The following is part of a series of articles on how to help families with student athletes financially prepare for college and maximize their recruiting opportunities. Many families do not understand the intensity of competition for athletic scholarships. College coaches don’t find athletes randomly – families need a plan to be proactive to gain the necessary exposure.
If you are a parent with young children interested in sports or a parent of a high school athlete – here is some coaching advice for how to set realistic expectations about getting recruited and paying for your athlete’s college education:
Step 1: Start Investing Early – Whether you save $10 per week or a few hundred dollars a month, don’t waste another day not putting money away for your child(ren)’s college tuition. You can save money for college in an interest-based savings account, bonds, money market or a CD, as long as you are making interest on that money, you are doing well. The best option is to open up a 529 plan, where money you save for college can grow tax-free.
Step 2: Reinforce Commitment to Academics – Here are the facts: 6.7% of students playing high school sports will end up playing sports in college. Less than 1% of the 6.7% will get a NCAA Division I scholarship. The chances of your child getting a full D1 athletic scholarship are just a little better than the chances of your child becoming an astronaut [sarcasm], but you catch the drift. Division 1 scholarships only account for about 20% of the athletic scholarships awarded each year. The other 80% come from NCAA Division II, NAIA, and Junior Colleges. NCAA Division III institutions are not allowed to give any financial aid based on our child’s athletic prowess…only academic success earned. [Don’t let that deter you from DIII schools. They are some of the best schools in the country and often will compete financially, even without athletic scholarships.]
With that said, it is important that your child make a commitment to their academics early, starting their freshman year of high school. Most Divisions (except D1 football and basketball) allow the Athletic programs to stack academic scholarships with athletic scholarships. This means the better your son or daughter’s GPA and SAT/ACT scores are, the more attractive your child is to a college coach.
For instance, let’s say I am a NCAA Division II basketball coach. I have one $35,000 full scholarship left, but I need a center and a point guard to commit in next year’s class. I have two point guards that I like a lot. One is your son. The other player has a 2.9 GPA and an 18 ACT. Your son has a 3.5 GPA and a 25 ACT. My University only gives academic money to students who have a minimum GPA of 3.2 and a minimum ACT of 22. The other player is a little bigger and more athletic than your son, but both have the abilities and basketball IQ I am looking for. Which player do I offer a scholarship to? If the talent is that balanced between the two young men, I will give an athletic scholarship to your son. I know my University is going to offer him $18,000 in academic scholarship and University grants (all gift aid that doesn’t need to be paid back). I now can give your son a $17,000 athletic scholarship, and we will call it a full-ride with the academic money stacked. If I chose the other player, I would have to give my entire $35,000 in scholarship money to give him a full-ride. With your son committing to me, I now have $18,000 left in athletic money to go get the center I need.
So, to sum up, the higher your child’s cumulative high school grades and the higher their test scores (ACT/SAT), the more money a University is going to give him. The more money the University gives him, the less athletic scholarship money the college coach needs to give your son…making him that much more attractive to the college coach.
Step 3: Create Recruitment Competition – The real key to a strong financial recruitment plan is to create competition for your child’s skills, abilities, and academic prowess. The more college coaches that want your son/daughter, the harder they will work to make their school look more attractive ($$$$). How do you do this? I call it the three E’s:
Exposure: Get your child’s performance in front of as many college coaches as possible. On-line video is the best way to achieve this and the least expensive. College coaches begin evaluating as early as 7th/8th grade and we continue to see verbal scholarship offers at the middle school level. But for most freshman year is a great time to begin calling coaches. The sooner a college coach is aware of you, the sooner they can begin inviting you to their camps and planning opportunities to see you play.
Evaluation: Make sure you have an edited/verified video that can be sent to hundreds of coaches at schools that fit your child’s academic/athletic profile. Coaches are NOT showing up at your child’s games randomly. Education: It is imperative that your child learn early on how to communicate with coaches and learn how to build relationships with those coaches. Coaches love kids who handle their business instead of mom and dad serving as their agents. Too much parent involvement can destroy your child’s recruitment efforts.
Your child controls their own future! Get aggressive and stay aggressive. Good luck!
Matt Rogers, is a former head basketball coach at University of La Verne and Maryville University. He is currently a National Head Scout for NCSA Athletic Recruiting, educating families on the college recruiting process and helping them connect with college coaches throughout the country. You can follow Matt at Diary of a Mad Coach.