Three College Recruiting Steps for the High School Freshman Athlete
If you're currently a high school freshman athlete or the parent of one, you're probably not thinking very much about what you need to do to compete in college sports. Chances are you're more concerned about what you have to do to make the high school varsity team, and college seems like it's on a distant horizon.
Fortunately for you, most of your competition is thinking that as well, so if you're willing to put a little effort into planning for your college athletic recruiting, you will be ahead of the game. While many student athletes have learned the hard lesson that you can start too late, there is no such thing as starting too early.
Here are a few things you can start doing as a freshman:
Lay out your four year high school curriculum to ensure that it meets the NCAA Clearinghouse eligibility standards.
Any student athlete who competes in a Division I or Division II program must register with the NCAA. Eligibility is based on academic record, ACT or SAT scores, and amateurism participation. There is a list of core courses that must be completed, the requirements are slightly different for the two divisions, and the D I requirements just got more rigorous. As a freshman, the first thing you need to do is ensure that you are on a path to complete all the core courses you will need. Over your high school career, you will also need to meet NCAA grade point average requirements.
Note that athletes at Division III schools are not required to register with the Clearinghouse, and that any individual school may have more rigorous standards than the NCAA requirements. If you already know which schools you're interested in, check their core requirements as well. You can find detailed information about the NCAA standards at www.NCAAClearinghouse.net.
Research and join club, travel, or AAU clubs to get exposure outside of high school.
In all likelihood, your athletic efforts outside of high school will get you more college recruiting exposure than your high school team. While the cost of these programs may be a constraint for you, participate if possible. Starting now is smart for a few reasons:
It gives you the benefit of establishing yourself with one program early on so that you're a known quantity to them. When that all-important summer recruiting season between junior and senior year rolls around, it could be tough to compete for a spot on a team in a program that you have no history with.
It may get you exposure to coaches who will keep an eye on you over time if they like what they see.
Finally, it lets you get a better sense of what kind of competition is out there so you can target yourself to schools at the appropriate level when the time comes. You may be the best kid on your freshman high school team but you may also find that there are many kids out there who are more talented than you. Better to find out now and plan accordingly.
Start researching colleges and athletic programs online.
As a freshman, you're not expected to have a clear idea about where you want to go to college or even if you want to pursue your sport when you get to college. But doing a little early exploration can really pay off. You may be able to quickly eliminate schools that you won't have either the academic credentials or the skill level to play at. And you may find a group of schools that you never would have considered if you weren't pursuing your sport, but they make perfect sense for you as an athlete. This will give you some time to follow their program for a few years and develop a relationship with the coaching staff.
As a freshman, target a few schools and e-mail the coach to let them know you're out there. Ask a few intelligent questions about their program , let them know you're interested and that you'll keep in touch with them over time. If you get a great mention in a local newspaper, send it on to them, just to keep your name top of mind. Coaches will be impressed that you took the initiative to contact them. You can find an extensive list of questions you may want to ask coaches in my book, Put Me In, Coach (www.rightfitpress.com.)
The more you do early in your high school career, the better informed and prepared you will be when recruiting season rolls around, so start now.