Athletic Recruiting | Play by the Rules!

If I were asked (as I have been) to convey one important piece of advice to high school athletes with collegiate athletic hopes and dreams, it would be: Play by the rules.

As an athlete, this may seem obvious and almost cliché, but it's amazing how many prospective student-athletes and their families are either unaware of "the rules" or think that "the rules" do not apply to them.  And with so many rules to keep track of, it's no wonder that people are looking for an exception here or there.  Trust me when I tell you that everything will go so much more smoothly for you if you just play by the rules. This applies to every aspect of the college application, admissions, and athletic recruiting process. 

Having spent most of my career prior to becoming an educational consultant working in student services and academic support for student-athletes, I am particularly attuned to the uniqueness of the college admissions process for college-bound student-athletes.

In addition to the "rules" to which every other college applicant must adhere - application deadlines, essay word-counts, which standardized tests and documents to submit, etc. - there are added layers of rules for prospective student-athletes. Each coach will have his/her own "rules" or requirements, the university or college athletics department will likely put their own twist on things, and, for some, the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse process will be the icing on the recruiting cake.

So, in the spirit of knowing the rules of the game before you start playing, here are my TOP TEN MISTAKES to avoid:

  1. Not knowing the rules - Get your hands on a copy of the NCAA publication, Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete if you are interested in playing college athletics at the Division I or Division II level.  And register with the NCAA Clearinghouse by the end of your junior year.
  2. Overestimating your athletic ability - I know this sounds harsh, but you may not be as good as you think you or your parents think you are.  Then again, you may be.  Be realistic.  There are wonderful opportunities (and, frankly, more balanced lifestyles) to be found at the NCAA Division II, III and even club sport levels.
  3. Starting too late - The earlier coaches notice you the better.  The NCAA has rules about when they may contact you, evaluate you, etc., but you can initiate contact and make them aware of your interest and your talents.
  4. Letting your parents do all the work - Just like YOU should be the one applying to colleges, writing your essays, etc., YOU should also be the one to communicate with coaches.  They are recruiting you - not your mom - to be a member of their team.
  5. Not providing the coach with the correct or enough information -Find out what athletic AND academic information the coach needs in order to gauge his/her interest in you.  And then provide it.  Procrastination is not your friend in the recruiting process.
  6. Visiting the coach but not the team - It's important to get to know the coach and assess how well you think you will click with him/her.  It's even more important to meet the people who might be your teammates. You will spend a great deal of time with them; they will be your automatic social circle as a freshman.  If you don't really fit in with them, it's not going to be an easy transition to college or to the team.
  7. Picking a college based ONLY on athletic priorities - BIG mistake!  Too often, I watched student-athletes transfer after the coach who recruited them left or after they realized they hated being on an urban campus (hello, did you not see the city around you when you visited?!)  Going to college means LIVING in a place, attending classes, and joining a larger community in addition to just playing your sport.  Be sure to look at the bigger picture otherwise you could set yourself back academically, athletically, and socially trying to get it right the next time around.
  8. Believing that the coach makes admissions and/or financial aid decisions -A coach may be in a position to advocate on your behalf, but until you hear from the admissions office that you have officially been accepted to the college or university, you have not been.  The same goes for financial aid - especially aid other than an athletic scholarship.  Coaches cannot make admissions decisions or offer financial aid beyond recommending you for athletics-related aid.
  9. Dropping the Ball - You need to complete every part of every process to be admitted, matriculate, and become eligible to compete.  This includes paying the admissions application fees and then the enrollment deposit at the college you select, making sure your final high school transcript is sent not only to the college but to the Clearinghouse (if applicable), registering for and attending an orientation session, and making sure that you know what your practice/competition schedule will be so that you don't sign up for classes that conflict with it (talk to the coach or the academic advisor for the team about this BEFORE you register!)
  10. Thinking you can just play your sport when you get to college - There is a reason that I am adamant in using the phrase "student-athlete".  In order to be an athlete at the college level you have to be a student first.   If you don't plan to go to classes and put in the work to be a college student, you won't be eligible to play your sport for long.  Again, keep the bigger picture in mind.

Tags: athletics, college, scholarships

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