Adversaries or Allies?
How do college sports and academics fit together? Can you find a college that meets your needs both athletically and academically?
The NCAA has been running commercials for several years saying, “There are over 400,000 NCAA Student-Athletes, and just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports.”
How should academics affect your decision when looking for a college? You need to look beyond how much fun you can have playing sports.
Sport will end at the end of four years. Often it ends sooner, though we don’t like to think about it. Injuries, lack of playing time (lack of ability), or new found interests lead many athletes away from sport before four years are up. But even if you are one of the fortunate ones and have a great four year career, your eligibility will run out and you will hang up your uniform for the last time.
Majors and Careers
Where you go to college and your ambitions outside of sport will play a large part in your life after college. What should you be looking for?
First and foremost, can the college or university you are looking into meet your needs academically? Will it prepare you for the field and career you want? I have had this conversation with hundreds of high school juniors and seniors over the years. Parents have often been saying these things to their son or daughter, and it has gone in one ear and out the other. But you must hear and take hold of this if you are 18 years old and getting ready to make one of the most important life decisions you have ever made.
Here are some things to think about and work through. What do you want to do with your life? What areas or fields interest you? The question, what do you want to do for a career is a bit too specific for most high school students.
It is very common for students to change their majors after entering college, and changing their mind about what they want to be when they leave college. As I have sat in my office talking to recruits and their parents, I have heard many young people tell me with certainty what they want to do for a career. Over the years, 50-75% of every incoming class wanted to be medical doctors.
After 11 years I have zero doctors. Not one graduating senior has gone to medical school. I do have many who stayed in the medical field and became vets, nurses, pharmacists and so forth. I also have just as many who left the science field completely and went in other directions.
All that to say, the exact major is not the end all, but the field of study you are interested in is very important. The learning environment is very important. Can you succeed in big classes or do you need a professor who knows you by name? What is the reputation of the professors in the department you are interested in? What are recent graduates of that department doing?
Is it Possible to Win in the Classroom While Playing a Sport?
Playing a sport in college should enhance your college experience, but not take away your ability to succeed in the classroom.
Academically, here are a couple of questions for the coach:
What is the current team’s grade point average? This will reveal a lot about the culture of the team and what is important to both the players and the coach. Listen to what is said and what is not said. If the coach has no idea, that is a warning. If the coach is excited about the academic pursuits of the current athletes and has some stories, that is what you want to hear.
My team GPA was never below a 3.2 and peaked one semester (in season) at 3.7. We were very intentional about the role of the classroom and made sure to communicate that to the players, and in turn the recruits we brought in knew what was expected.
What kind of academic support is available for athletes? Not all study halls provided by the team and support services are created equal. Delve into this with the coach and admissions if you believe you will need academic support.
4 Years or 5?
Will I be here 4 or 5 years? An extra year of school can add a lot of time and expense to your college education. Once again, I know these are not attractive questions to an eighteen year old, but an extra year in school, the extra expenses, and missed opportunities are a big deal.
Ask very carefully how long it is taking other athletes in the program to graduate. How many credits do most of them take in and out of season? What pace will you need to graduate in 4 years? Will you need to take summer school classes to graduate on time?
You only have 4 years of eligibility, the fifth year you won’t be an athlete any more. This fifth year could come after your 4 years or it could come at the beginning labeled as a ‘redshirt’. It could even come in the middle of your career if you have an injury and are granted a ‘medical redshirt’. In any case you are not allowed more than 4 years of athletic competition, and you have five years to complete these four years.
Both/And is Better than an Either/Or
You can have Both athletics And academics. But you do need to do your research. Not every college and athletic program will be the right fit for you. Don’t leave your future up to chance. Take the time now to do the research necessary to find a college that will be a great fit athletically and academically. Those schools are out there waiting for you.
Do the research! Ask the questions! Make the decision based on what is right for your future!
Research is the first step, but there is so much more you need to do to get recruited by college coaches. You only get one shot at the recruiting process. It is time to take the steps necessary to be Noticed by college coaches.
If you feel like you have been stumbling along or have not even started the recruiting process, it is time to take action. When you are ready to push forward and finally get college coaches to take notice of you: What is your specific plan? What action will you take first?
If you are ready for Recruiting to be made easy, you are ready for the
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