USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers online college planning for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
The goal of every serious high school athlete is to sign a National Letter of Intent at a prestigious college. For most athletes, this means hard work both on the field and in the classroom starting as early as eighth grade. We all know that participating in athletics while attending high school is difficult. Throw in practice, lessons, camps and tournaments and it becomes a sacrifice. You might miss a party to play in a game, or you might miss a trip to the lake because your summer team has a tournament. When you are in high school, those are big deals, but you make the sacrifice because the reward of a college scholarship is worth it.
The signing of a National Letter of Intent is a tremendous accomplishment and very few athletes ever make it to that point. If you are one of the few, one thing you have to realize is that there is more to come.
The work has just begun
Once you sign a National Letter of Intent, the recruiting process is over, but your collegiate career has just begun. It’s not time to hit the brakes; it’s time to accelerate. You don’t just want to show up to college; you want to be ready to go from day one.
Some athletes might be content to just have a uniform, but most athletes want to play and not just sit on the bench. In order for that to happen, you have to be ready once you step foot on campus. College coaches want you to show up strong and well-conditioned. You should arrive in the best condition of your life; that reaffirms to the coaches that they made a good decision on you and helps build respect and trust. You have one shot at being a college athlete, there is no excuse to not be 100% physically prepared!
Many scholarship athletes come to college expecting to have significant playing time immediately, but the truth is, there are no guarantees. Newsflash… You are not the only player the coaches have signed. In addition to competing for playing time with the new crop of signees, you will also be competing for playing time against current players on the roster, the proven veterans. That gives them an advantage. You need to be ready to compete at the first practice.
Size up the competition
Once you sign, if you really want to play as quickly as possible then it’s not a bad idea to “size up” the roster:
- Determine who you will be competing against for playing time. If they are upperclassmen with game experience, do your best job to find out the secret to their success within the program. There is a reason they play, so figure out what they do well and commit to doing it better.
- How many players are there at your position and how do you stack up against those players? You might want to spend additional time in the weight room or refining your skills before you hit campus.
- Talk to the coaches and ask them what you need to do to contribute to the team. Be specific and ask for specific answers.
It’s no fun to sit on the bench, so work hard before you leave for college and be as prepared as possible once you move into your dorm room.
Adjusting to college life
Let’s face it, playing a sport in college is not like a full time job, it is a full time job. Scholarship athletes can spend as much as 50-60 hours per week at practice, watching game film, lifting weights and preparing for games. Being a college athlete will be one of the biggest commitments of your life, be prepared for the grind.
College life is an adjustment for all students. You are on your own for the first time, you need to learn how to manage your time and if you add the requirements of being part of a team, it can be overwhelming. The athletes who take the time to plan their class schedule, take advantage of the tutors offered by the team and work hard generally adjust much faster and play sooner.
Earning a college scholarship is a great moment for any high school athlete, but you don’t want that to be the end, but rather the beginning of one of the greatest experiences an athlete can have. Take care of your body and outwork everyone because someday instead of watching the national championship, you might be playing in it.