Use this spring and summer to help prepare yourself to be a student athlete in college. Reach out to coaches, start searching for schools and keep a positive mindset. Here are nine goals for junior athletes to accomplish by time senior year rolls around.
1. Make a list of colleges. Include your favorites, and add a few college sports backup choices. You should still have about 20 schools on your list. Sound like a lot? Maybe for the average student, but as an athlete, remember that opportunities sometimes appear from interesting sources.
2. Register online with the colleges you have on your list. Many colleges allow you to start a prospective student-athlete account. Registering for that often puts you on the mailing list for an application and other helpful information.
3. Choose your senior classes with care. You will need 16 core courses for NCAA Division I eligibility and 14 core courses for NCAA Division II eligibility.
4. Make direct contact with five to 10 college coaches. This is easier than you might think. You can call, write or e-mail them. If you write or send an e-mail, be sure to check your grammar and spelling. Keep your personality in the letter. Introduce yourself in a paragraph or two and include information about your playing abilities. Refrain
For calls to college coaches:
Step 1: Call. High school students often find this to be the hardest step. But you simply pick up the phone and dial the number, which you can find on the college’s athletic Web site.
Step 2: Introduce yourself. For example: “Hi, Coach Smith, how are you today? My name is Jane Doe. I am a high school basketball player, and I will graduate in 2009. I am a guard for Excellence High School. I am interested in playing for your university.”
Before you make the call, have your high school coach’s contact info available. Offer to send the coach your summer schedule, a DVD of you in action and your official times or stats. Ask if they will be at any of your events to see you compete.
If you have already contacted college coaches and received letters of interest, follow up with a phone call or e-mail to find out each coach’s true level of interest. Remember, a letter from a college coach doesn’t mean they are preparing to offer you a scholarship.
5. Plan to be involved in a summer program in your sport. Consider using a private coach to gain additional skills. Try new exercises to increase your skill, agility, strength and speed.
6. Be sure the courses you choose for your senior year will allow you to have all of the requirements for NCAA Division I or Division II eligibility.
Last summer, there was a case at the University of South Carolina where two football players were NCAA eligible but did not meet the requirements for admission to the university. The university initially denied their admission, even though they were to be scholarship athletes.
Prevent this from happening to you by taking a look at the admissions requirements for the schools on your list. Work with your high school counselor to be sure your classes are on track.
7. Connect with your high school or club coach. Be sure they are aware of your plans and dreams for the future. Let them know you would like them to hold you accountable for taking the steps necessary to reach your dreams. They can call or e-mail college coaches on your behalf. When college coaches plan to offer a scholarship, your coach and other staff may be contacted, so keep them in the loop.
8. Register for the ACT or SAT. If you’ve taken it once, a second try is a great way to increase your score. The higher the score, the more college coaches will see you as a valuable addition to their programs.
9. This is the time to follow up on your NCAA Clearinghouse or NCAA Eligibility Center paperwork. At the end of your junior year, you should send in your final transcript and make sure your amateurism questionnaire has been completed. You must have your own Clearinghouse account. Check with your high school counselor if you need a fee waiver.
Laura Mitchell is a former NCAA head college basketball coach and a workshop leader for student athletes who wish to play college sports and for those who seek excellence as a student athlete. Mitchell is the college sports counselor at America’s largest charter school, Granada Hills High School. Learn more at sportsdreammakers.com.