It has been awhile since I wrote a blog post here, and I couldn’t think of a better way to get back to sharing than by posting about something that has received a lot of feedback over the course of the past couple of years—the collegiate recruiting process.
The last time I wrote something about this topic was about two years ago. You can go back and read more about what I wrote by clicking <HERE>, <HERE> and <HERE>. I also recorded a couple of podcast episodes about the subject. You can listen by clicking <HERE>. I think this is an important topic that warrants another post with what I believe to be insightful information for high-school athletes interested in competing at the collegiate level. Some of what I will be sharing has been discussed before. I want to give a little more insight into what I’ve shared in the past, but also include more general information for athletes if they might be on the fence about competing at the collegiate level.
Let’s dig into five more things to consider during the recruiting process.
1. The Social Environment on Campus
In all honesty, this is probably the most important of the five. I didn’t rank order these, but the high-school athlete that is on the fence about competing in college, this is probably the most important. The reason why is because you may wake up one morning and find yourself thinking that you are not interested in playing (insert sport here) any longer. It isn’t something that most high-school athletes think about, at least I don’t believe so, because you never know when the passion for competition will burn out. Then, you wake up one morning a thousand miles away from home and think to yourself, “Oh boy, I’m away from home, homesick, and the only reason why I came here was to play (insert sport here)”. When making the decision to pick a college or university, think about the social environment on campus. How do you feel walking around campus? Are other students friendly? What kind of vides are you picking up when you visit? If you aren’t picking up good ones, that may be a sign that this place isn’t right for you.
2. Academic Environment
This should probably be the first item to think about, but I’ll explain why I put it second. Not every major Division I college or university has 300 academic majors for you to select from. Similarly, what you want to spend the rest of your life doing may only be offered at a dozen or so colleges. For example, one of the high-school athletes I had the pleasure of coaching this season was offered a scholarship to throw at the collegiate level. Fortunately for him, the college he was interested in had the specific Engineering major he wanted to enroll in. Actually, only about 25 colleges in the United States had the major he wanted. His choice was narrowed down a bit because of that. Not that the school he picked doesn’t check the other four boxes here, but it is because he knows that his major is more important to him than the location of the college, financial aid, and the list of 50 other things that assisted him in making the decision.
Now, if you want to become a high-school social studies teacher, then you pretty much have the pick of any college you want to attend. Division III all the way up to Division I, NAIA, and all points in-between. Most colleges and universities have a School of Education. Narrowing your search from there may be taxing, but there are ways to figure out what the environment is like. I encourage athletes to think about the post-Bachelor’s degree opportunities. Does this college offer a graduate program in what I’m interested in? Are there opportunities for internships along the way? How will my certification be affected if I don’t decide to live in the state I graduate from? Are there academic clubs that I can join? What was it like speaking with some professors on campus? How did they make me feel?
Questions like this might not be at the forefront of a 17 or 18-year old’s mind, but four years of college goes by pretty quickly, and depending on your undergraduate major, you’ll be required to earn a graduate degree, especially if you want to become a teacher in New York State.
3. Financial Cost
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Division I and Division II colleges are able to offer athletic scholarship aid. Not all Division I and Division II school’s offer the same amount, but I’m pretty sure if a school wants you bad enough, they’ll offer some type of athletic and academic package.
We are not able to offer athletic scholarships at the Division III level. We offer academic scholarships, but unfortunately you will not receive more aid if you are able to throw a discus 200’. If you throw that far, I’m 100% confident you’ll get a call from a Division I or II coach. Every year I’m asked by a recruit that if they play more than one sport on campus would they be eligible to receive more aid. The answer is unfortunately no. But, if you raise your SAT, ACT, or GPA a few points you may qualify for more financial aid. Throwing a discus or shot-put far in this case will not result in you receiving more aid.
