As the school year kicks into full swing, you should keep in mind that student-athletes—even you superstars—must meet minimum requirements and have the grades to be accepted into college.
The NCAA Clearinghouse (soon to be the NCAA Eligibility Center, ncaaclearinghouse.net) collects the information on each student-athlete to determine eligibility. The courses you take, your GPA and your test scores are important.
This Eligibility Center is only for students who will compete at NCAA Division I or Division levels. For NCAA Division III, NAIA or two-year schools, you must meet the entrance standards of your particular college to be eligible to compete as a freshman.
Remember, you make college coaches’ jobs easier when you have a respectable GPA. Before you receive a Division I or Division II scholarship, the college coach will get a feeling for your high school performance.
This may include talking to school staff about your ability to succeed academically at college. Coaches need students who are eligible. Why make a coach nervous about your potential to compete at the next level in the classroom?
Coaches make their livings based on the performance of their student-athletes. They even have to get permission from their bosses to offer scholarships to recruits with low grades or test scores, no matter how well they perform on the field or on the court.
At a non-scholarship program, an athlete with a high GPA has the best chance at earning leadership and academic scholarships.
If you’re embarrassed or teased about being a braniac, sigh and say, “Yeah I know—but I gotta make good grades so coach will let me play.”
Here are ways you can avoid being labeled a “dumb jock.”
1. Communicate early and often
Keep an open line of communication with your teachers. The athletes who talk to their teachers regularly may find more support from the teachers. Ask ahead of time for the assignments when you will miss class. This will show them that you care about athletics and academics.
2. Exemplify good classroom behavior
Sit near the front of the classroom instead of hiding in the back. When the teacher asks for volunteers, be one of them. Be an enthusiastic learner. This means asking questions and giving the answer when you know it. What will your teachers say when you ask for a letter of recommendation?
3. Use outstanding body language
Sit up straight, and make eye contact as much as possible when the teacher is talking. Here’s a little trick many successful student-athletes use in a huddle, and it can work in the classroom, too: Every so often, give a little nod and slight smile to let the teacher know you are listening.
4. Involve food
As an athlete, you should eat well to be at your best for practices or games. Eating healthy snacks between classes helps maintain a blood sugar level that keeps your athletic body and your academic brain at their best. Snack on a piece of fruit, apples with peanut butter, a handful of peanuts or almonds, or crackers and cheese.
Coach Laura Mitchell is CEO and founder of Sports Dreammakers Inc. and a former college head basketball coach and outreach counselor for the University of California. For more information, tips on writing to college coaches, and to order the booklet The Map of Your Future for student-athletes, go to athleticinspiration.com.