Norfolk Academy is blessed with a tradition of excellence both in the classroom and on the field. While all of our graduates continue their academic careers in college, many have continued their athletic careers at the collegiate level as well. Perhaps you are considering extending your athletic career at the next level. If so, it will benefit you to learn as much as possible about the recruiting process. Additionally, you can also benefit from learning about some of the “pitfalls” that can occur and determine some methods to avoid them.
For our third installment of Coach’s Corner, I have listed the last four of the “pitfalls” to the recruiting process. These four pitfalls involve aspects of playing time, walk-on status and the importance of keeping a broad college search.
9) I’ll Make the College Team as a Walk-On.
If you only receive lukewarm interest from coaches, but you really want to compete in college, you can try making the team as a “walk-on.” This means you try to prove yourself to the coaching staff in pre-season tryouts. However, understand that it may be difficult to make the team as a non-recruited athlete. Your odds of success are not high. Most walk on roster spots see little to no playing time in their four years and are often replaced by recruited athletes. Every now and then a coach may find a “diamond in the rough” that has gone unnoticed. For the most part, however, a coach knows exactly which athletes will comprise his squad before the open tryout even begins. You want to match your actual skill level to the competitive skill level of the schools where you apply.
LESSON LEARNED: As a walk on, even if you make the team, you may have a slim chance of ever competing. You may want to search harder for a college where you can find quality playing time and you feel “wanted” by the coaches.
10) I’d be Happy Just to Make the Team.
Always set high goals for yourself. Athletes who have the best college experience are the ones who get the chance to compete on a regular basis. Staying at home while the team travels to an away game is no fun unless you have the potential to work your way into a more competitive role within a short period of time. You have to ask yourself: would you rather be the big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?
LESSON LEARNED: Find a team where you can contribute and have a realistic chance to compete and have an impact on the success of the program.
11) Small Colleges Have Weak Teams.
Most athletes believe the misconception that Division 1 is the only way to go and that all other college divisions are inferior. Don’t fall into this trap! If you do, you will eliminate hundreds of fantastic schools that need a student-athlete just like you. Keep your options open. So many of our Norfolk Academy graduates have gone on to play at top level Division 3 schools such as Hampden Sydney, Washington and Lee, Dickinson, Haverford, Lynchburg, Randolph Macon, Williams, and many more.
LESSON LEARNED: Surprisingly, many D-II and D-III teams stack up well against D-I schools. Having a positive impact on a team’s success and enjoying your experience is far more important than simply telling your family and friends that you play D1.
12) I’m Only Applying to My First-Choice School.
“It’s the only place I want to attend!” Even if your heart is set on attending one particular school and the coach has expressed interest in you, you should still promote yourself to other schools. You never know how this process may change over time. You may get the carpet pulled out from under you.
LESSON LEARNED: It is best to have lots of options so that you do not limit yourself. Those options should include an array of athletic levels from Division I to Division III. Additionally, if the coach at your top choice school knows that you have other quality options, more pressure will be put on that coach to get you committed earlier.
I hope that exploring these four “pitfalls” encourages you to keep a broad athletic college search. Being on a varsity collegiate team is an awesome opportunity. And it is certainly a better experience when you are significantly contributing to your team’s success in competitions. Finding the right “athletic match” is just as important as finding the right “academic and social match” in college. Be diligent in your research. Talk to Norfolk Academy coaches and athletic alumni to get a sense of how similar athletes have done at D1 or D3 schools in your sport.
If you are a current Junior looking to play in college, this spring and summer is critical. Now is the time to finalize your summer plans. I know summer is a busy time. Many of you are taking on academic commitments, taking on a job, working an internship, studying for standardized tests, training hard in the weightroom and hopefully getting some rest and relaxation. On top of all that, it is critical that you are visiting college campuses, communicating with college coaches and giving those coaches every opportunity to evaluate you athletically.
Thank you for taking the time to look at the top twelve “pitfalls” in the recruiting process. I hope these posts will make your experience in the recruiting process as smooth as possible.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your athletic recruiting process feel free to reach out to me.
Go ‘Dogs. Win The Day.
Coach Monninger, College Counseling Coordinator for Student-Athletes