4. What is the Track Program Like—Are you Competing Up or Down = Commitment
This is a difficult one to write about, but I’ll try my best. As a high-school thrower, are you more interested in winning, earning scholarship money, or both? The reason why I say that is because you could be the #1 ranked javelin thrower in the country as a high-school senior and unsure of where you want to compete. You could be a big fish in a small pond and compete at the Division III level. You may make the decision to compete down, not have to work as hard as you might at a Division I or II school, and give yourself the chance to win 4 Outdoor National Championships in the javelin. Your high-school personal best may be 25’ better than the previous year’s National Champion. You may not need to commit as much to throwing if you decide to compete down to the Division III level. The same could be said about the Division II level. It depends on your main throwing event.
Now, if you are the top ranked high-school shot-putter in the country and want to attend a Division I school, you may come in within the top 20 or 30 or 40 returning throwers in the country. You may be a little fish in a big pond, but that may be what you aspire to do. Your commitment level (time spent training for your event(s)) will probably be much higher than at the Division III level, and there may be no guarantee of ever earning an All-American award of even competing at a National Championship meet. Financially, you may need to compete at the Division I or II level because the cost of college is too much at the Division III level without the athletic scholarship portion of the package.
If you want to get a research-based perspective of the big fish in a little pond scenario or rather the little fish in a big pond, I encourage you to read the book David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell. You can purchase a copy of the book by clicking here.
5. Mentor My Dream
My thoughts on this topic may upset some people, and that is ok. This narrative is simply a way to share some ideas about the recruiting process and what it entails. But what may often be overlooked by the high-school athlete is whether the current coach and coaching staff is able to mentor their dream.
This may be the simplest idea to think about. When on a recruiting trip, do I (the athlete) believe the person(s) sitting across from me will be able to mentor my dream of; throwing farther, winning a national championship, qualifying for nationals, qualifying for the Olympic Trials, qualifying for the conference meet, etc. The questions may seem obvious to some, but not as obvious to me. From my perspective, I’d want to know other things besides will you help me throw farther. And not throw farther by 5’ in the hammer. Depending on your outlook that I’ll try to explain below, 5’ in the hammer could be a lot or not far at all.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m sure the top ranked high-school throwers in the country have their pick of which college they want to attend. If that is the case, and they have a list of five colleges that check off all the boxes before this one, this specific thrower has one last decision to make.
Some other topics that may come into play are previous athlete successes, longevity of stay at this particular college, and the number of other throwers on the current team. I hate to mention previous athlete successes, but it is worth mentioning because if I am a 200’ male high-school discus thrower, and my goal is to throw over 200’ in college, I would want to know how many other collegiate throwers my potential coach has worked with in their career that they got to throw over that distance. I understand the list is relatively short, but if the coach you are sitting across from has authored that list on a few occasions, you may be in the right place.
The same could be said with the hammer throw. If I’m a 58m female hammer thrower with a goal of throwing over 68m in college, I’d like to know how many 65m throwers my potential coach has worked with. It’s not that you as the athlete can’t be the first for the coach, but at the Division I level it may be trickier than the Division III level. I’d like to know where other athletes entered college distance wise, and how much farther did they throw after four or five years. It may be more difficult to gauge for a male thrower, but the implements remain the same weight for female throwers.
Another example we can look at is Luis Rivera. In 2016, as a senior, Luis became the first collegiate thrower I’ve coached to throw over 20m in the Weight Throw. He may not be the last, but I have yet to be asked how many athletes I’ve coached over certain distances in any throwing event by a recruit. Not to say it doesn’t ever happen at the Division III level, but the dream of some potential Division III throwers is to simply be on the team, have fun, and graduate on-time. If that is your dream, throwing at the Division I or II level may not be for you.
If you are still reading, thank you. What do you think I missed? Are there other important topics and ideas to think about when entrenched in the collegiate recruiting process? Again, I write specific to throwing because that is what I know best. From what I understand, the recruiting process for other sports looks quite different. There may be some areas that overlap, but if you are the top ranked high-school quarterback in the country, you may be thinking about other factors besides the one’s I listed above. Then again, maybe not.
As always, thanks for reading ~ Charles
Charles Infurna, Ed.D., is the owner and lead coach of Forza Athletics Track Club. Dr. Infurna has coached National Record Holders, National Champions, All-Americans, and Conference Champions at the Post-Collegiate, Collegiate, and High School level.