College Athletics Recruiting: Developing a Personal Inventory
By Tom Kovic
The college recruiting process has not only developed into a highly competitive arena, it has become an intricate process that requires good planning, the development of an accurate information base and the willingness to take a proactive approach in carefully executing the recruiting plan.
Each prospect is unique in their goals, timing and student-athlete abilities, but there is one common thread that should run through every well planned college search: The development of a personal recruiting inventory.
Developing a personal inventory is a great exercise that can serve families well in organizing for the college quest, but it can also act as a tool that will develop a confident level of self awareness as the prospect moves forward in navigating a potentially daunting path. I suggest prospects develop their personal inventory based on information in the following areas:
Academic Goals: Goals give meaning to any worthy effort and personally, I feel the academic experience should be at the top of the priority list when it comes to the college quest. Roughly 75% of prospective college students are undecided about declaring a specific academic major and most colleges and universities do not require students to declare until after the sophomore year.
This is a great time for a “team discussion” where the prospect, parents and the high school guidance counselor can sit down and discuss the many options available to the prospect. You may not know the exact academic direction you plan to choose, but this is a great time to determine your strengths and areas of personal passion that will provide partial clarity to future possibilities.
Athletic Level of Play: Knowing your true level of athletic ability will help you narrow down your potential college choices. The important component here is being honest in the evaluation of your raw athletic talent and again, I suggest utilizing the team approach; this time bring in your high school and/or club coach to the family meeting!
By executing a fair and impartial assessment about your current and potential talent as an athlete, you can help avoid “spinning your wheels” when searching college options that are well above your talent level. There is nothing wrong with “reaching” toward college programs that are a level above your current ability, but you want to set realistic goals, especially as it pertains to being a potential impact player in the program.
NCAA Division Options: This is a great time to learn about the differences between NCAA Division 1, 2 and 3 athletics as well as investigating The NAIA and Junior College programs. Go to www.ncaa.orgto learn about D-1, 2 and 3 options. For the NAIA, visit www.naia.cstv.com/ and to learn about Junior College athletics you can visit www.NJCAA.org.
“Options” is the operative word here and whether you would like to play at a big time Division 1 school or for a smaller division 3 program depends on many factors. For instance, if gaining an athletics scholarship is a critical element in your decision to attend college, the Division 3 option will need to be eliminated since these institutions do not offer athletics aid. On the other hand, if you are looking for a well balanced student-athlete experience, Division 3 schools are outstanding choices and should be at the top of your list!
Geographic Location: How far are you willing to move away from home and still enjoy your college experience? This might sound like a marginal area of concern, but for 19 years as a division 1 college coach, I witnessed my fair share of homesick athletes!
Once again, this is a great time for self reflection. Determine first if you are more of a “home body” or an “explorer.” Some kids can’t wait to shuffle cross country to enjoy their college experience, while others are very content in attending a school that is only a few hours drive from home. Either way, I suggest taking some time to determine your geographic “comfort level.”
Size of School: When I was an undergraduate student-athlete, I shared a campus with 35,000 other students. It was an urban environment that was invigorating, exciting and sometimes overwhelming, but it was a very busy environment that was the right fit for me.
Do you wonder if the grass is greener on the other side of the road? I suggest you get out there and take a look! Begin by visiting 3 local colleges that consist of 3 different populations: (Small (up to 5,000 students), Medium (up to 15,000 students) and Large (over 20,000 students). Spend a half day on each campus and try to get a general feel for the environment. Talk to 3-5 students at each institution and get their opinion. At the end of each visit you will sense a “gut” feeling for each institution that will serve as a good reference point.
By developing a college quest inventory the prospect will begin to grow a basic awareness about the college recruiting quest. Firstly, he will have a greater appreciation for the multitude of college options that are available to him and secondly, he will begin to develop a stronger sense of self awareness and self confidence as he begins to execute his plan that will lead to a very important life decision.
The college recruiting process is competitive, grueling and sometimes frustrating. It can be tempered with disappointment and filled with answers the prospect may not want to hear. That being said, the college search should be an exhilarating time in the lives of our children and the more concrete information they gather and the better prepared they are to successfully execute their individual plans, the greater the chance for a more positive the experience.
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of Reaching for Excellence: An educational guide for college athletics recruiting and Conversations with a Wizard: 120 Questions and Answers on College Recruiting. For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com.