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International recruiting strategies secret to success

Feb. 22, 2001

7 of 8 Lady Bears are from outside of U. S.

By KYLE DAVIS

Reporter

Thanks in part to recruiting success the Baylor women's tennis team is a perennial top-25 program in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

The team goes about getting its players a little differently than most of Baylor's varsity teams. Seven of the eight players on this season's roster are from outside of the United States.

'Networking and connections I have with tennis people around the world are the most important things that go into getting a player from out of the country to come to Baylor,' Head coach Dave Luedtke said.

Luedtke has many years of experience working in the game of tennis. He uses this to his advantage in recruiting. He talks to many people around the world about players that live in areas such as Czechoslovakia and Venezuela.

These contacts talk to players about their futures in the sport. If the player is interested in going to college, the contact gives them information about Baylor and its tennis program. The contact then tells Luedtke about the players and their interest in Baylor. A major part of that player's recruitment is handled through the contact.

'Those contacts are very important for international players,' he said.

Aside from these contacts, Luedtke also learns of these players through big international tournaments that are held during the college football bowl season. One of the largest is held at the FedEx Orange Bowl.

'The Orange Bowl tournament is one of the best ways to see foreign players in competition,' he said. 'Some of the best young players in the world compete at that tournament.'

Junior Paola Stephen learned about Baylor through a friend that was living in Killeen.

'My friend told me about Baylor and I got to meet with coach (Luedtke),' she said. 'He convinced me that Baylor was the place for me.'

Baylor targets players from Texas and the Southwest, but also looks at players from across the nation.

'We can't really limit ourselves to players from this region because Texas has great tennis weather,' Leudtke said. 'A lot of players from the Midwest want to come to Texas to play for that reason alone.'

The weather in Texas played a major role in junior Frida Borjesson's decision to come to Baylor.

'Baylor has a good academic reputation, a good tennis team and the weather here is usually hot,' she said. 'Those were the main reasons I chose to come to school here.'

Luedtke said that there are certain things that he looks for in a player no matter where that person is from. He values qualities such as integrity and character as highly as he values any other.

A player's 'upside' is also given a great deal of consideration. According to Luedtke, 'upside' is made up of athleticism, toughness, shot selection on the court and whether a player is burned out on the sport.

'Tennis is unique because the players usually start playing at such a young age,' he said. 'We have to judge how close a player is to being burned out on tennis and how much further they want to take their game.'

Recruiting normally starts when the player is a junior in high school. After players complete their junior year, schools are allowed to start calling possible players once a week. The calls can start after July 1.

Each potential player can go on five official campus visits. A visit is termed 'official' if the school pays for that player's visit. Players are allowed as many unofficial visits as they want.

The number of official visits Baylor gives out depends on how many scholarship openings the university has.

'If we have two scholarship openings we will try to bring in 10 or 12 players for official visits,' Luedtke said. 'If only one scholarship is coming open, we may only bring in five players.'

The recruiting process is not a quick one. It takes at least two years and sometimes more for Leudtke to choose players he wants in the program. He said that the program starts the year looking at up to 75 players before narrowing them down to the finished product of filling the open scholarship spots.

'We track their interest in our program,' he said. 'We start with anywhere from 30 to 75 before choosing who will become a Baylor player.'