Pursuing a college athletic scholarship is a long and difficult process with no guarantees. There are a number of steps that can be taken to improve your chances
Pursuing a college athletic scholarship is a long and difficult process with no guarantees. No one can promise they can secure a scholarship for your child, though some companies make such guarantees. Stay away from them. The only promise is this: without talent, hard work and persistence your child definitely will not be given a scholarship.
That being said, there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve your chances.
Without Grades, None of this Matters
If your child doesn't work as hard in the classroom as he does on the field, he won't earn a scholarship, anyway. Colleges want the best athletes but they also want strong students who can handle the rigor of college course work. It is of extreme importance your child takes a challenging high school schedule, keeps a strong grade-point average and does well on national college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT.
Secure the Best Training Possible
In just about any sport, there are former professional and college players who give lessons in practically every aspect of their game. Seek out the best of these to teach your child. Do your research on the top coaches in the area and find the ones you feel will be best for your child, depending upon his position and current level of skill. This can be costly -- some run as much as $50 for a half-hour session, once a week -- but it can make a major impact on your child's improvement.
Don't look for a quick fix, as the coach will need time to rid your child of bad habits, but generally speaking if you don't see improvement in about three months, it may be time to try a different coach.
The second part of individual training is extra work the child must do on his own. The drills the coach teaches your child should be repeated regularly at home. If the only time the student works on the skill is during the lesson, it will never be reinforced enough to make the child improve.
Finally, parents must be involved as well. It is important for parents to pay attention during lessons so that they can understand what the proper technique looks like. The coach will only be with your child once or twice a week. Parents must reinforce the proper technique -- including learning the lingo or keywords the coach uses -- or else it will not be ingrained in the athlete.
Find a Competitive Atmosphere with College Exposure
To improve, athletes must play against the best competition possible. To ensure this happens, have your child try out for the top club or travel teams in your area. Sometimes the best teams may not be very close to home, but playing on them can make all the different. The best teams have the best coaches and play against the best competition. Most desirable is the best possible team where your child will receive consistent playing time. Being on a great team but never getting to play won't help your child improve.
It is also important to find a team that gives its athletes as much exposure as possible, for example a team that regularly plays in national competitions or tournaments specifically designed to receive exposure from college coaches. Make sure your team's top priority is to help its players get recruited.
A skills video can also be a great recruiting tool, especially if your child is interested in attending a school far from home. There are many companies who will put together professional videos that highlight your child’s skills and abilities. Many coaches, especially those with small recruiting budgets, rely heavily on these videos to evaluate potential athletes.
Communication is Key
Once your child becomes a recruitable athlete -- depending on the sport, this is usually by the freshman or sophomore year in high school -- there are steps that can be taken to draw the attention of colleges.
The first step is to help your child determine which colleges he is interested in. What does he think he wants to major in? Does he want to go to a large school or a smaller one? How important is location? Would he mind going to school far away from home? What level does he want to play at: NCAA Division 1, 2, 3, NAIA or Junior College?
Don't be afraid if this list of colleges is very large to begin with. Research teams on the internet. Look at their web sites. Many of them have questionnaires for prospective athletes -- have your child fill those out. See what positions the team will be needing the year your child graduates. If your child is a pitcher and the college has a number of young pitchers, it might not be a good fit. As you begin corresponding with colleges, you will learn which ones are interested and you can narrow down your list some.
The first contact with the college should be a letter from your child to the college that does two things: introduces your child to the coach and lets the coach know he is interested in learning more about the school's athletic and academic programs.
Within a few weeks of that first letter, your child should follow up with emails asking questions about the school and letting the coach know of his progress -- how he fared in his last tournament, when and where his next tournament is, etc. It is important to give the coach as much information as possible, including a schedule so that the coach could possibly plan a trip to scout your child in person.
Your child should start a regular e-mail dialogue with those coaches that seem the most interested and that he is most interested in playing for. As much as coaches want great athletes, they also want great people they will enjoy spending a number of years coaching.