If I’m good enough, they’ll find me.” According to www.athleticscholarships.com, this is the most common misconception among high school athletes when it comes to receiving full or partial college scholarships. Most Christian schools don’t have blue chip recruits to attract major attention. Therefore, if there are athletes in your program that dream of playing at the next level, they’ll need your help as the athletic director in order to secure a spot on a college roster.
The truth is that the majority of scholarships are awarded to athletes who have made themselves known to colleges.
Many colleges actively scout for players, but rely mostly on their coaches’ connections when finding players to field their teams. If you haven’t become one of those connections, then it might be too late for your athletes.
Most high schoolers and their families don’t know how to get noticed. This is where the athletic director needs to step in and help.
Here are five questions and answers to help you guide your athletes in their quest for college athletics.
When should the scholarship search begin?
In researching this article, all college coaches we spoke to said that the summer after the athlete’s sophomore year is the best time to start.
The most work should be done between the sophomore summer and the senior season. You don’t want the athlete worrying about where he will be playing while in the midst of his senior season.
The athlete should, ideally, have it narrowed down to two or three schools by the time his senior season starts.
These schools need to have an interest in him as well.
Encourage your athlete to use the time leading up to the senior season to weed through the different opportunities, and save the big things, like campus visits, for after the final high school season. Then he can focus on selecting the best fit.
What level is the athlete and where should they play?
Almost all athletes harbor the dream of NCAA Division I sports. However, this is most likely not an option for our athletes. Even NCAA Division II can be a stretch for many of our athletes.
Most Christian school athletes are NCAA Division III, NAIA, or NCCAA caliber.
You, the athlete, his coach, and his family all need to sit down and realistically discuss the options that are available for the athlete. It would also be wise to have in attendance a third party that is not involved in the school athletic department but has seen the player compete.
Your player, his family, and possibly his coach think that he is better than he is. You and the third party evaluator need to gently bring everyone back to reality.
Also, just because an athlete can play somewhere doesn’t mean that he can get a scholarship there.
He may have to play for a “lesser” school in his eyes, because that’s where the scholarships are available.
Identify who the athlete is and where he can realistically achieve a scholarship to play. Then move on from there.
Should we use a recruiting service?
Short answer: it’s not necessary.
Long answer: most recruiting services boast contact with thousands of coaches across the nation. However, this “contact” is nothing more than an email address to the athletic office at many schools.
Also, many recruiting services don’t take into account the best fit for an athlete. They just charge you for an account and a highlight video.
Having an account with a recruiting service can’t hurt, but don’t pay too much money for a glorified social media site that can’t guarantee anything.
Do athletes get scholarships as a result of being a part of a recruiting service? Absolutely. But getting a scholarship is a lot like getting a job. Face to face, personal contact is the main method of achieving the desired scholarship.
Rely on direct communication and proactivity. Don’t just sit and wait for someone to find your athlete.
What are the most attractive qualities in an athlete seeking a scholarship?
Honestly, at the risk of sounding cliche, the most important thing that your athletes can do if they want a scholarship is to keep their GPA as high as possible.
Most of the colleges that your athlete will be targeting don’t have large amounts of scholarship money on hand. Giving an academic scholarship to an athlete is a win-win for everyone involved. The player still gets part of his tuition covered, and the coach doesn’t have to dip into the athletic scholarship bank.
Also, good grades will transfer well to college, and that is certainly something that college coaches take into consideration.
“Many coaches [want] to know if the player will be able to handle the rigors of both sports and academics so that they have confidence they can invest the time into developing the player.” -Chris Carmichael, head coach women’s soccer, Bob Jones University
All coaches that we surveyed also mentioned that a player’s attitude and overall disposition go a long way in the scholarship decision.
Coaches want to see a team player that will work hard and take responsibility. Sounds trite, but it’s what they value. Honestly, it’s what any coach at any level values.
As the athletic director, you need to make sure to remind potential scholarship athletes that they need to keep their grades in check and their attitude right. It will affect their athletic future.
How should the athlete get noticed by coaches?
The best way to get noticed is through personal, direct contact. The player, coach, and athletic director should all contact potential coaches via email or phone and express the interest that the athlete has in being a part of their program. Don’t just blast out an impersonal email. Coaches want kids that want them.
A highlight video is also a must. We’ve dealt with just this specifically in another article. However, start on this video in the sophomore summer and continue to add to it throughout the junior season.
If your athlete is a bit late in the game or is a bigger prospect, then playing in offseason club showcase tournaments is another way to get noticed by college coaches. Most smaller college coaches at these tournaments are looking to land bigger fish than what your athlete probably is, so stick to the more direct route.
Most schools offer offseason camps as well. This is a great way for your athlete and the college coaches to become familiar with each other in order to see if they’re a good fit.
It all comes down to the work that everyone on your end is willing to put into it. Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the athlete to be a desirable prospect. But you, as the athletic director, should be very proactive in this process as well. The more athletes your program sends to college, the better your program will become.
Are you a college coach? What tips would you add to these thoughts?
As an AD, what steps have you taken to help your athletes get onto college teams?