Whether your kids are playing school, travel or recreational sports, time will fly by and at some point they will have to decide if they want to play at the next level. A small percentage of kids involved with youth sports continue their playing careers into college varsity athletics, but for those who do I would like to share some insights over the next few months. This is the first in a series of articles that will address college recruiting.
Before beginning my current position as the Sports Director at the Carlisle Family YMCA, I spent the last 20 years of my professional career coaching college soccer at both the Division I and III levels. I also went through the recruiting process as an aspiring college athlete before I decided to attend Colgate University. I have spoken with countless families about this process and how to navigate through it. This can be an exciting time for your family, but it also can be intimidating and overwhelming. Families who have been through this process with their older kids have a head start. But for those of you who are embarking on this journey for the first time, you may want to know where to begin.
I encourage your family to visit all types of colleges—big; small; urban; rural; Division I, II and III, etc. This exposure will help your kids develop a sense of what they are looking for in a school. A campus may not be a fit for them, but after visiting, they may appreciate one of its characteristics and remember it when as they look into other options. They may think they want to attend a big school. However, after visiting a smaller school, they may appreciate the intimate nature of the campus. So many different college experiences are out there and your kids will benefit from exploring all of them. Your visits will help them develop a sense of what they value in a school before they make their final decision. As your travels take your family to various locations, stop off at a few of the local colleges and explore.
The recruiting process has accelerated dramatically in the 25+ years that I have been involved in college athletics. College coaches want commitments from players earlier in the recruiting process, which puts some pressure on the prospective student-athletes. It will be helpful for your family to discuss and identify the characteristics that you are looking for in a college before you begin your search. Be sure the college you chose possesses the values that are important to you. When college coaches reach out, your kids will be prepared.
Here are some questions that will be useful for your family to discuss before you navigate through the recruiting process:
Ask your kids:
- At what level do you want to compete…D I, II, or III? And, how much of a time commitment do you want to make to your sport? Do you want their focus to be on athletics, academics or both?
- What are your academic interests and does the school offer programs in those areas?
- What is important to you when choosing a college?
Here are just a few questions to ask the coaches:
- What is the student/faculty ratio? How big are the class sizes? What happens when you have a class which conflicts with a practice or game? Will the time commitment that I make to my sport prevent me from pursuing the major in which I am interested?
- How long are practices? What time are they scheduled? What is the time commitment in both the competitive season and in the offseason? How far do you travel for games?
- Are there academic support resources set up for varsity student-athletes?
- Are you able to study abroad for a semester? Is there time to get involved in other activities on campus? Are you able to play multiple sports?
- Are players required to live in certain housing?
- Are you able to get feedback from the Admissions Office about your academic profile before you commit to the school? (This is a question for the coach, not the Admissions Office)
- How are athletic and academic scholarships awarded? How does the financial aid process work? Are you able to get feedback on what your financial aid package may look like before you commit to the school? (This is a question for the coach, not the Financial Aid Office)
- What is coach’s vision for the program? Where do you fit in? How is playing time determined?
Your family may want to discuss several other topics before embarking on this exciting journey. The most important part of this process is that your kids stay true to themselves and they choose a school that is the best fit for them.
I plan to discuss several other topics related to the college recruiting process in my upcoming blogs. This blog talks a bit about where to start, but there are many additional topics to discuss. After a career dedicated to college athletics, I would love to be a resource to the local community for all of you going through this experience. In my next blog, I would like to include a Q&A section where I can respond to any questions you have. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-by Kelly Tyrrell, Sports Director