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The Sports Scholarship Handbook

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Your athlete needs your support
Every scholarship athlete I have met has worked hard and deserves personal credit for his or her success. However, these students also received support and guidance from the important adults in their lives. This support ranges from washing uniforms, car pooling and cheering at events to coaching and to teaching sportsmanship and maturity. As student athletes make the transition to collegiate competition they need adult support and advice more than ever.

Parents understand the numbers:
It is parents for the most part who are looking at current college costs and dispairing. Parents who want their sons and daughters to have a college education are seeing the costs go out of sight. Sports scholarships are not available to everyone, but for talented athletes they can combine the positive experience of college sports with a huge financial benefit. Parents understand those issues well enough to take an active role in helping their student athletes to help themselves.

Start of a big XC race

Why students need help:

An athlete can either wait passively by the phone hoping that coaches will call or an athlete can take an active role in the recruiting process. Which will it be? Let's face it, it's easier to wait by the phone for the call. This is natural. Unfortunately, this passive approach is also encouraged by the image that the NCAA would like you to have of sports recruiting: that all worthy athletes will be contacted by fine coaches from terrific colleges and get offered scholarships to compete. This image is a myth.

There are plenty of reasons to avoid the effort. It's not "cool" to make the effort yourself. Greg, Beth and John got called by a coach and they got scholarships. Waiting for the call is the way it's supposed to work. If I was a good enough athlete the calls would be coming....

It is true that many top prospects will get called without making an effort. Was it from a coach they had chosen? Was it from a school they had especially wanted to attend? Not all calls are the ones that an athlete was wishing for. Even for athletes who are almost certain to get recruiting calls, it is worthwhile for them to let coaches know of their interests in a sports program and a school.

How can parents help?
Most student athletes do not get serious about college plans until their senior year. We have talked with hundreds of high school counselors over the past several years. Unfortunately, these professionals also think that college sports recruiting is an activity that is only for seniors. Parents must motivate student athletes to start  early. The earlier that an athlete starts, the better the athlete's chances of getting the best college sports situation.

First steps:
Encourage your athlete to learn about the recruiting process. What are the divisions of the NCAA? Which schools are in what division? How does the division relate to athletic scholarship opportunities? What must the high school student do to be eligible to play in college? What other perks are possible for competing in college sports? How does your athlete's talent match up with the requirements in the sports programs of particular schools? Getting answers early to some of these questions will start an athlete on the road to a good recruiting experience. The Sports Scholarship Handbook can provide answers, but most high school students are unlikely to spend money on a book; even a book that could result in thousands of dollars in financial aid.

The Sports Scholarship Handbook is mostly available from on line sources and ordering it will generally take a credit card. Parents can help by ordering the handbook for your student athlete. You can also encourage your local library or high school to order the handbook. Parents can help by reading the handbook and supporting their student's strategies for contacting coaches and visiting schools.

Starting early boosts opportunities
The enterprising high school athlete can get a big head start on the recruiting process because students who start early have all the advantages.  Students who start early and initiate contacts help themselves and help the coach. With only a couple of exceptions, coaches cannot initiate a contact until after the athlete's junior year in high school. However an athlete can call a coach almost any time.

NCAA rules also define when and under what conditions a recruited athlete can visit at the school's expense, but parents and their student athletes can visit a school at any time at their own expense. On such a visit you can meet with school officials and coaches. The sooner the choices get narrowed down, the better off the athlete is when his official recruiting season starts.

The Sports Scholarship Handbook has specific actions and strategies that an athlete can do to increase recruiting opportunities and recruiting success. Many of these should be started long before the end of the junior year in high school.
Be wary of recruiting services
The pitches from so-called "recruiting services" and "sports marketing services" are appealing. They say that they can put your athlete's name in front of a hundred coaches. They have testimonials from athletes and coaches. Every year in almost every school there are parents who pay hundreds of dollars to these services. Almost every parent I've talked with who has paid for such a service has said it was worth it. Their athlete got some letters from schools showing interest. On the other hand, almost none of the athletes I talked with ended up attending a school identified by a recruiting service.

Why the discrepancy? Maybe it is because they thought that a few hundred dollars was worth it to be able to say that they gave it their best shot. Maybe the excitement of getting some letters from schools they had never heard of thousands of miles away was worth the cost. It is not clear. What is clear is that they could have gotten a better sports situation by using the strategies in The Sports Scholarship Handbook, checking out colleges directly and visiting schools that their student athlete found interesting.

It isn't rocket science
It is easier for student athletes to get actively involved in their own recruiting than they think. Not only is it easier, but it is exciting and motivating. It can make opportunities happen. The Sports Scholarship Handbook has dozens of suggestions and examples of steps that student athletes can take to enhance their college sports opportunities. Some of these steps will require the support and involvement of parents. Some of them require working within NCAA rules to avoid problems. It isn't rocket science but learning the ins and outs will help.

The "full ride"
In almost every high school there are senior athletes who get recruited by college coaches. It is pretty typical that the level of this recruitment and the size of the scholarship offers get exaggerated. What is a full ride? More than once you are likely to hear that some athlete received a "full ride" scholarship offer. Athletes and their parents are anxious for recognition and the gold standard for sports scholarships is the full ride. Therefore it is not surprising to hear of anything from a semester's tuition to a full grant-in-aid referred to as "a full ride." Do not feel in competition with the offers received by other student athletes. Situations don't compare, sports don't compare, schools don't compare and you don't even know what someone else is calling a "full ride."

What constitutes a good scholarship offer varies widely with the college, the division that the college competes in, the sport, the talents of the individual athlete and even the athlete's gender. Rather than worrying about someone else's scholarship offer, you and your student athlete should be looking for the best college option for him or her. It may mean a full ride or a partial ride or it may mean the chance to attend a great school and have fun competing in college sports. The recruiting process is the chance to evaluate everything about a college offer. Judge the opportunity as a whole, not simply the dollar amount of the award.

It is the student's decision
Parent support starts with encouragement and it ends with supporting the student athlete's decision about which opportunity to accept. In the middle it will help to keep in mind that it is the student's talent, the student's hard work, the student's success and the student's life and not yours. The line between supporting the student and living through the student's success is one that can be hard to negotiate at times. Try to recognize when you cross that line and make an adjustment.


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