Questions to Ask Before Beginning the Athletic Recruiting Process


Questions to Ask Before Beginning the Athletic Recruiting Process

Thinking of playing sports in college? Before you being the time-consuming athletic recruiting process, it is extremely important to ask yourself two basic questions.

Question #1: Is competing at the college level a realistic goal?

In order to determine the answer to this question, you want to assess your athletic ability.

First, seek out the opinion of you high school or club coach. They tend to be the best resource for giving you a sense of your chances of getting recruited. You can also ask your athletic director how many athletes from your school or your conference have gone on to play at the college level in the last five years or so. 

Next, explore college athletic websites. Choose some schools at the DI, DII, and DIII level and look at the background of the athletes on the rosters. If everyone on the team is at an all-state or all-american level, for example, that gives you an idea of where you would need to be. For some sports, the size and weight of the players will also give you an idea of how realistic a chance you have of competing at the next level. And if you compete in a timed sport like swimming or track, you can directly compare your times with the athletes on the college roster.

As you assess your ability, it is important to be realistic. I don’t want to be discouraging, but the truth is that the vast majority of high school varsity athletes do not compete in college. There are simply not enough roster spots. To give you an idea of how competitive college athletics can be, consider the fact that there are over 35,000 high schools in the United States, but less than 5,000 total freshman roster spots for college basketball players. And that 5,000 number includes all three divisions, not just Division I. Even for a large team sport like football, there are less than 20,000 total college roster spots available to freshmen. So even if you are one of the more talented seniors on your high school team, it is not necessarily a guarantee that there will be a spot in college for you.

Among senior female soccer players, for example only 7.1% go on to play in college. And again, that number includes all three divisions. For men, the number is even lower, at 5.5%. Below are some more probabilities: 

In fact, for the majority of sports, the percentage is under 10% (For those of you wondering, the two sports with the highest percentage of seniors who go on to compete in college are lacrosse and ice hockey). You can check out probabilities for every sport on the NCAA website.

Question 2: Do I truly have the desire to play in college?

Between practices, conditioning, and travel, college sports demand a tremendous time commitment, especially at the DI level. One coach I talked to even compared it to having a full time job. So the first thing you want to ask yourself is how much you actually enjoy your sport, and whether you would be happy devoting tons of time to it.

College sports are a big time commitment

Next, ask yourself if you would be happy playing even if you were not the star of the team. If you are considering college athletics, there’s a good chance you are one of the best athletes on your high school team. When you go to college, however, it’s likely you will no longer be the king of the hill. You may have to wait to even get significant playing time. Think about whether or not you could handle this transition.

Finally, ask yourself if you are willing to miss social or other extracurricular activities in order to compete athletically. Participating in college sports has a lot of potential benefits: camaraderie, the potential for scholarships, and renown and status. However, there is typically a tradeoff. As a college athlete, you might miss out on certain experiences and opportunities. For example, you may have less time for clubs, internships, hobbies, or social events (certain time consuming majors--such as engineering--may also be more of a challenge). You should think about whether you would be ok with this before you begin the recruiting process.

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