were the standard route for top junior tennis players.
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Old Jan 9th, 2011, 01:07 AM   #5
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Re: College or turning pro?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mboyle View Post
The proper decision tree is to compare the value of turning pro to the value of a year in college. Thus, you should count equipment, travel, and coaching as you would have to pay for this yourself on the pro tour. The $90,000 figure seems reasonable in that light. You can also count the tuition, even though you wouldn't be paying for it on the pro tour, because it is an investment in a career post tennis, which you would have to pay for yourself after the pro tour, unless you are Kim Clijsters, and even then, most of them end up going to some sort of school, it seems.

I agree that $143,000 seems high. Let's use $70,000.

To break even, players would have to earn $150,000 per year on the pro circuit (assuming a 40% tax bracket, to cover the $90,000 tax free benefit of an education). Essentially, a player must notch four years in the top 100 just to break even. How many players do that? I'll tell you one thing: virtually no one who even has to consider college as an option will spend four years in the top 100.

I wish college were the standard route for top junior tennis players.
I think -- although it may be wishful thinking -- that most girls are beginning to think this way.
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