For most junior players, collegiate tennis is the next step after completing their junior careers. Collegiate tennis players are members of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), the national governing body of collegiate tennis. The ITA is comprised of five collegiate divisions in which players can compete: NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, NAIA, and NJCAA/JUCO.
NCAA Division I
In Division I, collegiate athletes can receive scholarships. Players at this level are often recruited, and coaches often express a strong interest in these athletes early on in the recruitment process. If you are not recruited, it does not mean that you will not have a chance to play tennis at a Division I school. But, it does mean that you will need to create opportunities for these coaches to know who you are. At this level, it is expected for players to have the necessary skills to compete at the highest level of collegiate tennis by dedicating many years to develop their games and by building an athletic resume of results, accomplishments, and successes.
NCAA Division II
In Division II, players can be awarded athletic scholarships. Players may be recruited, or they can look for ways to catch the attention of coaches from their desired institutions. These institutions should align with both the player’s athletic and academic objectives. The level of play in Division II is similar to that of Division I, as players need to have an advanced set of skills and accomplishments throughout their tennis careers to compete at this level.
NCAA Division III
In Division III, athletes are not required to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center because they are not eligible to be awarded athletic scholarship at this level. Instead, players may apply for institutional financial aid in the same way in which non-athletes do. At this level, players may be recruited, or they may look for ways to express their interest to coaches of desired institutions.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or NAIA, is a great option for players who wish to play tennis at the collegiate level, but who are strongly concerned about their academic performance and/or may not want to commit to the demanding athletic schedule of other levels. NAIA colleges and universities pride themselves on being a part of a small community with small population. Athletic scholarships are available for NAIA players, and students must meet the requirements set by the NAIA Eligibility Center in order to participate at this level.
The National Junior College Athletic Association, NJCAA, is also commonly known as JUCO. At this level, players will attend and compete at an institution for a 2-year period before seeking transfer to a 4-year institution. Players are able to receive scholarships, and although they do not need to go through any eligibility process, they must meet the requirements of the school they wish to attend.