As A Student-Athlete, What Else Should I Be Doing?
It's not enough to just be a good student and successful athlete. You must do more by getting involved outside of the classroom and off the field. Volunteering your time and making a positive contribution to your community is both crucial in your college application process and in your growth as a person. It's not hard to be selfless and kind. There are so many local organizations seeking volunteers, namely student-athletes, to assist their cause.
Special Needs and Anti-Bullying are two groups woven into the fabric of high school culture & society. Start by asking adminstrators at your school or simply do a web search to find names and opportunities. Special Needs examples in the New York area include the Unified Program (an affiliate of Special Olympics) and the Miracle League of Westchester.
Mallory's Army - an anti-bullying organization based out of New Jersey - offers inspiring ways for students to make a real difference through kindness in everyday life. These organizations, and many more like them, are available in every state in the country.
Bullying has become a very real and tragic epidemic in our society. Through social media and smart phones, it continues to worsen and MUST be stopped. As a student-athlete, you have a social responsibilty to be part of the solution to this challenging issue and not part of the problem. That starts now.
How Good Are You? Because Talent Plays...
Too often, athletes and parents don't know their "skill level" and find themselves at a school too advanced for their ability. This leads to the player not making the team and sometimes, at a school they no longer want to attend. That's why PERFECT PLAYCEMENT suggests first focusing on non-playing factors that go into a college decision.
Your goal should be to find the perfect college where you gain a great education, experience AND then maybe have the opportunity to play. In the end, a player's talent will almost always determine if they earn a roster spot - so it's important to honestly self-assess your athletic ability so YOU can find that right college and proper program.
Who Is Playing Division I?
The percentage of high school athletes who earn a spot on a Men's or Women's Division I team is less than 3% for Football, Water Polo, Field Hockey, Lacrosse, Golf, Swimming, Track, Soccer and Cross Country. It's less than 2% for Baseball, Softball, Tennis, & Softball. Less than 1% of those athletes make the Basketball, Wrestling and Volleyball team. Hockey has the highest percentage of high school to Division I players at less than 5%. Those percentages reflect just making the team - NOT receiving scholarship money. Those statistics are even lower.
Lets take baseball & softball, for example. There are about 130,000 high school seniors who play baseball and 91,000 seniors who play softball in the US. Roughly 9,800 become college freshman baseball players and 5,500 become college freshman softball players at the Division I, II, III and NAIA levels COMBINED, most of whom are NON-SCHOLARSHIP.
Thus, about 7.5% of baseball and 6% of softball players make their college team and earn a uniform, meaning 92.5% of baseball and 94% of softball players either DO NOT MAKE their college program or even try out! The ability to simply make the team as a non-scholarship player is truly a remarkable accomplishment!
ONLY about 0.6% of baseball and 0.9% of softball earn some portion of a Division I scholarship. Approximately 0.8% of baseball and 1% of softball earn some amount of a Division II or NAIA scholarship.
Talent plays...and the scholarship program coaches know who is out there despite countless "recruiting showcases". Be prepared to be realistic - especially about the highly unlikely chances of obtaining an athletic scholarship - and focus on finding the right college first and then explore the chance to make their team.
What Might A College Coach Ask When You Visit Their Campus?
Because the focus is student-athlete, not just athlete, a lot of programs might ask questions involving your interests on and off the field. Be prepared.
EXAMPLES INCLUDE: What are your favorite subjects? What might you want to study in college? What are your interests outside of the sport and academics? What type of people do you want to meet in college? What do you see yourself doing after you graduate college? What do you like most about the sport? Why is playing in college important to you? What position do you see yourself playing in college? What do you do best on the field? What aspect of your game needs improvement? Do you want to coach after college? How could you make our team better when not on the field?
What Should YOU Be Asking A Coach On Your Campus Visit?
Remember, it's a buyer's market. Your college decision should include factors far beyond the sport and ultimately, you can go anywhere you get accepted! So, be sure you are asking the right questions too, especially since it's your future and your investment.
