So, Your Child Wants to Play College Sports: Where Do You Start? by Pamela Swenson
Have a child heading to college that's interested in playing a sport? As parents, where do you start to make sure this is the right thing for your child and make the experience the best it can be for him or her? First, make sure your child wants to play college sports. It's a substantial commitment. It’s easy to say you want to be a collegiate athlete playing at the college level. There is a process, and understanding the process can be daunting. Here are some tips to help your child (and yourself) through the process:
- Define goals. Look at what you want out of this opportunity as a person, student and an athlete. Examine your skill level now and how you will contribute at the next level.
- Have a conversation with your high school coach and discuss if you have the talent to play at a higher level. Once you have concluded that playing a sport in college is for you, the process begins.
- Discuss your options. In many sports, mainly, the sport that measures your ability and that is timed tends to be an indicator if you are a Division I, II, III athlete. Other sports, like football, basketball, etc., the work is a little harder. However, it is not impossible to measure more work involved, like attending camps, tournaments and having a highlight reel. Also, search colleges that might fit academically regarding grades and test scores, and look for target schools and reach schools. Email college coaches that you are interested in being recruited by. If you do not get a response the first time, email the coach again. Your high school or club coach will tend to have a good sense of where you will fit into the collegiate spectrum.
- There are some key factors you should include in your decision making. You have to balance academics and athletics. You cannot be a student-athlete without the academics; it's as simple as that. You might have the athletic talent, but that will not matter if your academics are not a priority. Some might dispute that, but I base my practice on academics first because you have more options if you are strong academically. You want to have as many options as possible.
- Of course, academics come first. When deciding to play a sport at the collegiate level, take into account the amount of time you will spend traveling, practicing, on team meetings and studying. Your days will typically consist of an early-morning workout, practice, classes, study time and an early bedtime because you will be doing the same routine again the next day. The benefits of being a student-athlete are that it enhances structure and discipline, builds a strong work ethic and, above all, being a student-athlete teaches you time management. It mentally prepares you for the workforce.
- Look into scholarships. Talk to your coach and see if you are a Division l, which provides an athletic scholarship. Ivy League institutions are Division I. Harvard, Brown, The University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, and Columbia, do not offer athletic scholarships. Division II provides an athletic scholarship, but fewer. Partial scholarships are available. Division lll colleges do not offer an athletic scholarship. However, academic-achievement need-based grants are available. By the way, you could be a Division l player but a better fit academically, athletically, mentally and culturally might be a Division lll school. Explore all your options..
The most important thing is to find a college or university that will allow you to continue your growth academically, athletically, physically and emotionally.