Want to Play Sports in College? Pursuing an Athletic Scholarship?

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What information you should know for those considering athletics in NCAA Division I, II, or III.

By Dr. Stephen Walker, CC-AASP

Have you ever wondered how is it that some athletes get recruited and others that may have talent don’t?

Pursuing your athletic career beyond high school is both exciting and challenging. If you are positioning yourself properly you will play both club and HS sports, and you are aware of the fact that only about 1-5% of those who want financial support playing collegiate athletics actually receive it. Most people think of the big bucks and recruiting budgets that large schools have, but rarely do they realize that these schools get a lot of financial help from their college football program, and a few may get help from their college basketball program. Of course, these are the cream of the Division I class and the competition is keen.

The truth is this…very few college sports are able to support their own budgets and to think that coaches in your sport are traveling the country to find you….is a myth. The vast majority of athletes playing collegiate sports are playing Division II, NAIA, Division III and at the Junior College level. Some of these athletes get support in the form of full or partial scholarships, internships, and/or financial aid unavailable to other students, but nobody gets it without asking for it…..

Bottom line: Play for the “love of the game” and because you are a better person when you’re testing your limits, pursuing advanced skills (physically and mentally) and working diligently to improve in an endeavor you are truly passionate about.

Now that I’ve said that, this article is going to focus on: how you network, get yourself seen, make the contacts you will need, acquire the tools necessary for marketing yourself, and, finding the right fit for you. The fit is key. It can make a difference in the level of competition you achieve, and coming into contact with mentors who will nurture your growth in positive ways. You will want to seek a program that will give you the opportunity to play, develop your love of the game, and be in a position to get a great education…benefits you will enjoy for the rest of your life.

So How do I get myself in the mix?

If….you have talent….and if….you have the commitment to develop that talent – you will make it a point to attend camps, workshops, and clinics in your home state and possibly other parts of the country in your sport. Talent is evaluated regularly at these events and coaches frequently participate on a number of levels. Showcase camps give coaches opportunities to network with their colleagues, college scouts, and other graduates of these camps who come back to assist. Their goal is to learn about who’s there, see them play, mix up the competition, and meet athletes of interest to their program. In some cases, even get to know them. The McDonald’s basketball showcases are amongst the best known, but there are many others throughout the country in every collegiate sport.

Attending these camps helps you work on your skills, up your competitive level, get to know other players, coaches and learn about programs throughout the country making a few friends in the process.

Many athletes, especially those who are late bloomers, can find advantages in taking a super senior year in high school – matriculating in a prep school known as a feeder for collegiate teams in your sport. For example, Northwood School in Lake Placid, New York (www.northwoodschool.com) is a well-known feeder in ice hockey – with four teams (both boys and girls) and only 160 students on campus. Fourteen alumni have been featured in the NHL or on Olympic teams. Don’t hesitate to consider such options. Exposure in a different part of the country, continued development of your skills and the expansion of your network of contacts can be tremendously valuable. is concerned. The educations offered at these schools can give you a big boost academically, as well.

How do I put myself in position to be recruited?

Those athletes that make headlines week in and week out are rare. To be known you will need to market yourself. The day of your high school coach making the connections for you is long gone. Most HS coaches, even in high profile sports like football, have contacts in less than 5% of the programs around the country. Having your own marketing materials is key, and having them be good enough to circulate effectively is imperative. But that is just one small part of the skill sets you must acquire.

You must begin early. If you have talent, you will be performing at the varsity level in your Junior year or sooner, or be willing to consider a super-senior athletic experience to boost your exposure and athletic development.

Beginning the process of researching programs which might be the best fit is really important. You must be committed and you must do your research. Consider registering with a service that helps you explore that fit, and facilitate the contacts you may need to pursue the recruiting process further.

The following tips are some specific guidelines on how to engage in the process and be prepared when the time comes. Links are provided with two of the better research sites available to help you understand what to do and when.

Things to remember:

1) You are going to college to get an education. The right fit for you is key. This decision of where you go – will be felt for the next several years in your life.

2) You must market yourself. This packet of information about you includes your academic record, summary of personal achievements, a DVD of your game (featuring skill sets in your sport & competition), interviews or recommendations with coach(s), and a personal statement as to your interests, goals and aspirations in your sport. Consider registering yourself with someone who will distribute your materials. One such resource is Richard Harvey (former NFL linebacker.) He is the founder of this program and takes pride in helping each athlete not only develop a top notch resume (comprised of DVD, stats, interviews, but sport specific skills footage.) In addition, he help identify the best athlete-program fit for you.  Check out Richard’s website:  www.Resumes4Sports.com.

3) Networking is hugely important – knowing where to look and how to connect with programs that might want you is key. One helpful resource is: www.AthleticQuest.net

4) Remember – everything you do is your calling card. Your facebook page, a video your friend took at last Thursday’s party…might just end up on YouTube. Don’t assume you have anonymity…also don’t assume those institutions or coaches you want to see you – actually will.

5) There are rules and regulations, key dates and deadlines for all the things you need to do with respect to recruiting. Check out another helpful resource: www.RecruitingRealities.com.

You Must Work Hard to Realize Your Dreams – And a lot of the Work isn’t on the Court or the Field. Your Parents and your coaches can Help You…But Don’t Assume They Know How.

Good Luck! Go for it!

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