Athletic scholarship recipients are usually decided by the coaches at the college or university. So in order to get them to know who you are and what you can do, you have to put yourself in front of them and get recruited into their program.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and other similar organizations regulate student athletics, including recruiting, so rules and processes are subject to change from time to time. Although similar, they also have specific requirements such for athletes to attend and play at colleges/universities. Be sure to do your research and check with coaches for the most updated information.
One of the most notable differences is GPA. The minimum GPA required (as of today) is a 2.3 (as opposed to a 2.0 minimum for many 4 year college & universities). Be sure to find out what these requirements are early on.
(Note: Don't think it's that easy. While minimum requirements may be different, please understand they are just that. - minimum. Many top tier colleges/universities have their own admission requirements, usually 3.5 GPA or higher!)
How to get recruited and awarded athletic scholarships
By the time you enter high school, you should already know what that 1 sport is. Many students are good at more than 1 sport, so it's not uncommon to see students play 2 sports in high school. To maximize your chances of getting an athletic scholarship, play no more than two sports, but focus on that 1 sport. You will be competing with many other students for few positions on a college team, so the more you sharpen your skills at that 1 sport, the better off you'll be.
Here are 8 ways that will increase your chances of getting recruited:
1. Make highlights videos. This is the number one thing every athlete hoping to get recruited should do. How else will college coaches know how good you are? Don't underestimate the power of every play. Have a friend or family member record each of your games then spend some time editing the videos to make short highlight videos that showcase your best moves. You can do a google search of Highlight Videos for Athletes or a similar phrase to get some ideas. (Depending on your financial situation, you can also pay a company to create a professional highlight reel for you.)
2. Build an online resume (website/Twitter account). Once you have awesome videos, don't post them on your personal social media pages if they're next to that previous post you wrote about ditching class or something. (Which, by the way, off topic - be sure to keep your personal social media accounts clean and remember that colleges might - and often do - look at your personal accounts to get a glimpse of who you are as a person. Make sure to make a good impression!)
Back to building an online resume/website and Twitter account...
In order to really showcase yourself, you'll want a website where you not only post your videos/reel but also where you can add stats, photos and academic & athletic achievements. You can use profile builders geared towards college-athletics' recruits, such as Athletes USA, BeRecruited, Inc., NCSA Sports or something similar. While these sites might pay off for some athletes, they are not always worth the investment for most. So if you want to skip the fees, you can create your own website/YouTube channel/professional Twitter account and include all of that information. Don't underestimate the power of hashtags in your postings!
3. Work with your high school coach. High school coaches can be very influential when it comes to you getting recruited and helping you get an athletic scholarship. After all, they're the ones who know your skills set best, so college coaches will rely on their input, feedback and recommendations. Speak with your coach about your plans to get their input, and ask them if they're willing to help support you through the process. Don't be discouraged if they say they don't have time - many coaches can't. But some coaches, like Pacifica High School's Coach Moon here locally, have been very supportive of their student-athletes and invest countless hours (of their own time) to help them. So it is always worth asking for help - you won't know the answer until you ask.
P.S. If you didn't make it on the high school team - you still have a chance! Not all athletic programs in schools are of high caliber and some are very limited to a certain amount of players, which can sometimes leave great talent out. Besides, college recruiting coaches don't really attend high school games anymore (unless the team has made state semi finals, finals or some other big game). Just focus on everything else on this list.
4. Join a showcase/travel team. Did you know that a recruiter for the Los Angeles Dodgers found Julio Urias at a showcase tournament in Oaxaca, Mexico when Urias was only 15? In fact, showcase/travel team tournaments are very popular because of the fact that there is a lot more talent in these tournaments than there is in one high school game. So college scouts often go to showcase/travel tournaments for a chance to see dozens or hundreds of "great" players, and bypass high school games where the chances of finding great talent are much slimmer. Joining a team involves a financial investment for fees, uniforms and traveling to tournaments but is very beneficial for students passionate about playing in college.
How do you find a showcase/travel team? Network. Speak with other local players, find out which local clubs are in your area, search online, and ask questions.
5. Get educated on the recruiting process for specific colleges/universities. Although similar because of athletic regulations, every college/university has their own process for recruiting and awarding athletic scholarships. If you have schools in mind, you should go to those schools' websites and start learning their specific recruiting process so you can optimize your opportunities.
6. Contact the colleges coaches, recruiters. Have you ever heard the phrase, "If you want something, you gotta go get it." You - not your parents, or your friends - should be contacting coaches and recruits. Start with a SHORT professional email or make a professional phone call to introduce yourself and let them know about your interests - be sure to include the link to your personal resume/website and Twitter handle. You could role play with a parent or friend before calling. But it is very important that YOU take that first step. Taking this step can help you stand out. Many coaches and recruiters have their information listed publicly because they WANT to hear from athletes. And don't worry if you don't hear back right away.
7. Attend camps. Sports camps are a great way for college coaches to find new talent. There are many different levels of camps that students can attend, even in middle school. Some camps are by invitation-only, meaning, you have to get someone to invite you to attend. Ask your high school or travel coach about camps.
8. Understand scholarship availability for your program. While you should be doing everything possible to increase your chances of getting recruited to play that 1 sport in college, you should also understand that it doesn't mean you will automatically get a "full-ride" to college on an athletic scholarship, and not all schools have scholarships for every sport in every division. Like everything else, athletic scholarships depend on funding for that program/division and where you rank across the talent pool. Understanding this will help you better prepare for college and have a plan b ready.
Some sports programs are heavily impacted (usually football, basketball, etc.), which means the competition is fierce, while some sports programs aren't. This is where a 2nd or "back up" sport comes in for some athletes that don't necessarily wish to become a career athlete; just an athlete wanting some help paying for college while playing a sport they're good at. Understanding this early on can help you decide what you want to do.
For more in depth information about athletic recruiting & scholarships for high school students and families, you can visit resources online such as AthleticScholarships.Net, which provides free information help you learn how to get recruited and find an athletic scholarship.
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