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 delivers an online recruiting game plan unique to athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Most high school students and their parents don’t understand the importance of academics in college recruiting and the emphasis that college athletic programs place on grades.
Quite frankly, that is somewhat surprising. On almost every television broadcast of a college sporting event the announcers talk about “scholar athletes,” team GPA’s and team graduation rates. College coaches want athletes in their programs that will represent themselves and their university in a positive light and good grades are a good start.
College coaches are encouraged by their university and by the NCAA to field a team of true “student-athletes.”
Why academics are important to college coaches
A good athlete with good grades and high standardized test scores is much more attractive to a college coach than a good athlete with marginal grades and a below average ACT or SAT score. When trying to decide between two players of similar abilities, coaches will go with the better student every time.
So, unless you are the next Peyton Manning, you better get your grades in order. College coaches review transcripts when evaluating a student-athlete and a good academic record is an indication of an athlete’s ability to succeed on campus in every facet, not just on the field.
In addition to being able to brag on the team GPA or graduation rate, there are many other reasons why college coaches want good students on their roster.
- First, good students often qualify for academic scholarships and in-state tuition, potentially saving the athletic department scholarship money. This allows coaches in the equivalency sports to potentially spread the athletic scholarship money out over more players by filling in the financial gaps with academic scholarships. Most coaching staffs are intimately familiar with the academic scholarships that might be available for qualified student-athletes.
- Second, a good GPA and SAT/ACT score indicates to coaches that a student will most likely achieve the minimum college GPA needed to maintain athletic eligibility. It is also an indication that a student will be able to adjust to college life. If an athlete is stressed about grades, he/she may not perform to the best of their abilities.
- Third, grades and test scores are an indication of a student’s work ethic and achievement standards, for all areas of their lives. Athletes who put forth the effort in the classroom generally put forth the same kind of effort in practice and in games. Here is a formula many coaches believe in: GOOD STUDENT + GOOD ATHLETE = GOOD CHOICE FOR A ROSTER SPOT
- Finally, as stated previously, if a coach is considering athletes of similar abilities, academics is the first tie-breaker, so why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to make sure that base is covered?
Still don’t want to hit the books?
If you are still wondering how important good grades and test scores are in college recruiting, consider this:
A few years ago I was at a national baseball tournament with my son. As a high school junior, he had the opportunity to “guest play” for one of the best teams in the country. During the tournament, one of the other players received his updated ACT score and his score improved from a 27 to a 32 after taking a review course. The coach went to the trouble of updating the information given to the college scouts. Although this player was not the best athlete on the team, the coach told me that they received more inquiries about him than the entire rest of the team combined. Why? Because of his updated ACT score.
Write this down: Spend the money on an ACT or SAT review course. The cost of most of these courses is less than the cost of a camp at ABC University, and the results are far more beneficial. It just makes sense. The more colleges you qualify for academically, the better chance you have to land a roster spot!
Don’t forget it’s your education
It’s clear that academics are important to colleges, but don’t forget that you are the one trying to get an education. At a minimum, every athlete should:
- Make sure the colleges you are considering offer the major you want to study.
- Inquire about team graduation rates.
- Ask the coach about the availability of tutors, study halls, etc.
- Discuss the coach’s perspective on academics.
In summary, work hard on the field/court and in the classroom and good things will happen.