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Tennis is the most international sport at North Texas, but why?

Tennis is the most international sport at North Texas, but why?

Tennis is the most international sport at North Texas, but why?
September 21
16:33 2016

In women’s sports across the NCAA, an estimated 5.6 percent of all athletes are from a country outside of the United States. Tennis, however, supersedes that average by 5.4  times, as 30.4 percent of female tennis players in college are foreign.

This evokes curiosity and raises questions as to why tennis is the most international sport on most college campuses. Is it simply that they are better or, do they show more promise and work harder?

“Of the best American kids, some will turn pro, and the [others] will go to the Stanfords or the Dukes,” North Texas head coach Sujay Lama said “Then there is the next tier that everyone tries to get of five star [players]. After that, there’s a drop off, but we’re able to look internationally and get those five star and blue chip kids.”

Since many of the top echelon American tennis players go to larger, more well-known universities, mid-major programs rely heavily on recruits from overseas to fill holes in its rosters.

Although the American and foreign players have similarities, Lama has noticed a marginal difference between the two.

“I don’t want to generalize,” Lama said. “But, the international players that I have worked with have had a greater work ethic and an appreciation for the opportunities.”

At one time, Lama himself was a highly sought after international player, and said the benefits of foreign teens coming to the United States are overwhelming.

“Where else in the world are you able to study and at the same time play a high level of tennis?” Lama said. “And secondly, the resources in this country are mind boggling in my opinion.”

At UNT, the 2016 tennis team is comprised of eight total players, and seven of them are from another country. The lone American, senior Alexis Thoma, is the only girl from the U.S. to be on the team over the past eight years.

“It’s kind of been the norm to me for everyone to be of a different country and culture,” Thoma said. “Tennis is a really diverse sport. We grew up competing [against] everyone from all over the world, so it’s not much different when we all come out here and compete as a team.”

Tennis is a worldwide sport, and the U.S. simply does not produce a high number of Division I caliber players. Essentially, college coaches can get a higher level player in a different country because American players are more often recruited by larger schools.

Programs, like North Texas, that can find the unseen players on the other side of the world have an advantage on those that primarily recruit within the states.

Assistant coach Jeff Hammond has excelled at recruiting top-level players from around the world, and said overseas players are not really different in their style or approach.

“The [players] are the same,” Hammond said.  “It’s just the U.S. might only be 15 percent of the marketplace. And if we only limited ourselves to fifteen percent of the marketplace we wouldn’t be really good.”

Division I tennis boasts great players in every program. This year, the Mean Green are an excellent example of the amount of time and research that programs around the country put into getting the best possible players for their team.

For North Texas, it is not about where a player is from, it’s simply about their level of skill. It’s just more often than not, the international players are the ones catching the coach’s eye.

“If you’re a great player,” Hammond said. “We’re knocking on your door.”

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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