ATHLETIC QUESTIONS: When do Fall / Winter / Spring practices start? How many games do you play each season? What does your season consist of? Do you have a strength & conditioning coach? Do you have indoor or additional facilities? Are the facilities available to players outside of practice time? How many returning players are at my position? How many players are you recruiting from my position? How would you see me fitting into your program? What is the off-season training program like? Do you go on a destination trip to play? Is it realistic that I could see playing time as a freshman? How many hours per day on average do you practice? What time do you practice? How many players are on your roster? Do you run camps in the summer? Can I stay and work those camps?
ACADEMIC, FINANCIAL & GENERAL COLLEGE QUESTIONS: Do you offer academic advisors for athletes? Do you have an organized study hall for players? Are tutors available and if so, provided at no fee? Will an academic advisor monitor my progress each semester? Does your staff help set my academic semester schedule? How much does one year of education cost (tuition, room, board, books & fees)? Could I qualify for any academic, merit or leadership grants or scholarships? Do you allow your athletes to pursue work-study programs to off-set costs? How much class time is missed due to travel or road games? How would you describe the campus life? Do most athletes live on or off campus? Do most athletes live together? What is your opinion on intership programs, including during the season?
What Should You Bring On Your Campus And Coaching Staff Visit?
Having a copy of your unofficial transcript (with fall classes) and SAT/ACT scores on hand is always worthwhile. You might not need to share it but it's useful to have ready. In some cases, a coach may ask you to send it prior to the visit. Again, at the Division II, III and NAIA level, the focus is student-athlete. The key word being student.
Where & How Are You Financially Investing In Your College Quest?
I see and hear of so many families chasing this "white whale" called an athletic scholarship - spending thousands to even tens of thousands of dollars over a 3 to 5 year period on showcase events & elite tournaments, private lessons & club programs, travel costs including lodging, fuel, meals & flights and so much more. The amount of money "invested" with the hopes to "play" in college almost never results in an athletic scholarship. Check the stats. It's true.
In fact, families could've spent a considerable amount less over that time and probably would be in the exact same situation when facing the possibility of "playing" in college...and maybe used that money to offset the high cost of tuition and board. Nevertheless, for those in that position, what's done is done. However, everyone should consider this...
Instead of your money going toward the next fruitless "on-field" investment as detailed above, how about directing those funds toward something academic based - like a tutor for a subject or an SAT/ACT prep course. It's fair to say that many families spend $10,000 over a five-year span with "on-field" based investments. By taking just 10% of that - a "mere" $1,000 - and putting it toward improving a GPA or board score - could result in thousands of dollars in an academic scholarship! Side note - that academic investment may also become the difference between being accepted into the school of your choice or being denied.
Then, there's getting involved with something that costs NOTHING to invest in. Volunteer! Round out your student-athlete profile by showing that there's more to you than just playing on the field and achieving in the classroom. Many colleges now want to see "what else you do" and will examine that carefully. Volunteering with community organizations is a great way to both be involved in helping others AND increase the chances of qualifying for a merit scholarship! I personally think highly of student-athletes getting involved with special needs children or anti-bullying groups. Those organizations are often available locally and among their peers. Some are even athletic based!
At the end of the day, 10 dimes and a $1 bill have the same value. If you were DI scholarship material, you'd know it...because those schools would be coming directly to you with offers. If a college is going to offer your family an academic scholarship to attend their DII or DIII school, are you really so "better than" that? So vain, regal or self-absorbed in your perceived "ablility" to snub it because it's not "athletic" based. Unfortunately, too many familes are.
Remember, in the end, it's always the student who suffers. Please be aware of that. It's truly a shame because over 95% of high school athletes will NOT get an athletic scholarship. It's hard enough just to make the DII, DIII and NAIA team.
The Difference In Collegiate Classifications - Division I vs. II, III and NAIA?
There seems to be a "stigma" in athletics between Division I and everything else. From an early age, many athletes are motivated by a "Division I Scholarship" - thinking anything short of that is a virtual failure.
