Purdue’s tennis coaches have used different approaches to find talent.
Men’s tennis coach Pawel Gajdzik has traveled outside the United States to recruit and it shows, as six of his 10 players are international students. The head coach said recruiting international players is made easier by the fact Purdue has the third largest international student population in the country.
According to Gajdzik, the talent pool for division one tennis players is very small. He estimates that there are roughly 20 players for him and his coaching staff to recruit. Of those 20 U.S. juniors, some will go pro, will opt to stay close to home or aren’t ready academically to play college tennis.
“My first year here ... what I did was call the top 100 Americans and sent letters to (them), talking about how we wanted to bring them to Purdue and why we wanted to bring them,” Gajdzik said. “That was a gigantic waste of time. I mean literally I might (have) had one or two responses.”
With this, the coaching staff looked at the rankings of international players and used their contacts and personal networks to get more information on players.
Gajdzik and others go scout those players at tournaments, see what coaches they know in that area or know players that they’ve played against. Even when they scout those top players, there’s a chance they might still go pro.
The emergence of the internet has furthered the competition for international players, as Gajdzik said there are hundreds of other coaches searching the same tennis rankings and recruiting players.
When the coaching staff is recruiting players, it wants guys that will come in and be able to have some sort of impact right away. Gajdzik said the process can be tedious and likened it to a business decision.
“It’s a big investment from us as coaches and the program here with four and a half scholarships,” Gajdzik said. “The margin of error is very, very slim. We can’t redshirt the guys (and) we can’t sit them a year to make sure they’re eligible.”
An advantage that the fifth-year coach believes he holds over some other coaches is that he can speak four languages fluently. Assistant coach Matija Zgaga is also fluent in several languages.
This enables them to recruit in areas where English isn’t spoken predominantly. Also, it allows them to find players who weren’t thinking about college and convince them that it could be a good opportunity for them.
Normally when they go to visit a player in another country, it’s because they are close to signing that player and he won’t be playing in the states anytime soon. Gajdzik and Zgaga also use international visits to see a player’s home and learn more about his background.
“Everybody has a different background and different ways of being brought up,” Gajdzik said. “We want to make sure that at the end of the day this is the right fit for our program and we are the right (option) for them.”
Aside from going overseas, there are various tournaments in the United States that college coaches scout where international players take part. For women’s head coach Laura Glitz, these tournaments are how she has gone about recruiting.
Glitz said that she hasn’t personally traveled overseas to see players, but she scouts them through training sessions and tournaments. Her roster features five international players.
She recruited freshman Natalia Davila at the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship, which features the best international junior talents.
She met Daniela Vidal when she was training in Florida and found out about Krisztina Kapitany, who is from Hungary, through a mutual contact.
“My assistant at the time ... he flew over to Hungary and the men’s team has a guy from Hungary,” Glitz said. “That was sort of how we got connected with her.”
Australian-native and freshman on the women’s team Andjela Djokovic used a recruiter who was a former teammate of Gadzik when he was at Baylor.
Djokovic hired the recruiter to assist in finding the right college fit for her. The freshman and her dad made a list of potential options and gave it to the recruiter.
He did the research and gave Djokovic advice on what schools she shouldn’t go to, whether they had enough scholarship players or had no graduating seniors.
After the list had been narrowed down, she decided that Purdue would be the best place for her.
“(The recruiter) talked to Laura for me and then I got in contact with Laura and that’s how I found out about Purdue,” Djokovic said. “Purdue had good academics and their tennis program was really strong too so I was like, ‘double-whammy.’”
Since Glitz’s first year as head coach, her team has never had less than five international players. In Gajdzik’s five years as coach at Purdue, he has never had less than four international players.