By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA
Some parents may chase an athletic scholarship as if it was the Holy Grail and others may not even understand that such financial arrangements are even available for some sports. On a broader scope, most parents have very little experience or understanding of the college athletic recruiting process, and the potential and possibilities that exist.
This is where the high school coach enters the equation. While coaches don’t have to have every detail of the recruiting process memorized, it is important that they are able to provide a few basics and guide the parents through this maze.
Coaches should already know or understand that most parents love their child. While love is great in a family setting, it can also complicate the athletic experience. Love certainly can, in many cases, override logic and reason, and coaches should plan their approach accordingly.
For most parents, there are a few basic considerations or parameters that coaches will want to cover with the parents. The following represent a good starting point.
- Only about three percent of all high school athletes will earn a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I athletic scholarship. An additional two to three percent may be offered one on the NCAA Division II or National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics levels. This means that 94 percent of high school athletes will not get an athletic scholarship.
While NCAA Division III cannot offer athletic scholarships, they can provide grants, as well as academic and leadership scholarships. The end result is that Division III colleges can, in many cases, provide the same basic coverage for athletes in need. It is also important to point out that the athletes on the Division III level will gain a quality education.
- It is also important to point out to parents that they need to be careful when analyzing and listening to a college coach offering the possibility of a scholarship. Some sports only have a few scholarships to offer and may actually split them in order to recruit more athletes. It is important for the family to question and be sure how much and exactly what the possible athletic scholarship covers.
- A high school coach does not have to have every detail involved in their sport’s recruiting protocols or calendar on the tip of his tongue, but it is necessary to be able to point the parents in the right direction. This ultimately means being able to direct mom and dad to the NCAA and NAIA Web sites with a few basic hints of where to look in the navigational bar to locate or get answers to their questions.
For the NCAA, you go to www.ncaa.org. On the home page in the upper right-hand side, the Eligibility Center is for high school administrators. Parents and athletes should click on the Student-Athlete Experience located on the left-hand side and then click on Becoming a Student-Athlete.
The NAIA site is found by entering www.naia.org. On the right-hand navigational column, families should click on Contact. Under the blue Home Box, next click on the Perspective Students and Eligibility options.
- Since most coaches also teach or work fulltime during the day in addition to their coaching duties, they will want to cover and spell out what part the coach plays in the recruiting process. For example, the coach might handle the following parts:
It is vital, however, that coaches clarify that they will be helping and not functioning as a fulltime recruiting agent and taking care of every little detail. Chances are that coaches will have more than one athlete interested in playing on the college level, and all athletes should be able to benefit from the coach’s assistance.
- Meet with the family and explain the basics of the recruiting process
- Offer to write a letter of recommendation
- Provide a copy of game tapes to college coaches who request them
- Answer any questions from college coache
- One of the most important duties that a high school coach can perform is to explain to the family at what level their child is best suited to play. Due to love and wanting the best for their child, many parents may be unrealistic with respect to their child’s athletic ability. The coach has to define the ability of the athlete – in terms of speed, quickness, agility, size, etc. Athletic ability is distinctly different for each level of college play.
If the family indicates a few schools that might be of interest to their child, the coach might also know a little about the college coaching staff. The coach can also let them know if this would be a good fit for the youngster. Since coaches change positions with some frequency on the college level, it may be good to consider if the coach will be at the school in four years.
- Make sure that the family takes into account the total offerings of a college and not only athletics. If used properly, an athletic scholarship or financial aid on a Division III level will provide the opportunity to earn a college degree. This means that the family needs to consider potential majors for the athlete, the location of the school, the size of the institution and a whole host of other additional factors.
- During any season, considering the academic responsibilities of an athlete, practice sessions and games, things can get extremely hectic. It is a good idea to lay out a timeline for the family. Include in this organizational effort would be due dates for financial aid or scholarship applications, the best time to make a campus visit and use of your game and playoff schedule as a baseline of dates to schedule around.
With some effort, care and a little experience, coaches can greatly help the parents of their athletes. Helping with the recruiting process culminates the high school coaching process. Coaches take an inexperienced young person, help him or her grow and develop, and the payoff is that they young person succeeds. From cocoon to butterfly, coaches have done their part.
About the Author: Dr. David Hoch recently retired as the athletic director at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland (Baltimore County). He assumed this position in 2003 after nine years as director of athletics at Eastern Technological High School in Baltimore County. He has 24 years experience coaching basketball, including 14 years on the collegiate level. Hoch, who has a doctorate in sports management from Temple University, is past president of the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, and he formerly was president of the Maryland State Coaches Association. He has had more than 350 articles published in professional magazines and journals, as well as two textbook chapters. Hoch is a member of the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee.