Juniors, jump start your college sports career

Start putting together a list of colleges to consider and contacting college coaches if you want to play sports in college

Juniors, jump start your college sports career

As you are nearing the end of your junior year, start planning for the summer!

Your goal this summer is to show the value you can bring to a college program. This value will be determined by your level of talent, determination and academic abilities. Here’s what you can do to build those aspects.

Get exposure 
Playing on the tournament circuit or attending a few well-chosen camps is a solid way to increase your exposure. Have a favorite college or university? Look into attending their summer camp. Take that chance to meet the coaching staff and endear your talented, charming self to them.

Assess the rest
Now is the time to assess your transcript. Leave plenty of time to enroll in summer school or add to your senior-year schedule if necessary.

At the end of this year, you will want to register with the NCAA Eligibility Office. That office will determine your eligibility to play at a NCAA division I or division II school as a college freshman. NAIA schools and NCAA division III schools do not use the same method. See ncaa.org, naia.org or your specific division III college’s Web site to learn what requirements you must meet to be eligible.

Reverse recruit
Many student-athletes wait until after junior year to write to a college coach. This can be a big mistake. Taking an attitude of “I’ll wait and see who recruits me” is a dangerous strategy.

Coaches usually look favorably on the athletes who take the early initiative.

Now is the time to make contact with as many college programs as you can. Student-athletes should make a list of 30 to 50 colleges to contact. Even if you think you know where you want to go, your list should be at least 10 to 20 schools long.

Start by filling out recruiting questionnaires online. Most college sports programs use this method to gather interested students’ information. You can also send e-mails or letters to college coaches. Keep the letters simple. Include your GPA, stats, height and weight in the letter, or keep the letter short and create a profile to send with it.


Visit several schools
This year and this summer, you can make unofficial visits to colleges, meaning that you pay your expenses. Prospective NCAA division I and II athletes may make five official visits (when the college pays your expenses) during senior year.

As you pick which colleges to visit, keep some “plan B” and “plan C” schools on your list.

Remember these facts
• Even if you are talented enough to be a college athlete, college coaches may not find you. This is why you must reverse recruit. There are more than 30,000 high schools in America, and about 2,000 four-year colleges. You have to promote yourself to find a fit!

• Division III programs may be a great option for you. Often, players at division III schools are there because they want a balanced experience as a student-athlete. They are still talented, competitive and dedicated athletes who want to continue their athletic careers in college.

• Receiving a letter from a college coach doesn’t mean you are being recruited. Coaches send out thousands of letters to players they may or may not have heard of. Respond to the letter and follow up with the coach. Until the coach calls you and says he is interested in you or invites you to the school, the letters mean very little.

Laura Mitchell is a former NCAA head college basketball coach and a workshop leader for student athletes. She is also the college sports counselor at America’s largest charter school, Granada Hills High School. Learn more at sportsdreammakers.com.


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