We’re proud to highlight one of our education industry partners, Kathy Connor of Connor College Consulting, in this guest post describing the ins and outs of college athletic recruiting. See bottom of post for background and contact info.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COLLEGE ATHLETIC RECRUITING
By Kathy Connor
ATHLETIC RECRUITING BASICS
Athletic talent can provide wonderful opportunities and open many doors for student/athletes in the college search process. While it can present unique advantages, it also poses its own set of challenges.
The athletic recruiting process must be approached in a realistic and systematic manner. A good understanding of the NCAA recruiting rules and how to conduct a proactive and healthy recruitment campaign are key to an athlete’s success not only in making a well-suited team roster but in obtaining the best scholarship possible.
If you are a parent, your first step is in helping your student find the right college fit for their academic and social needs. Your student/athlete is a student first and must develop the foresight and vision to understand that while playing their sport in college is an important highlight of their next four years, their education is a lifetime tool. I have concluded that those student/athletes who do both their academic and athletic homework, and take a proactive approach to recruiting, have the most success in getting college coaches to consider them for admission as well as making a team roster with athletic funding.
Here are a few guidelines to a successful approach to the athletic recruiting process.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR LEVEL OF PLAY
- If you are an athlete that wants to play your sport at the collegiate level, you must talk with your coach(es) about your ability. Ask them for an honest and realistic assessment of your prospects in collegiate athletics. At which level (Division I, II, III, or NAIA) does he or she believe you can compete?
- If you participate in a timed sport, there are various websites and other tools you can look at to determine in which conference you would be most competitive, which is generally what coaches want in order to provide you with athletic scholarship funding.
- Use this information as a guideline for targeting schools at which you can realistically compete in your sport.
CREATE A REALISTIC COLLEGE LIST
Create a balanced preliminary list of schools that incorporates academic interests and abilities, social needs, and athletic ability. This list should be driven by answers to questions including:
- “Could I realistically get accepted and thrive at this school based on my academic record?”
- “Do I like the campus, the students, the location, etc?”
- “Can I play/compete at this level in both its Conference and Division?”
- “Is the college affordable, taking into account any potential academic and athletic funding I receive?”
ASSERTIVELY WORK AT YOUR RECRUITING
Often, athletes expect coaches to come knocking on their door. This is unlikely unless you are competing at a national level – which most athletes are not.
It is important to understand the “rules of the recruiting game” in order to maximize your chances of playing – and receiving athletic money – at your preferred colleges. This takes time, effort and good communication to make sure coaches know you and want to recruit you. Many universities have very limited recruiting budgets; therefore, if you can proactively get noticed and make it onto a coach’s “list” (the earlier, the better), it makes it easier for everyone. And it increases your likelihood of being brought onto the team and receiving athletic funding.
There are some key steps to the athletic recruiting process:
Proactive Communication: Assertive communication is the key to success.
The majority of athletes who want to participate in collegiate athletics need to be very proactive in searching out and pursuing all possible opportunities. There is no magic formula that can guarantee selection to a college sports program. However, here are some recommendations: fill out the school’s recruiting questionnaire to get on their mailing list; write to the coach and introduce yourself with a letter and athletic resume (filled with GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and sports accomplishments) explaining why you think their school is for you; let them know any tournaments, showcases, or meets you will competing in and ask them to come watch you; follow up with any new best times, achievements, and generally stay in touch.
Getting Seen: It’s all about exposure!
Especially for subjective (non-timed) sports, a very important aspect of recruiting is being seen and getting exposure on a fairly regular basis. For sports such as soccer, you will need to be on a club or high school team that gives you maximum exposure to college showcases, tournaments, and camp opportunities. This is where college coaches will have the best chance of seeing your athlete in action. (A note of caution – very rarely is an athlete first noticed at a college showcase. Coaches attend college showcases to watch and evaluate athletes that are already on their list. It is very important to have communicated with coaches prior to showcases so they know you are interested in being evaluated.)
Understand all NCAA rules and regulations!
NCAA policies govern how coaches can recruit college-bound student/athletes. The rules specify when and how coaches can contact prospects, what materials can be sent and when student-athletes can visit campus. The rules differ slightly from sport to sport and Division to Division. It is critical that student/athletes understand these rules so as not to jeopardize their eligibility.
The student/athlete must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center for compliance approval. The Center also administers the National Letter of Intent program as well as the Amateurism Eligibility and Certification. Details can be found in The Guide for the College-Bound Student Athlete (http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/CBSA.pdf) which contains detailed information about academic and amateurism eligibility.
Being involved in athletics can be a tremendous benefit to students regardless of whether a student receives a scholarship. The life-skills and lessons taught along the way are priceless and will aid the student/athlete in any future endeavor. A young person contemplating college attendance should use high school for legitimate academic preparation then do their college “best-fit” homework and athletic homework to find just the right place for them.
WHO IS KATHY CONNOR?
Kathy Smith Connor was one of the most highly recruited high school swimmers in the nation in 1982 before accepting Stanford University’s offer of a full athletic scholarship. During her 4 years at Stanford, Kathy won 21 NCAA All-American awards, numerous NCAA and Pac-10 titles, including the 1986 Pac-10 Scholar Athlete of the Year, and was also on the 1983 NCAA National Championship Team. She was a member of numerous United States National Teams from 1980 to 1987, an alternate on the 1980 United States Olympic Swim Team, and was inducted into the Washington State Scholastic Swimming Hall of Fame in 2005.
Kathy understands the life of a student athlete and will help your teen comprehend the demands of time, intellect, and energy required of student athletes as well as the demands of the athletic recruitment process.
It’s not easy finding the balance between a good academic fit and the right coach, team, and training experience. Kathy will walk alongside each student and family as you contact coaches and consider recruitment offers carefully to maximize the possibility of athletic scholarships at the right school for both academic and athletic goals.