Rising above temporary setbacks in the college search for athletes

Rising above temporary setbacks in the college search for athletes

By Tom Kovic

The college recruiting process can be a daunting effort if it is not well planned and executed with organization and enthusiasm from start to finish. In addition, one’s mental approach to the college search, especially when checkered with roadblocks, can make the difference between a fair and a great experience. What follows is a “snapshot” on how prospects and families can proactively prepare for and effectively deal with personal setbacks that will undoubtedly surface along the way.

College recruiting roadblocks come in different shapes and sizes. Whether it is direct communication from Coach to inform you his athletic scholarships have been exhausted, or a difficult phone call to inform you that you just don’t have what it takes to impact his team, a good college coach will be honest and forthcoming with prospects and families.

If you happen to be that blue chip athlete that most coaches have high on the radar, your recruiting effort will likely have fewer barriers. Conversely, if you are the prospect who sits in the “mid-pack” of athletes where recruiting is brutally competitive’ you will need to prepare better and more effectively to rise above the rest.

As a college advisor for athletes I use a number of exercises to help my families organize for the best and prepare for the worst. Presenting yourself as a worthy candidate needs to be at the top of the list and this can be done in many ways. Whether it is by developing an easy to read personal profile, streaming an eye catching highlight clip, or by cultivating a solid relationship with a college coach through regular communication, the manner in which you present yourself will determine the level of “grip” your recruiting effort will have.

Develop Thick Skin

OK. You have brilliantly crafted your recruiting plan and you are regularly providing the coaches with academic, athletic and personal updates and you have made an unofficial visit to campus. You are feeling confident about the effort you have made and you’re confident it will have some impact. Unfortunately, this is 50% of the battle and the next question is simply…How does Coach view me?

There are going to be some tough questions you will eventually present college coaches, especially when it comes to roster availability, admissions support and scholarship availability. Before you jump in, I suggest you firstly develop some “tough skin.” Compare the recruiting process to a job interview and I think you’ll see my point. If you have lined up 10 job interviews and they all go brilliantly, do you think you will receive 10 offers? Similar to the company’s you will eventually interview with, the college coaches are looking for specific candidates to fit specific roles.

If a college coach has to communicate bad news to a prospect, it is not because you have a character flaw and you should never take bad news personally. Considering the volume of recruits that coaches are cultivating, they need to develop a filtering system that will help them trim down their list to a more manageable grouping. A good college coach will be upfront with families and offer truthful and honest information from start to finish.

Letting go and moving forward

If and when you receive that phone call from Coach explaining politely that you will no longer be part of the active list of recruits, you have to be able to accept it, let go and move forward. There is no doubt that this can be a hurtful moment, but the prospect that has the ability to “take it,” saddle up and get back “in the moment,” will have a greater chance in grabbing that brass ring.

Where one family may see a negative experience as devastating; another family will see it as an opportunity. One prospect might break down from bad news, while another athlete will rise up, a little tougher, with a little more drive and determination to move on.

For most prospects and families, the college search will not be a straight line, nor will it be a downhill run in finding that right college match. In some cases, it will be a struggle and in that struggle will be intangible life lessons to be learned, hurdles to cross, but in the end, and with a proper and realistic approach, the right match is out there and waiting for you to snatch.

Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting (www.victoryrecruiting.com), where he provides advisement and counseling for prospective student-athletes and families in preparing for the college search.

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