Is it possible to know what level your teen can play in college? What Divisions and types of programs should you be considering?
We’d all love to see our kids play basketball at Duke. Or soccer at North Carolina. Or run track at Oregon. But we won’t. Thousands of us won’t.
Your teen’s goal isn’t to be at the very best program. Their goal is to be at the school that’s the best fit.
Every athlete should land in a program they’ll succeed in and love every minute of the experience. Or, almost every minute of it.
Don’t let your teen miss out on the best experience because you’ve overestimated their ability and they won’t get any offers. And don’t let them miss out because you’ve underestimated and they could have been competitive at a high-level program.
Take the time to figure out what level your teen can play at college.
I often talk to seniors who tell me they plan on playing Division 1. I ask them if coaches are contacting them. They will say, “No,” but are hoping they will be seen at the winter showcase.
These kids don’t know any better, but the Division 1 train has already passed them by. Division 1 coaches have already narrowed their recruiting pool, offered scholarships, and are just waiting on signing day. These kids aren’t going to be D1 athletes.
You and your teen need to be proactive early in high school, primarily in their sophomore and junior years, to discover what realistic options will be.
Right now you’re hoping your teen can compete at a D1 school. But can you know for sure?
How can you figure out what level you can play in college? Here are 4 tips to help you figure this out.
One way is to ask your teen’s current club coach or high school coach. Ask for an honest opinion and be willing to hear it.
I’ve done this for a few players over the years. It takes a lot of bravery to ask for an honest opinion. And sometimes, it takes a lot of humility to hear the answer. But it’s worth it! Your athlete can earn a college roster spot – yes literally every one of you! – as long as you look at the right level.
Here’s an even harder challenge: Ask a coach from a team your teen competed against. You might be surprised; most coaches would be glad to take a minute to help you out. Compare that answer with the assessment of your teen’s current coaches and you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of where your athlete will fit in.
Consider who is already contacting you
Have coaches already called your teen? Consider what type of schools have called. What Division are they? What conference are they in and what’s their record? This gives you an idea of what level you should consider.
Now begin your search for the perfect university. As you evaluate a program, look carefully at the rosters. What type of high school and club teams do they come from? Are they mainly players from one location or does the team have more of a national look? What does it tell you if there are few to no players on the team from your area? What does it tell you if the players are all from very small or very large clubs?
This isn’t complicated but it takes a little hard work and thought. But it will totally pay off.
Watch college games
Another way to estimate where your teen belongs is to go watch a few college games. Go watch a Division 1 game. Then look for other colleges near you. You will see a stark difference in the level of athletes.
Be honest with yourself. Imagine your athlete on the field. Would the coach play them? Could they compete if they were out there? How far away are they developmentally? Could they get to that point or is it beyond them?
If you can’t make it to live games, watch some online. Once again, watch several different levels. Talk to your teen about it. And answer all the same questions.
Educate yourself on what the competition looks like at each college level.
Spend some time on athletic home pages looking at the stats. Don’t just look at D1 schools. Pull up several examples from every Division and JUCOs.
Compare the stats of current players with your teen’s stats. The freshmen will give you the best comparison point because athletes continue to improve throughout their college careers.
Remember, if your teen puts in the work they’ll continue to grow and improve too. But be realistic about how much growth and improvement there will be.
A great example of this is height. You’ll quickly notice D1 athletes are tall. Talented athletes who are shorter play in lower Divisions. That’s how it is. Now look over at your kid? Are they tall? Are they likely to grow? How tall are your family members?
Why is it important to find the right level?
Finding the right fit for your teen will give them the most satisfaction over their collegiate years. If you aim too high, your athlete will have years of frustration. If you do nothing, you will be throwing your teen into a program like a blind dart thrower. And you almost always end up worse off.
The single most important quality you bring to this is honesty. Help your teen make an honest assessment. If you’re lying to yourselves, your teen is the only one who gets hurt.
But if you take an honest look and find that sweet spot, your athlete will have a rewarding college career.
Next, take a look at Being Recruited: Prospects Vs. Recruits.