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. Nelson Gord is a former collegiate and professional ballplayer, successful high school head coach, and also the founder of the largest travel baseball club in Illinois. Nelson 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, helped create NCSA Team Edition, the free recruiting platform for club and high school coaches.
Earning a college athletic scholarship is a tremendous achievement, something that student-athletes and their families should be proud of. Besides potentially saving a huge sum of money on tuition costs, an athletic scholarship offers student-athletes the chance to keep competing in the sport they love on a bigger stage.
However, many student-athletes are not familiar with the things they should know about athletic scholarships, including the fact that athletic scholarships are usually one-year agreements that can be taken away or not renewed for a number of reasons. That’s why it’s important for student-athletes to stay vigilant about keeping their scholarships, and for coaches to educate them about how to do so:
Don’t get in trouble
There are plenty of ways to get in trouble, ranging from getting arrested to social media “fails”. Obviously, the first rule is student-athletes are not above the rules. Breaking team or school code of conduct rules or breaking the law and getting into legal trouble can be a huge red flag for sports programs, and while arrests are not super common, they can easily lead to a scholarship being rescinded. But documenting inappropriate behavior on social media can also be a foolish move that leads to some pretty serious consequences. Perhaps it’s too obvious for some, but student-athletes need to obey the rules, stay out of handcuffs, and take the right approach to using social media for recruiting.
Don’t become academically ineligible
This also isn’t extremely common for student-athletes, but it does happen. And contrary to popular belief, academic eligibility doesn’t just entail maintaining a good GPA. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of NCAA eligibility requirements, making sure to complete 16 NCAA core courses, maintain a minimum core course GPA and complete 10 courses by the end of junior year (for D1 athletes). Keep in mind providing misinformation in regard to NCAA eligibility is also another way to lose a scholarship.
Maintain a good attitude and work ethic
This is an issue that happens more often that people would think. College sports are very competitive. Most athletes have worked very hard to get to this level, but some still arrive on campus and essentially go through the motions when it comes to competing and training. Or, they adopt an entitled attitude, which can cause chemistry issues for the team. Simply put, college coaches are going go with the athletes that are going to help them build and maintain a winning program. If someone is unwilling to put in the work or has a bad attitude, their athletic scholarship could very well be on thin ice. If you quit the team, of course, you do not continue on scholarship.
Do the best that you can
Unfortunately, not everything can be controlled by the student-athletes. The coach could find an athlete they like better, injury, coaching changes, or budget cuts could all lead to losing a scholarship. One of the most common reason for coaches reducing or removing an athletic scholarship is simply because they’ve overrated a recruit’s talent or potential. To a large extent, college coaches are using the limited time they have to evaluate an athlete to make a best guess about their ability and future potential. Sometimes things just don’t pan out, and athletes can be demoted and be used more for practice than competition. Or, an athlete can get be cut when a coach feels there’s no chance for them to compete at the required level. That’s why it’s so important for athletes to do the research and pick the right division level.
Being offered an athletic scholarship is exciting and cause for celebration. But it’s also not the end of the road, and in many ways, it’s just the beginning. Student-athletes need to keep taking care of business in the gym and the classroom in order to maintain an athletic scholarship.