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Life is like a box of chocolates

You never know what you're going to get from a college. Many high school athletes expect great things. They are active in class, out of class, and in their communities. They work daily to get better at their sport. Whether it be football, basketball, soccer, or track, most want a scholarship. The reality is, not everyone gets one. Maybe you don't have the natural talent; you might just deserve a full-ride. You will get one no matter what, right? No, you probably won't. You're missing a step. The number one thing that high school athletes forget is that publicity is huge to your success.

You could very well be the fastest kid in the state, but if a coach doesn't know who you are, you're not getting anything from them. Though high school coaches may seem to be the ones to talk to, you may want to try playing for a club team as well. Most college coaches are coaching their own teams during the normal high school seasons and don't have time to come see you. That is why, most of the time, athletes are given offers off-season, when playing for a club team.

"High school coaches are usually not very involved in the recruiting process," according to Varsity Softball Coach Ron Cristian. "Club teams are made up of nearly all high quality players. On high school teams you might find one or two."

Nearly every sport has some form of a "club" team somewhere, for example, AAU with basketball or USATF for track and field. Locally, we have the USA Foothill Falcons, a track and field club team run out of Grant High. There, nationally known athletes like Shaq Thompson are working on improving their strength and speed for higher level competition.

With clubs, the level of play is also higher. With most clubs, teams recruit, and those who don't recruit already have elite athletes paying to play, so that they can get better. With more all-stars on a team, competition also becomes greater. When there's heavy competition, there is bound to be a recruiter somewhere in the crowd. Recruiters want to see high stakes and athletes who have clutch; they want athletes who make the right moves at the right times. To a coach, there is more potential in players who are willing to put in the extra off-season training.

There are organizations out there that claim they can help you get recuited, but they have issues of their own as well. The NCSA (National Collegiate Scouting Association) is the number one organization that college coaches use to find prospective athletes. They have more connections with the NCAA and more pull than any other recruiting agency in the United States, and have matched more than 10,000 high school athletes with athletic scholarships for college each year. It sounds like a great thing right? Well it is... But there's a catch. They charge a minimum of $765 to become a member, no matter what the sport. They claim that it is a good deal, that kind of money for a full ride. Sure, maybe; but not many families can afford that kind of cost, and many don't become aware of the NCSA until their senior year when it's nearly too late.

"There are benefits of these kinds of programs," according to the Athletic Director Bill Lum, "but some simply prey on people's hopes, not looking at reality."

The reality is, not everyone is capable of getting a scholarship. Only Division I and NAIA teams can offer large scholarships to athletes, (with the exception of Division II schools giving combinations of grants and small athletic scholarships) and unfortunately, not everyone is Division I or NAIA material.

High school seniors throw their money away to organizations that already know it is too late for the athlete, or that the athlete doesn't have the skills college coaches want to see, yet NCSA says nothing about it until the money is already in their hands. On top of that, NCSA does not actually give scholarships to their members, so there is no guarantee that a student who signs up will see anything at all. Yes, recruiting agencies have great programs that enable athletes to earn scholarships for sports, but it isn't something that we should have to pay for.
All in all, student-athletes who are good enough and have a certain level of self-publicity get offered money all the time. These organizations are not necessarily a must. Yes, they make it easier for some students who may not otherwise have contact with college coaches, but normally, those are the students who can barely afford it anyway.

"You can't charge students an arm and a leg for a scholarship that isn't even guaranteed," says Lum.

Be happy for the people you're helping achieve their dreams, not for the money you're getting from it. I'm not saying to stay away from the program, just be careful when and where you put your money.

The best thing an athlete can really do is to be active in the recruiting process. Call colleges. Email coaches. Be sure to get videos of yourself playing. Stay active in the recruiting process so that you show coaches you have the drive and motivation to go far. Skills and performance are huge to schools, but they also want to see dedication to a sport you love, so that they know their money is going to someone who is determined to do well. Do you think you have the skills and dedication to do it? If so, be ready for a coach to grant you that box of chocolates filled with the opportunity that will change your life.




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