Division 1 recruiting is not about playing nice and being completely honest with every recruit. Would a Division 1 coach give you bad advice about where to go to college?
Why would a Division 1 coach tell you to go to a JUCO?
Dreams of playing Division 1 put on hold
It is important to listen to what coaches are saying to you, but also to consider the source and the reasons behind their words.
Here is an all too real scenario.
Chad dreamed of playing NCAA Division 1 since he was about 10 years old and first discovered the magic of March Madness. He has worked incredibly hard over the past several years to develop his skills. He is a standout on his high school team.
Now Chad is a junior and is getting a lot of looks from Division 2 schools and a few slight nods from Division 1 schools.
More importantly Chad has a 3.5 GPA and got a 24 on his ACT. Academically he can get admitted to all of the schools he is considering.
Meanwhile, Chad goes on to have a great junior basketball season. He starts receiving several offers from Division 2 schools. They show serious interest in him. Chad, however, has set his sights on Division 1. It is all he has ever dreamed about, a chance to one day play in the Big Dance.
This year, Chad read The Recruiting Code and contacted his top choice schools. He has sent emails, left messages, sent game film, and attended AAU Showcases attended by a couple of the coaches he wants to play for. Finally, Chad asked his high school coach to reach out to these schools and see if they have any interest in him because he has not heard anything. Every Division 1 school he contacted responded: “Chad needs to go to a Junior College and work on his game. He also needs time to put more muscle on. Have him keep in touch with us over his two years at the JC.”
“The latest [an athlete may be recruited to Division 1] is usually after a HS senior season. Some players bloom late and have a great senior year. If they still don’t get recruited, they can attend JC to improve their basketball skills and/or grades.”
There is no guarantee Division 1 coaches make you an offer after two years at a JUCO
Do you know what the Division 1 coaches are not telling Chad? “You should consider a Division 2 or NAIA school where you could probably have an incredible basketball experience.” Why not?
At this point you need to consider who is doing the talking and why.
Division 1 coaches see there “might” be potential in Chad. He might grow. His talent will possibly improve. He might become the player they need.
No matter how hard your athlete works, how much time they put in, how much great coaching they receive at a JUCO, there is no guarantee that at the end of two years, that it will be enough to be recruited by a Division 1 coach. While your child can always work hard, they cannot control all the factors that influence the coach’s decision.
There are many factors that influence a college coach’s recruiting decisions.
- There is no guarantee your son or daughter will grow enough to satisfy the expectations of Division 1 coaches. Growth includes height and muscle mass. Building muscles is controllable, putting on inches is not.
- The JUCO athlete’s talent must exceed that of high school seniors that the college coach is looking at. Why? The JUCO athlete only has two years left to contribute to the program, while the high school senior has five.
- The coach needs to be actively recruiting for the position of your athlete (ie. a point guard, a left handed pitcher, a goal keeper).
- Recruiting is all about relationships. The coach needs to feel more comfortable with your athlete than the hundreds of others who would like that same position.
- Your athlete must be at the right place and right time in the mind of the coach. There are literally hundreds of legitimate athletes vying for a handful of spots. The coach must have your athlete on the top of his/her mind when making decisions.
- An injury, even a minor one, at the wrong time will lead a coach to pass over your athlete.
The coach needs to have been seriously interested in your child when they told them to go to a Junior College for two years. Remember, they are turning a lot of kids away each year, and it is easy to tell them all to go play two years at a Junior College. However you have no way to know how serious the coach was when they told your child to go play for two years at the JUCO, develop their skills, and get bigger.
Why would a Division 1 coach push your athlete into a JUCO?
Division 1 coaches need to have a large feeder system of players to whom they owe nothing and have made no promises. Division 1 coaches certainly recruit players out of junior colleges and some they have had an interest in since high school. But Chad and others like him are not special unless they happen to develop into something special over the next two years. A few do, most don’t.
The primary goal of a Division 1 coach is to win. Coaches at this level who don’t win, find themselves without a job. To win, a Division 1 coach has to bring in the best talent possible. They are in a fight with other college coaches to find and bring in the best talent. The top prospects will have multiple Division 1 offers.
“Georgia, Michigan, and Florida filled up their top-five classes with five-star recruits and need-fillers…”
ESPN article December 19, 2018
There is a big pool of players below the top prospects, referred to by ESPN as “need-fillers”. These players are talented and athletic. The dilemma for the the coach is to bring in the right kids. They only have a few spots each year and they need to make them count.
Put yourself in the shoes of the college coach. How do they make sure they bring in the best athletes possible? They give a large number of athletes hope that the coach will chose them later. Their primary concern is not your child. The coach’s primary interest is to create the best team they can. The more athletes they have who are interested in their program and would commit the better. To do this, they expand their options by getting kids to go to a junior college. Now they have not only high school seniors, but also JUCO kids to choose from. Until they make an offer to your child, they owe them nothing. Coaches are in it for themselves and their programs. They are not looking out for the best interest of every recruit they talk to.
Chad’s story did end okay, but certainly not great. He turned down full ride scholarships from three Division 2 schools and an NAIA school. After playing two years at a junior college he earned an associates degree. He ended up going on to play his last couple of years at a Division 2 school. There he never really bonded with his teammates, who spent four years together. He came off the bench and got some minutes each game. Chad regrets what could have been. If only he had realized earlier: the Big Dance was just one dance with bright lights (and TV cameras).
Are Junior Colleges a poor choice?
This isn’t just a story about Chad. It is a story about all the Amanda’s out there as well. It isn’t just a basketball story. This tragedy plays itself out in football, soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball, and other college sports every year.
Am I saying Junior Colleges are a poor choice? Nope. I think they are a fantastic option, if students go there for the right reasons and their eyes wide open. Junior Colleges offer a chance for players to get playing time. They allow the athlete two more years to develop their game and to mature both physically and mentally. Athletes have a chance to focus on their grades and study habits before the intense pressure of a Division 1 program. The right Junior College coach may even have a network of college coach contacts that could open doors that were not open to the athlete before (again, I emphasize their is no guarantee).
Explore every option
Don’t let a Division 1 coach, or anyone outside of your family for that matter, dictate what is best for your athlete. Explore all your options. Don’t get caught up in the bright lights. A Junior College might be the right choice for your athlete, but it might not. There are a lot of Division 2, NAIA, and small Division 1 schools out there. An amazing college athletic career should not be determined by the failure of your child to play at a major Division 1 school. In fact, it is not a failure and you should not see it that way. Send your child to a school where the coach wants your athlete and their talent will enable them to enjoy their athletic experience.
The recruiting process is tricky business and your child only gets one shot at it. Don’t let your athlete or yourself get so caught up in the dream of bright lights that they miss out on an amazing opportunity to get a great education, play the sport the love for four more years, and enjoy competing where they fit best.
How to Get Recruited Guide will give your family a step by step plan to get recruited and avoid missing out on this once in a lifetime opportunity to compete at the collegiate level.
How to Get Recruited: Got Talent. Get a Plan. Get Recruited.
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Here is another great article for parents: 5 reasons coaches will stop recruiting your child because of you.
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