Finally, take the time to visit as many college campuses as you can. Weekends, winter and spring breaks, and summer vacations provide plenty of opportunity for this. These visits will help you familiarize yourself with the characteristics of those schools and provide you with more insight into quality of facilities, academic programs, and a sense of whether this place will be “home away from home” for a 4- to 5-year period of time.
Middle game (Recruiting & Negotiations)
The Middle Game is replete with “action and response”, where the players hone their strategies and focus intently on their opponent’s previous moves. Although it is flattering to receive “Letters of Interest” from collegiate institutions, it is important to understand that you are only one of many student-athletes being recruited in the same fashion.
Find the school that fits you socially, academically, financially, and athletically. By doing this you will avoid compromising your position in the game. When negotiating, the recruiter may be willing to sacrifice the pawn in search of a greater piece. This may be a well-orchestrated trap for the student-athlete who may view this as a strong first offer, but insignificant to the total game.
For example, I am working with “Henry”, a student-athlete who has given a “verbal commitment” to a program that is widely recognized as the best in their sport. Even though Henry’s parent’s income is well below financial need, the institution feels he can contribute two times what his parents’ annual income is to pay for college. Henry is a legitimate blue-chip player who has had full-ride offers presented to him. Unfortunately for Henry, I feel he sacrificed too much too soon, and has placed himself in a “Check” position -- a difficult spot, but not entirely insurmountable. Henry must now reassess his position in the game and make some well-focused moves.Have you checked your scholarship matches recently? See them now.
The endgame (Best Education for the Least Amount of Money)
The landscape of college recruiting has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. With IM, text messaging, Facebook and MySpace accounts, college recruiters have a number of ways to locate and dialogue with the student-athlete. That is why it becomes vital for the student-athlete to know their position in the game.
Educate yourself to the timeframe of recruiting. Go to NCAA.org and follow this clickthrough sequence to locate the NCAA Recruiting Chart: Legislation & Governance; Eligibility & Recruiting; Recruiting; Recruiting Calendars; Recruiting Overview Chart. Print the calendar and save it for future reference.
I recently read an article on a Boise State football player who wanted to be a veterinarian after graduation, but found that he had taken a program of studies that basically wasted a free $150,000 education on a worthless degree due to poor academic advisement. Don’t be afraid to ask the recruiter questions in this process and do not take anything for granted. Ask the players on the team and students on the campus. Take plenty of notes and remember that this chess game of college recruiting is a business.
Confident game players can strategize their next step for the potential game-winning move. A first-rate opening, check. A superior Middle Game, check. An unparalleled End Game, check mate!
“Control the process; don’t let the process control you!”
Richard Pound is a consultant and author of Packaging Academics with Athletics