Samara using new media to evaluate recruits
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 07:09
A new wave of recruits is coming to the West Virginia women’s tennis team, and head coach Tina Samara is using some new techniques to land these coveted athletes.
"With (Irinka Toidze) we (recruited) through the internet," Samara said. "When you are talking about kids from that far away, it’s not always a face-to-face visit."
Toidze, from Tbilisi, Georgia, is one of four international players Samara signed to play at West Virginia. Samara uses videos posted on Internet websites like YouTube to watch prospects play and practice. The third-year coach uses Skype, in place of phone calls when she wants to talk to international players. Although there is some risk to not meeting face-to-face, Samara believes the reward far outweighs the uncertainty.
"You are taking some chances, but that is pretty normal in tennis," Samara said. "It is a sport where you have a lot of international players, and you’re certainly not able to fly all over the world all of the time."
Besides the skill the international players bring to the Mountaineers, Samara also believes it provides a good cultural experience for the team, similar to the one the coach had in college. While playing at the University of Georgia, Samara met and played with a number of international players who she has remained friends with. She only hopes members of her team will have the same experience.
"I think the things you gain from interacting with kids from all over the world outside of tennis is really valuable," Samara said. "You make friends and maybe you travel around the world with and go to their home, which I was lucky to do."
In the future, Samara hopes to have a pretty even mix of domestic and international players on the team – a strategy the West Virginia tennis team has never seen before.
"From what I’ve seen, it seems like they’ve had mostly domestic kids," Samara said. "I think there are different philosophies, my goal would be to have half (domestic kids) and half (foreign kids)."
Another advantage of foreign players is despite their high talent level, they are still willing to come to programs that are in the rebuilding process – like West Virginia.
"For tennis, when you are trying to turn a program around, sometimes it is a little bit easier to get some international kids in," Samara said. "Their level might be higher than an American kid you can get sometimes."
While the Internet and the development of technology has removed some boundaries for Samara’s recruiting, there is also a double standard.
"It’s great, but it’s also getting harder to get (international kids), because everybody has access to them," said Samara. "Before all this Internet stuff, if you had a good link to a certain country, you were pretty much set, but now everybody has access to these kids."
Now, Samara uses the Internet to find recruits abroad, but the ultimate goal is to set up a pipeline overseas.
"If you get one kid from say, Serbia, that does great and goes home and tells everyone how much she loves it, everyone she knows that plays (will want to come)," said Samara.
As Samara attempts to lay down pipelines, a hole has already been dug in the nation of Georgia.
"I like everything in (Morgantown)," Toidze said. "It is pretty different from my country. It’s like another planet, but it is awesome here."