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 identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
When I was a little, I dreamed of being a real-life cowboy. Unfortunately, this picture is as close to becoming a cowboy as I ever came. Good thing for me, I had a supportive role model that always encouraged me to dream, just as long as I set goals to achieve my dreams. My dad always told me that if I really wanted something bad enough, I would find a way to make it happen.
Tom Hawley has a unique perspective on college recruiting. On one hand, he lived it every day as the former Provost/Vice President of Academics at Northern State University. On the other hand, he lived the college recruiting experience as the father of two recruited student-athletes. When it comes to college recruiting, there isn’t much he hasn’t seen and what he has to say might just help you make the best decision of your life!
Q: Why are student-athletes so valuable to a college/university?
A: Athletics are the “front door” to any institution of higher education, whether it is Division 1, 2, 3 or NAIA. The university relies on its athletic program for name and brand recognition and promotion among the public. Winning programs increase media attention. Therefore, successful athletic programs play a major role in the recruitment of prospective students as well as donations and gifts from alumni and friends of the university.
Q: Academically speaking, what are the most important questions a student-athlete should answer before selecting a college/university?
A: This list could be never-ending, but answering as many questions as possible will help you make a more informed decision. Here are some crucial questions to be asked:
Does the school offer the major that the student-athlete is interested in?
Does the college/university have a good academic reputation?
What is the typical class size?
Do courses generally transfer to other institutions?
What type of academic support does the university and athletic department provides its student-athletes?
In sports that require significant travel and class absences, do the university and athletic department provide tutoring and academic support on those extended road trips?
What is the athletic program’s cumulative grade point average for the past three years or during the head coach’s tenure?
What is the program’s graduation rate?
Answer these questions and you are off to a good start.
Q: Why do you think transferring schools is common among student-athletes?
A: In my opinion, student-athletes and their parents have not adequately examined the university and its athletic program before committing. As I mentioned earlier, be prepared to ask candid questions about the academic and athletic program. Typically speaking, transfer scenarios are a result of some sort of dissatisfaction that could have been resolved by a better knowledge of the situation, during the recruiting process. I can’t emphasize being informed, enough.
Q: What advice would you give any parent going through the recruiting process with their son or daughter?
A: I’d recommend sitting down with your son or daughter to discuss his/her college and athletic goals. Be realistic! How much will the parents be able to contribute to their son or daughter’s college tuition and expenses? At what level of competition do they want to play at and what level fits their abilities? What are your son/daughter’s interests? What career field interests them?
I’d also recommend that parents resist getting caught up in the excitement of the recruitment promises, and thus lose focus on importance of academics. Trust, but verify what your son or daughter is being told by the recruiter. Parents should plan to visit the institution with their son or daughter. They should also visit with the coaching staff, professors, and administration to learn as much as possible about the institution and its athletic program. If possible, talk with other parents of student-athletes in the program. Finally, trust your instincts!
Q: As a parent that experienced the recruiting process with two of your kids, what do you know now that you wish you would have known then?
A: Because I was an academic administrator and professor, I was keenly aware of how difficult it could be for student-athletes competing at the collegiate level. I strongly recommend that parents going through this experience make sure that the schools their student-athlete is interested in have the proper academic support in place. Make sure the institution is committed to helping the student-athlete graduate in a reasonable time period with the desired major. Find out what processes are in place to ensure that your student-athlete will have success in the classroom. A college degree lasts forever.