Recruiting Column: Interview with D1 Sports Training’s Will Bartholomew

Recruiting Column: Interview with D1 Sports Training’s Will Bartholomew

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Interview with D1 Sports Training’s Will Bartholomew

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 This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. 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.

Photo: D1 Sports Training

When Will Bartholomew arrived in Knoxville, Tenn. during the summer of 1998, he had a goal. In fact, Will went so far as to write his goal down on a piece of paper and hand it to his dad. What was his goal, you ask? Well, by his senior year, Will wanted to play on special teams for the University of Tennessee. And, given the fact that Will would be playing with the likes of Peyton Manning, Leonard Little and Al Wilson, that seemed reasonable for a guy like him.

Unfortunately, Will never met his goal of just playing special teams as a senior in Knoxville. No. Instead, Will went on to be the starting fullback for UT in each of his 4 seasons as a Volunteer. He played on two SEC Eastern Division Championship teams, 1 SEC Conference Championship team and left UT as a captain for one of the most respected programs in all of college football. In other words, Will slightly exceeded his own expectations!

These days, Will Bartholomew is a businessman. And, as the owner/founder of D1 Sports Training, a very successful one, at that. Will figured out how to translate the success he had in sports, into the world of business.

As a high school athlete, you must understand that the reality of recruiting or being an athlete at the next level is this: your career is going to end. The question is, will you be able to use your experience as a college athlete to propel yourself into the next stage of your life? Will Bartholomew sure did.

From when you should start athletic-based training to his message for parents of recruits, here is what Will had to say.

Q: How important is athletic-based training to an aspiring college athlete?

A: It’s extremely important, because it’s half of what a college coach is going to evaluate you on. What most college coaches are looking for is potential. When they’re out recruiting players, they’re looking for that potential in terms of skill set and athleticism. Specific to athleticism, they’re evaluating your speed, strength and agility. And, they want to see that your speed, strength and agility are up to par, in relation to what they have in their program. Do you fit the mold, so to say? I would equate it to building a house. The key to building a house is making sure that you build on a great piece of land, with a great foundation. Then, you can make what you want of the house, depending on your style or what you like. The same goes for recruiting players. It’s much easier to add or coach in the skill, if the athletic foundation is already in place. Being the best athlete you can be is critical in the recruiting process.

Q: When should an athlete start athletic based training?

A: You can start as young as age 7. Work on getting a base of the fundamentals such as running technique, lifting technique and body-weight exercises. Nothing majorly intense, because you’re just looking to establish overall body control, which will help you in any sport. Now, where I think athletic-based training becomes critical is when you enter that late middle school age. That’s typically when kids start maturing, growing and developing those practices or fundamentals that will make them successful, long-term. And, if you miss that foundational window, it becomes really hard to catch up.

These days, I think too many kids focus so much on developing their skill, as opposed to their athleticism. I don’t think that’s a great approach, because if you don’t reach your full potential as an athlete, it’s likely you won’t get to that full potential with your skill or your sport. In other words, the skill becomes so much easier, the better the athlete you are. So, I would really encourage athletes to take 6-8 weeks every year to focus on developing the athlete inside of you. Work on that bigger, stronger, faster side of you.

Q: What is your message to parents of potential recruits?


  1. Be intentional. Don’t overcommit your son or daughter by planning out the year ahead. It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. Go through the schedule, month-by-month, and have a good idea of what things look like. It’s important to create expectations, but at the same time, let your kids be kids. Give them time to rest and give them time to experience as many things as possible.
  2. Follow your kid’s passion. This isn’t about your passion, or what you want for your child. This is about what your kid wants. I’m a parent and I have to deal with that every day! So, from one parent to another, take my advice and understand that your kid is going to need a genuine drive to play at the collegiate level. For example, if your kid isn’t out shooting hoops on their own or watching basketball on TV without you having to tell them, you probably want to re-examine where they’re at. Because, being a student-athlete in college is like having two jobs. If you’re not passionate about the sport you play, it’s not going to work.
  3. Anytime you’re taking this more seriously than your child, that’s a problem. If you’re losing your cool because of one game, one point or whatever it might be, you’re setting yourself up for a long haul. Failure is a good thing. If you can’t allow your child to grow through that failure because you take it too personally, take a step back. Losing a game in the last second is a teaching moment. Help your child develop into the best he/she can be by taking those moments to grow and get better. It’s a game. That’s it!

Photo: D1 Sports Training

Q: What did being a college athlete mean for your business career?

A: Everything in my life can be attributed to sports. From a successful business, to a loving marriage and family, to great friends, everything I’ve been blessed with has come from my life in sports. The “halo” benefits that I’ve experienced, because of my involvement in sports, have been immeasurable. And, it can be like that for anyone!

If you think about it, our most basic human needs are met through sports. Whether gaining significance from being a part of a team or learning how to conquer things on your own through individual competition, you are going to learn life through sports. I’ll take it a step further and talk about passion and love. I think sports teach someone how to fall in love, how to be passionate about something. For me, I don’t feel like I work a day in my life because I love what I do. And, I learned that by falling in love with football, first. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be tough days, tough practices, it’s not always easy. But, when you love what you do, it’s always worth it. Find the things that are worth loving and you’ll truly love your worth.


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