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How Can High School Athletes Become College Athletes?

By Brian Cook Director of Avalon Athlete Recruits

When children are born, we used to just hope they were healthy. Back then, our greatest challenge was to pick a name—hopefully one that was meaningful and not too embarrassing like Moon Unit or Dweezil. In today’s more competitive academic and social environment, we immediately begin to think about the right pre-school, the proper play group, mommy-and-me music lessons, and what sport will our newborn play in college. “Look at his hands. He’s going to be a big one.” We parse out college dreams based on size, strength, hand-eye coordination, and speed. Long before babies learn to say momma or dada, they may want to call a time out.

As parents, our claims of being “well intentioned” sometimes fixate on our own journeys filled with what “could have beens” or “should have beens.” We remember not getting picked when they choose up sides for flag football or being passed over as a college recruit. We vow to never let that happen to our kids and start taking steps to avoid these possibilities before they can manifest.

One challenge has to do with where we live. Is everyone in our town playing lacrosse at age five, or are they in French Immersion pre-schools? Is this a soccer town or hockey town? Do they have to have skating lessons before they can chew solid food, join a travel team before they can walk, and employ a strength coach before they can lift the family cat? Is sports ability endowed at birth, or can recruited college athletes be molded by their environment? If the latter, how do I know which pathway to choose? What if I invest in basketball and they top out at 5’6”? Should I invest in soccer lessons since it teaches them footspeed, teamwork, passing, and shooting? What about golf or tennis, sports they can play when they are older for recreation, business, or better health. All these questions leave one wondering: does anyone participate in sports for fun anymore? The answer to that question is a resounding, “yes and no.”

I would argue that just because students participate in sports as a competitive activity or to help them get into college does not exclude the fact that sports can also be enjoyable. I would even go a step further and say that only if an activity is enjoyable will a pre-teen or teenager pursue it to the degree that is necessary to be a potential recruited athlete. It is true that almost every college and university has an athletic program, and that those athletic programs require participants to fill their rosters. For many schools, there is a huge investment in facilities, equipment and coaches that must be funded. Furthermore, coaches’ careers may rely on the success of their teams. For schools with serious sports programs, admission departments and athletic departments have a shared mission: admit student athletes that will help our team be more successful. This mission defines the mysterious, ubiquitous world of athletic recruiting. Each year, 20% to 25% of college admission spots go to student athletes. At highly competitive colleges, even athletes need a compelling academic profile, but it is their ability to dunk the basketball, put a puck in the net, propel a boat through the water, catch a ball over their shoulder, sink a 45 foot putt, run a 4.3 forty, or throw a baseball 95 miles an hour that will ultimately determine if and where they will go to college on an athletic scholarship.

Which brings us to the main point of this article: How do you cap off a successful high school sports record with success in college admission? There are two aspects to this question: athletic and academic. Athletically, you may need to step out of bounds on occasion in order to be seen. You can’t just sit idly by on the sideline and expect to be noticed. You also need to know the rules, and not be afraid to ask for a favor or two from the right people in the right way. On the academic side, there are 20 factors to be considered – everything from GPA and rigor to character and activities. When you put these things together you have a relatively daunting process that must be managed flawlessly in order to have an appropriate outcome. Given the investment in time and money that has been put into each student athlete by the time he is midway through high school, it makes sense to get some help from an athletic recruiting professional to them successfully navigate their way through the homestretch.

About the Author

Brian Cook is the director of Avalon Athlete Recruits, a division of Avalon Admission, Inc. He is a former professor of sports law, sports attorney, and sports agent who has represented more than 100 NCAA college students, Olympians, and professional athletes.