Making the decision to play sports in college is a complicated one. Playing on varsity teams at Division I, II and III requires adherence to standards established by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). Managing the process of being recruited adds an additional layer of complexity to the already overwhelming process of applying to college.
So why take that step? For many kids, playing college sports is a life-long dream. Sometimes that dream includes a future in professional sports. While the odds of this are low, the amount of money in play can be huge. In any event, DI and DII schools that recruit often provide scholarships to prospects.
Before a student even thinks about starting the process, the first step is talking to the student’s current coach. Does the coach believe the student has the ability to play in college? Will the coach support the student by recommending them to college coaches? If the answer is “no” or a tepid “yes,” the student and parents need to take it seriously.
Recruiting for some sports can begin as early as 7th grade. Registering with the NCAA is an important required first step for any athlete. As soon as you even think your student wants to play college sports, it’s time to register. It’s essential to become familiar with the NCAA regulations regarding minimum academic standards, types and frequency of communication between coaches and recruits, the number of all-expenses paid visits a student can make to a school, the requirements schools must adhere to regarding offers of admission and scholarship, and much more.
Once the current coach is on board, depending on the sport, a student has to market him/herself which can be done in a variety of ways. Students can put links to YouTube film showcasing their skills on paid websites. They may often use the help of a private counselor who specializes in sports to create a list of appropriate schools and contact coaches at all of them. In addition, students will attend showcases and/or camps, often sponsored by colleges, to show coaches their skills.
This is all tip of the iceberg information. Each sport and each division within a sport has its own best practices. Only DI and DII schools can offer athletic scholarships. At DIII and other lower division organizations, coaches can state their preference for an athlete.
Before committing to what’s ahead for a college athlete, families should listen for certain warning signs to protect their kids. A coach will often say to a kid that he has a good pal at XYZ University and will make a call. Unless details are actually ironed out, this is most likely a well-meaning but empty promise. If a kid has always gotten positive feedback--ever since t-ball or the equivalent--be sure it’s not simply in the context of helping kids develop self-esteem. And, one of toughest issues to face is whether or not the student has the size and strength to play at this new, higher level. Making sure that the support from all corners is genuine is essential.