NCAA recruiting: Athletes need to ask themselves tough questions
October 31, 2019
One of the hardest pills to swallow is that being a high school athlete, even a very good one, can’t guarantee a spot in the NCAA.
Some college coaches may recruit at a high school game. However, according to NCAA statistics, club sports have the upper hand.
On Master Soccer Mind, “The youth sports world is a 15.3 billion dollar industry in the United States.”
Club takes time, money, sacrifice, and a high level of commitment.
Some parents see club sports and attending costly tournaments as an investment in their child’s collegiate future and as a way to gain exposure to college coaches.
Kevin Dempsey, assistant women’s soccer coach at Loyola University Maryland says, “If your sole intention is to spend the money for a scholarship, you can be disappointed. There thousands of athletes and not all D1 schools are fully funded, so not everyone is going to get a scholarship. Club is not a guarantee. There are athletes who put in extra work to get better. It comes down to, how much are you willing to put in?”
Is it really worth it? If you still say “Yes,” here is a reality check:
Know your skill level
Parents tend to think their child is the best athlete on the field. However, you may need to get an honest unbiased assessment of your skill level. There are great ways to do that by talking to your coach, reaching out to college coaches, or even attending identification clinics.
FC Frederick club coach Chuck Hommey said, “You don’t just show up to a college showcase and get recruited. You have to reach out to college coaches and do a ton of leg work yourself.”
Some athletes may think since they had a lot of game time on their club team, they will automatically get playing time in college, but that’s not the case.
When getting recruited by a college coach, they see you as one of the best on your team. However, all the other athletes they recruit bring something special to the table as well. You have to be willing to work hard for any playing time you can get. The college coach that recruited you sees you and all your teammates what’s best for that college program. You may be best on the bench.
Some athletes only have their eyes set on Division 1 schools, but there is nothing wrong with Division 2 or 3 schools. In fact, Division 2 or 3 schools may provide more playing opportunity and allow a better academic and athletic balance. There are some highly competitive Division 2 or 3 schools that have some sports compete in Division 1 due to their high skill level. For example, Johns Hopkins Mens lacrosse competes in Division 1 even though their school is Division 3. Being an athlete at any college level is a great accomplishment, so keep your options open and know your skill level. You may find yourself being a star at a college or struggling to get minutes on the field, and it is up to you to find the right fit.
Communication is key
When talking to a college coach the questions you ask can be crucial. Sometimes the questions can be difficult, but necessary. You need to be mentally strong to ask those questions as well as hear their honest opinions.
- Am I good enough to play for this University/College?
- What is your coaching style and expectations?
- Where do you see me playing on your team?
- What do you expect from me as an athlete and a student?
- How big is your roster, and do you substitute in a game often?
Reaching out to coaches is key for getting on their radar. Staying in contact with them is a great way to let them know about how you are doing in your sport and upcoming games, so they can watch you play.
“You have to make the first contact, follow-up, follow-up more, go visit the school, arrange meetings with the coach, let them know that you’re interested in them,” said Hommey.
Every athlete’s goal when they go to college is to succeed in their sport, but you have to get the minutes to do that. No one wants to sit on the sidelines.
Look at it this way. Would you rather be a standout on the field for a college who wants you or struggle to get minutes from a big school, with little to no stats on the season and compete with other very talented players?
Pick a school that is going to feel like home if sports are no longer an option. If an injury happened and sports was out of the picture, you need to like the school outside of the athletic atmoshphere.
Natalie Kucsan, a sophmore on the Louisiana State University swimming and diving team said, “I’ve developed a new love for the sport that was so different then when I was in high school. I love it here, not only in the pool, but the whole school environment itself. LSU is one of a kind, and I would not trade it for anything.”
There is more to being a college athlete than playing a sport. As soon as you come to campus you have an instant group of friends that you will spend a lot of time with. Some students struggle to find a group of friends they fit in with, but being an athlete you are fortunate to be surrounded by some of your best friends.
“I am so happy with my decision. I’ve found my second family and best friends for life,” said Kucsan.
Also, being an athlete can give you an upper hand in an acedemic setting. As an athlete you learn time management, leadership, accountability, hard work, and responsibility. After college, when applying for jobs, employers may see how well you balanced school with being an athlete.
“You learn to become a good leader, understanding what that means, how to handle yourself in tough situations and to have composure. Ninety-two percent of female CEO’s of companies were athletes,” said Hommey.
Believe it or not, education is a huge part of being a student athlete. Some go to college with focus solely on their sport, and some go to get their degree. Many use their degree as a backup plan for the future, if they plan to coach as their profession.
Christian Morales, UMBC Men’s soccer graduate, and now Grad Assistant with McDaniel College Men’s soccer team, said, “I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted it to be sports related. After my last collegiate game, I devoted my energy in learning the game more and getting coaching opportunities after college because I loved the game so much.”
The truth is, the answer to investing in club sports is not just a dollars and cents issue. Talk to your coach and your parents. Think about sports as a life investment.