USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Mike Adler was a 3-sport captain in high school who went onto play running back for DIAA Morehead State University in Kentucky. Mike is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Many high school athletes dream of competing at the college level. In order to give themselves that opportunity, they will often go above-and-beyond their peers. Extra training, countless hours in the weight and film rooms, personal coaches, diets, etc. But what happens when something happens that is out of their control; like getting hurt? Is all the hard work and dedication suddenly for naught? Even though they may think their college dreams are over, fear not, there’s still hope.
Here are a few things you can do to help manage your student-athlete’s college recruiting with an injury.
Honesty is Key
The one thing your student-athlete should know that’s guaranteed to make an injury worse, is when they are not being honest with themselves, current teammates, and college coaches about an injury. Physically, down-playing or ignoring an injury could cause it to become more severe and at a minimum, delay the proper treatment and recovery. And one of the more critical factors in the recruiting process is open and honest communication with college coaches at every phase. Whether it’s your level of interest in a program, an offer from another school, or your injury status. Always play it straight.
READ MORE: How can an injury affect recruitment
How Much Time You Miss Matters
Unfortunately, timing can be everything. If your student-athlete misses an entire senior season that will obviously have a greater impact on their recruiting than missing a few games. The good news is a lot of incoming college freshmen end up redshirting, so an injury during senior year of high school isn’t the end of the world. If your child had expectations of playing Division I before an injury, it may make sense to alter your plans depending on the severity. Division II, or III may now be a more realistic option.
READ MORE: This football player didn’t let injury stop him
Don’t Rush Your Recovery
After an injury, the first thought for many athletes becomes, “When can I come back?” While the dedication and the will to play through the pain may be admirable, you will want to be wary of your student-athlete trying to rush their recovery. Far too often student-athletes come back before they’re fully healed. They may think they are helping their recruiting chances, but coming back too soon could lead to more injuries or making the original injury worse.
Some ways to get back out there as fast as possible include, of course, following the proper rehab recommended by doctors and trainers. Maintaining proper diet and nutrition helps, too. Don’t forget, to get some rest, meaning actual sleep.
A healthy sleep schedule can help your athlete heal faster and also help to prevent injuries from happening in the first place.
Keep Your Grades Up
Injured or not, grades are still the most important thing. Period. After all, it’s “student-athlete” for a reason, not the other way around. Student always needs to come first. Keeping grades up, especially during an injury, is crucial. Make sure they’re using their new found down-time wisely. If they can’t practice, it may allow them more time to study. Getting good grades and testing well are important regardless of what college level your student-athlete intends to play. Plus, if a college coach sees an athlete’s grades dip after an injury, it may make them question their commitment.
Come Back Better Than Ever
An injury can sometimes even be a blessing in disguise. It may force your student-athlete to develop better eating and training habits. They may begin to develop a stricter, healthier diet to try and get back quicker. It might help them focus on their grades more. It can educate them on how they can try to prevent further injuries. It could also teach them to listen to their body more and know when it’s telling them to stop. It may make them more disciplined and tougher in all aspects of their life.
Athletes are used to competing. They are also used to facing challenges and overcoming obstacles. Your student-athlete should treat their recovery process as another one of those challenges. Make sure they approach it with the right attitude and remain positive. They can’t change the fact that they are hurt. However, they can very much control how they will handle their recovery. They may have to work harder than some of their peers—adjust their game, workout routine, etc.—but by no means does an injury always mean an end to their recruiting process.