By Dr. Dean Skarlis, President
Seeking to play a sport in college adds much more to the already complicated college admissions process. Students and parents need to educate themselves on the intricacies of the process. This has become even more important during the current Covid-19 crisis.
Many of the students with whom we work play a sport in high school. For a variety of reasons, most of that group will not play in college. In fact, less than 7% will continue to play in college. Most decide not to, and some are not able to play at that level. When we work with a student athlete, we first ask them how likely they are to play at the college level. I can tell within the first 5 seconds of their answer whether they will or not. So each student should first ask themselves how serious they are to play going forward. If the answer is a resounding yes, then the most important thing you should begin doing is contacting college coaches. I’ve seen some theories suggesting that athletes should start with as many as 60 colleges. I think that’s too high, but it does imply two things: First, college coaches won’t find you, especially given the current crisis. You have to find them. Second, you have to cover your bases. You can’t just send a few emails and hope one replies. We work with 8-10 student athletes each year, and I tell each of them that they must mount a campaign to attract college coaches. This will be even more critical in today’s environment. More importantly, you have to evaluate which level at which you think you can play. This can be difficult, but it speaks to the importance of contacting many schools. Each athlete should have a list of colleges at the Division I, II, and III levels on their preliminary list. The importance of doing so is enhanced by our current situation, especially for those students who play a spring sport. Because some college seniors may stick around for another year, there may be fewer roster spots at each level, so making sure you look at all levels will help you find a spot.
While there is much uncertainty in the athletic recruitment process due to the current crisis, there is plenty of room for optimism going forward for high school juniors, sophomores and freshmen. For example, one survey from “Front Rush” found that 66% of college coaches expected to maintain all athletic scholarships for their athletes. In addition, the survey revealed that 55% coaches did not think their current college seniors would use their extra year of eligibility, which bodes well for current high school athletes. As you may know, the NCAA approved an extra year of eligibility for current college seniors who play spring sports like baseball and lacrosse. This means that some students may opt to spend another year in college next spring.
We do believe that the current crisis will move back the recruitment process for all sports significantly. Many coaches have cancelled summer camps, showcases and ID camps. As a result, you need to step up your communication with coaches. Begin by sending them emails describing briefly the position you play, your club or travel team and other facts about your sport. If you’ve already been in contact with coaches, we recommend continuing the conversation. Each sport has its own recruitment rules, so we recommend checking the NCAA website. While you’re there, you should register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Regardless of your sport or level, continued communication with coaches is essential.
Most importantly, students should continue to learn and do well academically. No matter the sport, and no matter the level (Division I, II, or III), the first question most coaches will ask you is: “Do you have good grades?” This has not changed. And even though many colleges have now begun to offer test optional admissions, athletes will still be required to take the SAT or ACT. The timing of taking these exams depends on your year in school and your academic curriculum, but in general, the earlier you take them the better.
Navigating the athletic recruitment process is fun, exciting and often challenging. There are many potential pitfalls that you must avoid for a successful outcome. In general terms, the earlier you engage with coaches, and the more communication you have with them, the better. If you or your child is an athlete who wants to play in college, please contact us today!