USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology-based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.
In the world of college recruiting, not many things are guaranteed. That’s why what I’m about to tell you is so important. Because, what I’m about to tell you is a guarantee. If you’re a high school recruit, contemplating your college future, hearing what I have to say should absolutely impact your decision making. So, please pay attention to this guarantee: I guarantee that your happiness or success, as a collegiate student-athlete, has nothing to do with the letters NCAA. It has nothing to do with a I, a II or a III. I’ll take it a step further and say this: If you’re making a college commitment based solely on a combination of letters or roman numerals, I guarantee you’re deciding on a school for all the wrong reasons!
Listen, I understand that there are many great opportunities at the NCAA level. That’s obvious. And, you may very well end up at one of those great institutions. But, here’s the deal: If you haven’t discovered all the amazing opportunities at the NAIA and NJCAA levels, you’re severely limiting yourself, and more importantly, your future.
Let’s look back at what Jim Carr and Christopher Parker want you to know about the NAIA and NJCAA, respectively.
-Jim Carr, President and CEO, NAIA
Q: What would you like high school student-athletes to know about the NAIA and its member schools?
A: The NAIA provides a truly high caliber experience for student-athletes. I think it’s critical for high school kids to realize the potential opportunities that exist at NAIA institutions. And that’s not just from an athletic perspective. Our Champions of Character program provides our student-athletes with the development needed to succeed at life. We don’t just preach our core values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. We live those values. We hold each other accountable to living by a certain standard. Imagine walking away from your collegiate experience equipped for the rest of your life. That’s what the NAIA and our member schools strive to achieve with every one of our student-athletes.
Q: What are some of the key differences between the NAIA and the NCAA?
A: I think the most obvious difference is that the NCAA is much more prescriptive than the NAIA. The extensive rules and regulations that exist at the NCAA Division I and II levels are well-documented. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly can affect how a coach recruits, or even builds a team at those levels. The NAIA governing body isn’t interested in adding unnecessary administrative burdens to our member schools, when it comes to recruiting and team building. Those are stressful enough on their own! Our focus is to be flexible and autonomous in supporting our schools. Let the individual institutions determine what they feel is appropriate based on their circumstances, not some mandate. It’s our belief that more time spent with coaches is a good thing. That’s what creates a ripe atmosphere for winning and success.
Q: Talk about scholarship and financial assistance opportunities at the NAIA level.
A: Last year, we gave out $600 million in scholarships and financial aid to roughly 65,000 student-athletes in 25 different sports. The NAIA is committed to young men and women that are committed to achieving their highest potential, both in the classroom and on the field. With college costs going up each year, we understand the importance of our financial support to these student-athletes and their families. Know what’s out there and what’s available, in terms of financial aid and let it motivate you. Work hard in the classroom. Work hard on the field or on the court. Because it literally will pay off in the end.
Dr. Christopher Parker, CEO, NJCAA
Q: Why is attending an NJCAA (two-year) school a great option for high school recruits?
A: It’s all about opportunity. Playing at a junior college or community college presents student-athletes and their families with so many unique opportunities. From a growth perspective, attending a two-year school affords you the opportunity to further develop academically or athletically. Maybe your grades aren’t quite where they need to be coming out of high school or maybe your study-habits need some work. A junior college is a great place to shape yourself into a student capable of excelling at a 4-year institution.
The same can be said athletically. On many occasions, kids haven’t quite hit their stride and realized their full potential by the time they need to make a college decision. Or, maybe they do get an offer from a 4-year school, but they don’t figure into the mix of playing time until their junior or senior year. Those are both scenarios in which a student-athlete should strongly consider going the junior college route. A junior college gives you the advantage of honing your physical skills because you can get on the field and get those reps your needing to develop.
Junior colleges also present an amazing cost-saving opportunity for student-athletes. As the costs of college continue to rise, you really must consider the financial impact associated with your decisions. If you haven’t decided on a major or you’re just not in love with any of your college options, think about a junior college. The cost of attending a junior college is far less than most 4-year schools. It’s safe to say that limiting the total debt you walk away with after college is a good thing!
From the self-doubters that need to develop confidence, to the late-bloomers that just need some more time to grow, a NJCAA school might be exactly what you need because we offer tremendous flexibility in filling the voids of the other college levels.
Q: Talk about scholarship and financial assistance opportunities at the NJCAA level.
A: The financial assistance available through the NJCAA is very similar to that of the NCAA. Like the NCAA, we offer three levels of competition: I, II, and III. Member institutions can offer full athletic scholarships at the NJCAA Division I level and partial scholarships at the Division II level. And like NCAA Division III schools, NJCAA Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships as financial assistance. I think the most important thing to understand about scholarships and financial aid is that there’s money out there for you! Every institution and every program is a little bit different. It’s on you to have the conversations and discover what’s available for your circumstances and situation.