The truth is, aside from some "free money" (by the way most Division I programs do not offer full scholarships to each player), the other Divisions are just as competitive on the field and offer a very similar collegiate playing experience. A large majority of college athletes are made up of D II, III and NAIA players. Granted, most of these players are there for an education first, but participating on a team can make the college experience more rewarding while creating lifelong work ethics, lessons and friendships.
You will need to be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center to compete at an NCAA Division I or II school. It is also best to create a profile page if you plan to compete at a Division III school or are not sure where you want to compete. There is an $80 fee for Division I & II and no charge for Divison III. The student-athlete certification registration can be found on the right side of the page at...
Click through the various tabs to find more useful information, rules and regulations on your desired Division.
Do I Need A Video?
Most colleges will want to see video of you at some point, namely because it's challenging for coaches to see you play live. If they do, it might only be once. HOWEVER, in today's technology and with most parents having video recording and editing capability on their phone or device, a fancy, high-tech and expensive video really isn't necessary.
Programs like to see footage from a game, which is always preferred, and/or practice. Best to keep it simple - as it only needs to be 3 to 5 minutes focused on the player - and should include all elements of the sport. Shoot actual in-game footage but also focus on practice drills capturing the fundamentals from multiple angles. That material can easily be emailed to a coach. And, your goal should be connecting with that coach after you've decided that you are actually interested their school.
So once you do, ASK THE COACH what they'd like to see on the video. No need to guess here. Give them exactly what they want. Various coaches may ask to see different things.
What If I Don't Make The Team?
Well, I hate to say it, but there's a pretty good chance that you won't make the team. Based on the sheer statistical numbers of how many players there are and how many spots are open for freshman, not to mention the enormous athletic level jump of playing against 17-year-old kids to 21-year-old adults, students need to recognize the possibility of not making the team.
This is where ensuring picking the perfect college - not just the athletic program - is truly paramount for every athlete.
Sometimes not making the team could be from factors outside of your control...like injuries, roster needs, coaching staff changes or simply, a poor tryout performance. Too many families don't appreciate that the ability to just make the team as a non-scholarship player is very hard and truly a remarkable accompishment!
Realistically, how many spots are there each year for freshman on any college team? Regardless of sport, maybe a handful. And yet, there are dozens of really talented players trying out. Furthermore, how many of those freshman actually see considerable playing time as a FRESHMAN?
Overall, the answer is very few. So, should a player NOT make the team but still really wants to be a part of the team in some capacity, volunteer to make yourself available to the program! Coaches are always overworked and often understaffed - so they usually love and welcome passionate volunteers!
Whether it's team manager, a statistical researcher or administrative assistant, there's very likely an opportunity for you to be a PART OF the college team. Then, less than a year later, you could always try out again...after being a valued member of the team.
Importance of Student Life & Athlete Balance
We've all heard the stories of the college freshman away from home for the first time, no longer under the roof of Mom or Dad, and immediately going from 0 to 60 in no time!
After four high school years of a regimented schedule, where you could pinpoint when and where you always had to be, college offers a freedom to do what you want and when you want to. For some students, that frankly leads to failure. The allure of not going to class, eating pizza all day and night, playing video games at will and the chance to socialize non-stop can be dangerous for those students.
Having the opportunity to keep playing the sport, which required so much dedication and commitment in high school, can help create a healthy balance in a college athlete's life. Their responsibility to the team AND the demand to remain in good academic standing can create positive structure for young adults challenged with being on their own for the first time.
Not A Player? Not A Problem!
Students interested in working in sports for a living is at an all-time high. That career path begins in college by volunteering with the sports program...any program! It doesn't have to be "your favorite" sport. Coaches are always overworked and often understaffed - so they typically love and welcome passionate volunteers.
The opportunity to gain work experience as team manager, in athletic adminstration, statistical research, athletic training, print journalism, sports marketing, broadcasting and more is the building block necessary to one day obtain an internship or even job in the sports industry!
To schedule speaker Mark Leinweaver at your school or organization, a flat fee of $1,500 features his 60-minute presentation and includes any travel or lodging costs. $250 of his speaking fee is donated back to special needs and anti-bullying charities. The presentation is void of any commercial or promotional endorsement.