The last few weeks reminded me of a very important aspect of college athletics and recruiting. There are millions of dollars that are spent on attempts to get the best college athletes to attend particular universities. The events and speculation leading to the hype of a national signing day is remarkable, but how does a kid or school know they invested in the right person?
I have frequently been asked by parents of high school athletes about the “ins and outs” of college recruiting. While there is no substitute for outstanding talent and great grades, there are additional steps parents of high school athletes can take to help their kids get recruited.
First and foremost, parents need to have a realistic assessment of their son or daughter’s athletic talent. This assessment will help you determine the appropriate level of play for your son or daughter at the college level. Don’t rule out NAIA or NCAA Division II and III schools if they can help your child attain their academic goals. Casting a wide net will improve your child’s chance of being successfully recruited.
I know all parents want to see their kids perform on a national stage. The reality of it is that their kid may not be talented enough for that stage. It sounds good in theory because most people live in a box. Don’t compare your kid to what he’s doing against Jim Bob Jenkins in Small Town, USA. Compare his accomplishments to the elite athletes in the nation. I always tell parents to look at the top college freshmen in any sport in the country. Do you think your son or daughter is as good as them? If the answer is no, then chances are that stage is too big for them. So keep your options open and maybe bring your expectations down a notch.
Most parents want to see their kids go to school for free. It is imperative that parents have a realistic expectation with respect to athletic scholarship money. Parents also should know that in addition to athletic scholarships, many colleges offer other types of financial assistance and the pool of available money to your child will be substantially increased with strong academic results.
Some schools do not offer athletics scholarships, or need to allocate scarce scholarship money to more players than their program is funded to carry. It is not uncommon in smaller schools, or less prominent sports at larger schools for scholarships to cover only a portion of the costs associated with attending college. You should keep these opportunities open, too. Remember, your child can supplement their total financial package through other forms of financial aid such as academic or community-based scholarships, student loans.
Remember, it’s okay to be the big fish in the small pond. It’s also okay to be astute. I can not over-emphasize the importance of getting good grades in high school and taking and scoring well on the college assessments tests such as the ACT and SAT. Many schools supplement partial athletic scholarships with academic scholarships or tuition reductions for athletes who display strong academic results. Most schools can not realistically consider offering an athlete a scholarship if the athlete does not academically qualify.