This third week in February of Saturday Morning Coffee will include the second part of the recruiting discussion for athletes interested in moving from high school, onto the college ranks. For some background, head back to 2016 - Post 6. I closed last week with a few different avenues that are available for the high school athlete, and some frequently asked questions that I will be answering this week.
When is the right time to reach out to schools?
- It's first important to decide what your target is going to be. Are you looking for NCAA DI, DII, DII, NIAA, Junior College, etc? Once you have decided that, are you setting your sights on the high academic achieving schools? Is the level of athletics and being a title contender your highest priority? Are you trying to find a place to play, no matter where it may be? Get that in order and then begin to look at rosters during your 9th or 10th grade season. Schools generally have a four to five year flow from incoming freshman to graduating seniors or what's called a redshirt-senior (Redshirting is starting your NCAA clock with over 12 units, but participating in no competitions, so that you still have four seasons to compete). See how many players are in your potential position of choice and pay attention to what brand of athlete the school typically recruits. If you can get a personal introduction to a staff, that is the best way. If not, then send an email to the head coach and copy the assistant coach on it. The assistant will most likely be the one to get back to you. Remember that the coaches cannot have off-campus communication with you until the end of your 11th grade club season. Reach out no latter than the middle of your 11th grade season, and probably no sooner than the middle of your 9th grade season.
How do I know what level is right for me?
- Use the eye test. Look at the athletes who most resemble your size, ability, grades, and style of play... and then bump that projection up one notch, to leave room for the amount you will progress in the between-time. Ask your coaches to take a look at your video and try to get in touch with people who are already at the level that you wish to reach. Get information from them and see if they will look at your video. Get info on what you can improve on immediately to give yourself the best shot. Aim realistically. Know what level you're currently at, and have the confidence that you can increase a level above that within the next season or two.
What is the scholarship situation?
It differs in all NCAA sports. NCAA football schools can have upwards of 85 to 100. NCAA DI Women's Volleyball often has 12 scholarships. NCAA Division I Men's Volleyball, for example, has only 4.5 athletic scholarships. That 4.5 has to be spread throughout the program, as well as promised for the present and the future. Keep that in mind while you're looking at expensive institutions to attend school. Some NCAA DII schools don't have athletic scholarships and no DIII school do. Other associations, such as the NIAA, have tons of athletic scholarship money. Almost all schools have academic scholarships, which is why it is important to keep your grades and SAT scores high. Even if you are lucky enough to get an athletic scholarship, it will most likely be for a percentage of a scholarship. Therefore, save and plan accordingly... and don't rule out cheaper options like NIAA, or Junior College, if you aren't ready to get playing time right away.
How many schools should I apply to?
- How many schools you should apply to and how many you can show your interest to don't have to be the same question. You can show interest to as many schools as you'd like, but my advice is to only leave your interest with the schools that give you the opportunity to improve in what you'd like to do. If you want to be a doctor then it wouldn't make sense to go to a school with no science department. If you're straight-edge and religious then it may not be the best idea to go to the school with the biggest party reputation. Make a list, a big one, 25 to 35 schools. Begin to do your research on location, number of students admitted, grade requirements, coaching philosophies, program history, roster size, etc. Move that list of 25 or 35 down to 5 to 10. If you have the money for application fees then apply to 10. If your focus is more narrow and you have fewer schools that you're interested in, then apply to 5.
If I get a scholarship, can they take it away?
- Some scholarships have requirements to be met each semester or each year. Some are said to be good for a full three years, or four years, or even five. The fact of the matter is, there is always a way for a scholarship to be lost. Prepare by saving money and talking to your financial aid advisor regularly. Lot's of people think that it cannot happen to them and then they find themselves stuck, without the money to attend school. Create and a plan, then create a backup plan, so that regardless of what shakes out with your potential scholarship, you can continue to study at school and work toward your goals.
Does it matter if I play club or travel?
- This question is hard, because it is dependent on your ability, as well as the sport. The short answer is, yes. While there are some, there are few athletes that play college sports without playing outside of their high school program. It can be done, but you have to be that much better at exposing yourself and getting your ability into the eyes of coaches and their staff. Though, playing club can be similar to preparing for college. Do your research on the history of the club and how they help athletes get to the next level. How is their performance history and how are their relationships with college programs. Compare quality while you are comparing costs.
What if my high school coach doesn't have contacts for the next level?
- You've got to be prepared to do your own research. That is why it can help to make a contact, one who has already gone through the process and plays at the level that you seek. The three departments that you should frequent are your high school academic counselor, so that you constantly know what schools are within your reach, the financial aid office at the schools that you'd like to go to, so that you are aware of what is affordable, and the assistant coaches of the programs you seek, a large part of their job is recruiting, and they should be able to lead you in the right direction.
I am not as tall or strong as my friend and he got denied from every school, so how will it happen for me?
- Every athlete is different, and beyond the physical attributes, your attitude and drive to succeed will largely determine where you end up. If you aren't prepared to put yourself in some uncomfortable conversations and ask the difficult questions then you aren't going to place yourself in the best place to succeed. The top recruits out of high school will have the path navigated for them a lot of the time... for the rest of us, it is important that we don't give up our most important attribute: self belief.
What is the most important thing to know in the recruiting process?
- The most important thing to know is that: if you want to play, there is a place that you can play. A fortunate few will play at the highest level in the country, on the best team, and have the best result. However, if you make the decision that your sport is something that you want to carry-on from high school, into your college years, then there is a place that you can play. Don't close your mind to options that come up that weren't in your original plan. Plans change often, and we've got to be ready to act on a change and take control of the new situation.
Next week, I will be closing February discussing recruiting from the collegiate level to the professional level. If you enjoyed the read, hit the "Like" button below, and I would really enjoy reading your comments in the comments section below. If you want to join the list for email updates or invite a friend, drop your email at the top of the page to the right.
Have a blessed week,