What is the NCAA?

Before you are allowed to start as a student-athlete in the United States, you first have to meeet certain eligibility requirements set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. But what is the NCAA exactly?

The U.S. college sports federation

The NCAA serves the same role in U.S. college sports as the FIFA does in global soccer and the ATP & WTA do for tennis: It regulates and coordinates (almost) all college sports in the United States. It is the overarching organization that oversees the three biggest and most prevalent college sports leagues (NCAA Division I, II & III).

The different divisions      

The NCAA consists of three different divisions: Division I (D1), Division II (D2) and Division III (D3). In general, D1 is the highest level and D3 the lowest. However, this does not always mean that all D1 teams are better than all teams that compete in D3. It is possible, for example, that the best 10 tennis teams in D2 are better than the bottom teams of D1. Each university competes in one of the three NCAA divisions. This means that all sports of a certain university compete in the same Division – it rarely ever happens that the golf team of a university competes in a different division than the same university’s baseball team. Click here for some fun facts and figures about the NCAA.


Within the three NCAA divisions, the different college teams are divided into different conferences that consist of either 8, 10 or 12 universities. These conferences are either based on the schools’ geographic location or on the size of their student population. The teams within these conferences compete against each other for the ultimate conference championship. Winning, however, does not result in promotion to a higher division, because the school’s division and conference always remain the same. However, it does not come without a prize. The team that wins advances to the regional or even the national rounds, the NCAA National Championships, which is the goal of every team. And, the whole tram receives an individual championship ring, of course!

Slamstox tennis player Tom Moonen (former national champion and Dutch #1 U18) wins the ‘Conference USA’ Championship and advances to the national NCAA tournament. It was the first time in the history of the Middle Tennessee State University Men’s Tennis Team to qualify for the national NCAA Championship tournament. Tears of joy! 

What role does the NCAA play for you as (future) student-athlete?    

When you decide you want to play college sports in the States you have to register with the NCAA. When you register, the NCAA will look at your case and decide whether you are allowed to compete at a univeristy in the United States. You are required to meet strict NCAA regulations. To determine your eligibility, the NCAA looks at your academic and athletic backgrounds. Academically, your grades have to be sufficient; athletically, you have to meet certain “amateurism standards.” Only students who are eligible are allowed to compete in matches and tournaments and receive athletic scholarships.

At Slamstox we guide you through this very important part of the process to the United States. We know exactly what you should and shouldn’t do and make sure that you will be eligible to compete as a student-athlete in one of the NCAA divisions. Read more about the recruiting process here.