To be honest, I was struggling to develop this week's column, but thanks to a couple of soccer moms at the deli counter at Safeway in Dublin, I've got my topic.
As best as I could tell, their daughters are sixth-grade soccer players for a club team. One of the moms was complaining about playing time for her daughter. She was frustrated that she wasn't going to be able to get any good video of her sixth-grader to send to college coaches.
Yes, I said sixth grade. And, sarcastically no, we're not putting a lot of pressure on our kids today, are we?
Having just gone through the college sports recruiting process with my son, Tristan, who played football and baseball at Dublin High, I thought I'd use the overzealous-but-well-meaning soccer mom as the impetus for helping to supply a little dose of reality for parents and student athletes. I add the caveat that these are just my opinions based upon personal experience, including having spoken with parents of other recruited athletes with whom Tristan played.
Just for context, my son was recruited to play football defensive back by nearly 20 colleges around the country. Because of his size (5'9" about 170 pounds), most of the colleges were NCAA Division II and Division III, with a couple of the D1A Ivy League schools also in the mix.
Division III and the Ivy League do not offer sports scholarships. Only academic grants. There are far more Division II and Division III (and NAIA) colleges and universities than there are Division I, which means the chances of being recruited to a big-time university are slim. If your child is a really good -- but not completely outstanding -- athlete, he or she is not going to play for Cal or Stanford. So, with that in mind, here are few top tips for the soccer, football, baseball and lacrosse moms and dads out there wanting to see your child play sports in college.
Number one: a so-so grade-point average is not conducive to being recruited by a top school. The coaches with whom my son was communicating (including Penn, Columbia, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Trinity, Middlebury, Pomona, etc.) only looked at him seriously when they saw his high GPA and SAT/ACT scores. The universities, including Division I, which often have much lower academic standards, all have minimum GPAs and test scores that a student athlete has to have in order to gain admittance. So hit the books seriously for greater opportunities.
Number two: unless your child is a certified phenom, no college coach in the world wants to see tape of your sixth-grader. It means nothing. There is a gigantic amount of change in size and ability between the sixth grade and the end of 10th grade -- when recruiting starts to get serious. Kids who were great in the sixth grade often get passed up by the time they play varsity sports in high school.
To add more perspective, most college coaches only want to see tape of an athlete competing on a varsity team. Freshman or JV soccer, lacrosse or football is not always a good indication of how the athlete will perform at the much faster, much tougher varsity level. Several recruiting websites, including one that we used (www.ncsasports.org) won't post video on the student's profile unless it's varsity.
And finally: clearly understand the life impact of playing college sports. Playing an NCAA sport in college is a massive commitment of time and energy. Very few student athletes will ever play their sport professionally. Since it's extremely challenging to maintain a good college GPA while playing sports, is the student limiting their options (e.g. grad school) for the future by playing sports?
This is precisely the reason why my son, who would like to be an orthopedic surgeon some day, decided to focus on academics and not play football in college when he attends the University of Colorado, Boulder, in the fall. It was a very difficult decision for him, but one that as a parent I applaud ... loudly.
There are a large number of other elements of recruiting, including the NCAA rules about contact with coaches, the value of attending college camps and more that you'll need to learn, but in due time. In other words, you sixth-grade Dublin soccer moms should take a deep breath and, at least for a few years, just try and enjoy watching your kids compete and have fun on the field.
Contact Alan Elias at firstname.lastname@example.org.