Most high school athletes want to play college sports. The road from playing on your local high school field to competing at the collegiate level is a potentially bumpy one. When kids ask me why some other kid got a scholarship offer, or why some great player doesn't have an offer, all I can is remind them that college recruiting isn't a perfect system. College coaches have subjective opinions and small windows through which they see each player, and all they can do is try their best to make the right decisions. The end thought is that don't tie your self worth or final judgement on your ability to college recruitment. Some great ones fall through the cracks, and some not-so-great ones get lucky. That said, here are a few points to keep in mind:
1 - Keep your grades up - if you let your grades slip, all you do is reduce the amount of schools that can recruit you. Let's you have a 3.5 GPA; most schools can recruit you, for this example we'll say 100. But, when your GPA slips to 3.0, perhaps only 50 of those schools can recruit you. When you get down to 2.5, now maybe 10 of those schools can recruit you, and you have to hope they want you and have money for you. Good grades are you best friend when it comes to college recruiting, and obviously the benefit of good work habits goes well beyond college sports.
2 - Focus on what you can control - when you play the game and practice, all you can do is work your hardest and play your best. You can't control outside opinions, press, criticism, etc, and when you begin to focus on those things, the weight of the task gets very heavy. You might want very badly to wear a college uniform soon, but remember that right now, you play for the uniform your high school gives you. Play within the context of the team, and help them win championships. That will reflect well on you in the mind of college coaches and do the most to help you have the best high school experience possible.
3 - Aim high, but don't exclude viable options - so many guys want to play division 1, which is great, go ahead and aim for the stars. Don't forget that there are tons of lower division schools with great educations where you might be able to play earlier, play more, play the position you want, etc. Don't get overly tied up in the division you want to play in unless you think you're going pro (and even then, there are pro athletes who didn't play division 1).
4 - Not all schools do "full scholarships" and you need other ways to get financial assistance - and even the schools who do have full scholarships tend to split them up. Say a team has 25 guys on it, but only 10 scholarships. They are unlikely to be able to offer full scholarships to many players, if any at all. In most cases, schools offer "packages," which include need based money (your family can't afford the school), merit based money (you got scholarship money for having good grades), and sport money (from the program's scholarship fund). This is part of the reason having good grades help. If a school costs $40,000, but they can get you $35,000 because of good grades, then they only have $5,000 left to cover, which they can either expect you to pay or try to cover with sport money.
5 - Don't buy into marketing schemes - if you want to be seen and recruited by a college coach, you need to be at their camps. Most "combines" do very little for recruiting. Same for recruiting websites. Most programs hold on-campus skill camps, sometimes advertised, sometimes not. This is how most coaches truly evaluate the recruits. If there are 300 kids at an advertised camp, chances are the coach has his eye set on 30 of those kids to evaluate. To get into that group of 30, have your high school coach call the college coach to let him you're going to be there and might be a good fit for his program. If you're not in the 30, you'd better be pretty damn good if you want to get noticed. Non-advertised camps (normally by invite only) are good bets to get seen by the coaches. Camps are really just fronts for recruiting forums where coaches can meet you, talk to you, and see you play in person.
6 - Don't be dumb - twitter, facebook, instagram, etc, are all fun and current. The number of athletes who hurt their college opportunities on these platforms is astounding. Don't post that inappropriate video, don't comment with crazy profanity at your buddy, don't post some picture of a party you went to. Obviously, we'd be better off just not doing anything wrong at all, so that's the goal, but if you do something wrong or act without class, don't advertise it on social media.
Getting to play college sport is a great privilege, and many have worked very hard to earn that privilege. Unfortunately, the process through which colleges select their athletes is far from perfect. It's up to you to everything you can to give yourself the best change possible.
SPU's Alex Drayson and Matt Migiano write the SPU Athletic Performance Blog.
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