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Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Division I Athlete?

Anyone who loves sports has probably fantasized about becoming a Division I athlete. Practicing in some of the best facilities in the country, playing in front of hyped up crowds – this is what athletes live for! However, at some point reality sets in. The competition to play at a Division I school is fierce. Only about 1% of athletes make it to this level.

So, are you a future Division I athlete?

For each sport, the requirements to play at the Division I level are a little different. Check out our sports-specific pages to get into the details. However, there are a few keys factors that might indicate you’re destined to fulfill your DI dreams. How many of these boxes do you check off?

They are the best on their team and attract genuine attention from DI coaches before their junior year.

No coach can afford to waste that level of talent. Straight up: Almost every DI recruit is a starter on their high school team. Having been mastering the game from a young age, Division I athletes tend to attract a lot of real college coach interest early on—well before their junior year of high school.

Where do you stack up? If you’ve been a starter since before you can remember, that’s a good sign. Bear in mind, that not all high school teams are created equal, so also consider if you’re getting recruited heavily by many DI coaches before your junior year. Top athletes tend to receive verbal offers their sophomore year or early junior year.

At the end of your junior year with no offers? You need to be exploring and communicating with schools outside of Division I. If playing your sport in college is your goal, take recruiting seriously with Division II, Division III and NAIA schools. A lot of student-athletes make the mistake of putting all their eggs in the Division I basket. Then, they miss out on playing because they don’t follow up with schools that fail to “meet their standards.” Maybe you just don’t have the skill level to play at the DI level or you fell through the cracks in the recruiting process. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t play your sport in college.

DI athletes have been better than high schoolers—since they were 12.

Dr. Jay Granat, a Ph.D. psychotherapist and founder of, explains that most elite athletes will really start to stand out from their peers around age 12. In many cases, they can beat 16-year-olds! They also tend to overall be bigger and stronger than other kids their age.

Where do you stack up? Have you always stood head and shoulders above your teammates (no pun intended)? Are you constantly playing above your grade level, just to face some actual competition? While athletes can be “late bloomers,” being more athletic than your peers from a young age is a significant sign you’re on the right path.

Athletes have the body build required for that sport.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it is a key factor. Division I athletes just have the right body build for their position. Look at women’s gymnastics for example. 78% of top gymnasts are around 5 feet tall (give or take 3 inches), and are around 103 pounds. Someone who doesn’t have this build is going to find it much more difficult to compete at a high level.

Where do you stack up? Do your research and see what the general DI body build requirements are for someone at your position. Remember, if you don’t meet those standards, a high level of skill or knowledge of the game might make up for it. Think Isaiah Thomas or Russell Wilson.

The bottom line: Find a college athletic program that’s right for you—and it may not be at a Division I school. If you’re interested in tough competition, look no further than DII schools. If you want to play your sport against excellent athletes and have some time left over to focus on academics, look at DIII or NAIA.

We’re always here to answer your questions about your personal recruiting journey. Click here to get started on a recruiting profile, and find the college that’s right for you.

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David Frank

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