I’ve been asked a multitude of times, by friends, relatives, even strangers, what can I do to make my kid stand out? How can he/she get recognized? Should I send him/her to this camp where hundreds of coaches will be in attendance? Should he/she play on this super expensive club team, because the coach says it’s the only way they will receive a scholarship? To that I would say please read on.

This blog is meant to help educate parents who have an athletically gifted child who is looking to further their athletic career into the collegiate level. I have personal experience both as an athlete, and as a coach. Let me first tell you how college athletics work.

The National Colligate Athletic Association, or NCAA, is made up of three levels. Division, I, II, and III. At the division I and II levels there are certain amounts of athletic scholarships that an institution is awarded based upon NCAA requirements. Of course each institution is different and may have less scholarship money to offer based upon their own individual conditions. But there is a standard set by the NCAA that each individual sport will not exceed their regulations.

At the division III level there are no athletic scholarships available. There may be many other options, such as academic scholarships, or grants, but athletic money is nonexistent.

The NJCAA, which stands for National Junior College Athletic Association. Has three levels as well; division I, II, and III. And the same holds true for athletic scholarships. Division I, and II have them available and III does not.

Each university’s athletic website is supplied with the NCAA or NJCAA moniker. You may visit: www.ncaa.com/schools, which will give you a list of all the schools and their levels recognized by the NCAA. The same holds true for the NJCAA. Please visit www.njcaa.org and move your cursor over the sports icon to see which school applies to your child.

Getting Noticed

Now let’s talk about your child and how they can make an impact on a perspective coach. The biggest mistake I’ve seen is parents buying into the lie that they need to pay thousands of dollars to companies for their child to be recognized. Hogwash! Companies prey on individuals who think this is the only way their child is going to get recognition. Is there a benefit, sure, but in the long run, it is unlikely to pay off.

I played baseball at the NJCAA division I level, and at the NCAA division II level. I coached at the NCAA division II, and III levels and the best way to gain notoriety is MARKET YOURSELF. If your child is interested in a school and the coach has yet to reach out, call the head coach, not the assistant, not the recruiting coordinator, THE HEAD COACH. Let him know who you are. Where you’re from, why you’re interested, and what you can bring to the program. If you have an athletic highlight DVD, send it as a follow up. Will he refer you to one of his assistants, maybe, but you’ve made an impression. He knows who you are. You are more than just a piece of advertising paper that passes through his desk going unnoticed.

Many Universities have prospect camps. It is advantageous for your son/daughter to attend these camps if you are interested in that University. It’s another way for that specific college coaching staff to see the athlete perform against competition away from their athletic season.

I’ve personally attended prospect camps put on by outside services as a coach. For the most part they are a complete waste of time and money. However there are few, and I mean few where it would be worth your while. What I would personally do, if I were a parent of a participating athlete, is contact the outside service and ask for a list of the participating coaches and scouts. If they cannot provide you with one, it may be a tell-tale sign of the impending doom.

When it comes to club teams I have limited experience. And I can only comment on the experience I have through Baseball. Other sports where club teams are the norm, this does not apply. But if you ever have a coach tell you or your child that they will only receive a scholarship if they play on their club team, walk away. It is not worth your time, effort, or the amount of disgruntled behavior you are likely to encounter amongst parents and/or athletes.

 NJCAA vs. NCAA

 NJCAA Positives:

I can tell you from first-hand knowledge the junior college experience is much different than the NCAA experience. Most JC’s are set in small town settings and instill an, “us against the world” mentality amongst teammates. The tight family bond you make with your teammates is hard to duplicate. The team is generally made up of all sorts of different races, creeds, and colors. Providing an eye opening view into many different cultural backgrounds.

Cost of tuition is usually cheaper and there is no minimum requirement on high school GPA. However some schools may have placement tests that a student needs to take before signing up for classes. The opportunity is there to receive your associate degree and get all general studies out of the way. Which is nice for a young person who does not know what they want to do with the rest of their life, and at that age, who does? There aren’t as many regulations when it comes to practice time, thus allowing your child to continue to improve the more they practice. Your child is also eligible to be drafted (baseball) after the freshman, and sophomore years, which is not the case with the NCAA. If your child does not get drafted into professional baseball, they have the opportunity to play at the NCAA level and still have two years of eligibility remaining.

NCAA Positives:

The biggest advantage of coming into a NCAA program as a freshman is having an opportunity to develop under the head coach’s tutelage from the start. Most coaches have different coaching philosophies and starting out as a freshman will give your athlete that understanding from the beginning. The size of the schools can range from very small to very large depending on what your child is most comfortable with. Most NCAA institutions will have a number of extracurricular activities that your child could get involved in.

If your child knows exactly what they want to study, they could take classes geared towards their specific major. Depending on the size of the school they could develop many friends away from their sport, and at the higher level programs the facilities tend to be world class.

Either of these two options are perfect for the right athlete. I cannot stress enough, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. The last thing you want as a parent is for your kid to have a bad experience.

Of course this is just my opinion on the subject. There are many things I may have left out, but this is what I feel is pertinent to you when making the right college decision alongside your son/daughter. There is also another athletic association that I neglected to talk about and that is the NAIA. The reason for this is because I am not aware of their rules/regulations and cannot comment on something I am not familiar with. If you would like more information please visit their website. www.naia.org.

I would also advise you look over the NCAA requirements regarding your child’s academics. There is a certain GPA and test score that they will need to obtain to be eligible for a NCAA institution.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you have any questions on the subject please feel free to contact me. Thank you and God Bless.