I will make two key points on recruiting. They will be about how recruiting continues to accelerate and about how truly special it is to be a college student-athlete.
I was in Indianapolis and picked up the Indy Star Newspaper both days. In there I found several references to recruiting that families can learn from. For example, in College Recruiting Simplified, NCSA speakers educate the audience that recruiting – especially at Division One and certainly at the high level of Division One – has REALLY accelerated. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. It’s just the way it is, as they say.
NCSA Recruiting Expert Charlie Adams
Sportswriter Mark Ambrogi wrote that 9th grade wrestler Nathan Boston of Lawrence North High School had made an oral commitment to wrestle in the Big Ten for Indiana University. His High School wrestling coach Jared Williams had this to say:
“It is unprecedented, as far as I know, for a freshman to receive this type of offer from a big time program in the sport of wrestling,”
Boston went 46-0 as a 9th grader and won the 103 pound state championship. According to the report, he will get a full athletic scholarship to IU. The newspaper reported that he had already been looking at several Universities but that his visit to Indiana stood out the most. This is a young man that was already taking unofficial visits.
Recruiting is not accelerated like this at all levels of college sports. It is usually the major D1 programs finding ways to offer remarkable 9th graders like a 46-0 wrestler that some have said is so good that he is “a beast” on the mat. If anything it should alert people to start the recruiting process early. Boston was already out visiting colleges. And if you are thinking D1 in anything, you darn well understand that it is accelerated. They are identifying prospects earlier than ever before. When I was in the office of a major D1 Top 25 Volleyball Coach she and her staff were getting ready to go evaluate 9th and 10th graders at a big Club event. They had already wrapped up their 11th and 12th graders.
Lower levels of D1, D2, NAIA and D3 don’t move that fast in most cases, but the earlier a student-athlete starts the process of making themselves very appealing to them, the more good things can happen in 11th and 12th grade when recruiting heats up at those levels.
I came across another story in the Indy Star that captured what a special experience it is to be a college student-athlete. Columnist Bob Kravitz wrote about the final game of Indiana University women’s basketball star Jori Davis, one of the best players in school history. In the column, the senior glowed when reflecting on her four years. She never made the NCAA Tournament, which was disappointing, but not the purpose for being there. She played in front of a lot more empty seats than full ones, but that wasn’t what it was all about for her.
“No regrets at all,” Davis told the newspaper while smiling. “I just feel like there are more things to learn than just being on a winning team. A lot of people on winning teams don’t learn as much as we did at Indiana. And education is more than just about basketball.”
She then said something that I try to get across to High School athletes so that they understand how special college sports can be IF they find the right fit for them.
“These are the best four years of your life,” Davis said. “I’m with 15 girls who are my sisters, who have each other’s back through hard times, bad times, practice, preseason. But it’s all fun.
“Everyone who goes on to the next level of life says they’re going to miss these times. I’m going to hold on to this as long as I can, even the last months of school.”
THAT is what being a true college student-athlete is all about! It is a very special experience that only about 7% of High School athletes go on to ever experience. Davis called her teammates “sisters.” That is how close college athletes can become in the right situation. They will have a bond throughout life that is hard to describe. They will be in each other’s weddings. They will be there for each other when a major health scare arrives.
Davis said that they had each other’s back through the good and the bad, through the grueling practices, the last second losses and the big wins. That is what it is all about, whether you are in the Big Ten or at Hanover College. It is not easy. It is a major time commitment, but she would do it all over again, and this is a player that will play professional basketball. She’s that good.
About a year ago I was speaking at a major Volleyball showcase event in New Orleans where NCSA was brought in to provide recruiting education to families. There I met a young lady who had just finished her senior season as a volleyball player at D1 Tulane University in New Orleans. I asked her to reflect on the four years. She said her freshman year just about broke her. The time commitments as a volleyball player and a student at a top academic institution were intense and she thought about quitting her sport. But she made it through that freshman season and in the process told me she developed remarkable time management skills. She adapted and had a great four years. She told me she was very sad when it ended, but that she felt she had the life skills to go out in the world and thrive! She was beaming.
That’s how it was for Jori Davis, the basketball player. That’s how it can be for you, but you only have one shot at recruiting. It’s not like in golf where Dad hits a bad tee shot and says, “Reload! Mulligan time!” Here, you get one crack, so give it the best shot. Don’t be someone 37 years old wondering if you had what it took to be a college student-athlete…
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