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News: Athletic scholarships available if you do homework


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By Colleen Kane

August 22, 2009

This fall, visions of playing college sports will be planted in pint-sized athletes and their parents ? who have their own dreams about scholarships. Of course, in the college recruiting game, dreams run smack into reality. Consider this: Fewer than 6 percent of high school football players will go on to play college football at an NCAA institution, according toNCAA estimates. And overall, most college athletes compete outside of the Division I level, including more than 160,000 at the Division III level, where athletic scholarships aren't offered.

College athletic scholarships ? and roster spots ? aren't easy to come by. So here are a few college recruiting tips for parents and athletes of all ages.

1 Provide your child with challenging athletic opportunities early.

They can be expensive and time-consuming, but development camps, traveling teams or private instruction can prepare your child for playing at the next level, said DePaul men's soccer coach Craig Blazer. Plus, college camps often are attended by coaches and can give your child exposure.

"They need to be in an environment where they're playing the best competition the area provides," Blazer said.

Such teams and camps are available as early as elementary school but probably increase in importance as your child hits junior high. Hall of Fame baseball player Cal Ripken, Jr., who has written books on guiding young athletes, points to 14 as the age athletics "tend to take a serious tone."

2 But don't overwhelm them.

Ripken advocates allowing children to make their own athletic decisions. Forcing them into competing can lead to mental and physical burnout.

"Parents tend to want to speed up the development process," Ripken said. "They overemphasize how much their children need to practice and play. At the early levels, it's important to make it fun. They should try to deflate the pressure as much as they can because many times it's coming from them."

Iowa freshman golfer Gigi DiGrazia, a Driscoll graduate, has seen too many parents dragging their children around the golf course.

"I see parents that are so into it for their kids, but that's the wrong way to approach it," DiGrazia said. "Parents need to guide kids which way to go, not force them."

3 Seek a third-party assessment of your child's abilities so you can be realistic about the future.

Obtain an accurate idea of your child's skill level and potential. The assessment can be done as early as junior high, but remember athletes develop at different rates.

"Everybody wants their child to play basketball at Duke or football at USC," college recruiting writer Laurie Richter said. "When they realize too late in the game that their children's skills aren't at that level, all the other spots are gone."

4 The Internet is a potential college athlete's best friend.

Research universities online, check scholarship Web sites for financial ideas, send e-mails to coaches to start making connections and upload highlight videos and r?sum?s on recruiting Web sites to maximize the Internet's power.

"There are a lot of great Web sites that don't cost anything," Richter said.

5 If your child isn't academically eligible, athletics won't matter.

Read up on academic requirements even before high school so your child completes the necessary courses to attend the selected school.

"The best players fit into our program financially, athletically and academically," Blazer said. "On our team, they're not necessarily the 30 best soccer players but the 30 best student-athletes."

6 Keep an open mind about schools ? most collegiate athletes participate outside of the Division I level.

In 2007-2008, more than 60 percent of NCAA athletes competed at the Division II and IIIlevels. And that doesn't include the teams from nearly 300 NAIA schools, most of which give athletic scholarships.

"The mistake athletes make is that they only target Division I, big-name schools," said Lisa Strasman, of Chicago-based National Collegiate Scouting Association. "They don't realize all of the opportunities that are out there."

Strasman said the NCSA advises athletes to target up to 200 schools originally and that they can expect about a 10 percent return rate on interested schools.

7 Prepare to put in a lot of time and effort to promote your athlete.

DiGrazia called the process of sifting through college mail "grueling".

"It's a lot of work," DiGrazia said. "People think, 'Oh, you're a scholarship athlete; it must all come so easily.' But it didn't. Be ready to work because if you want to play at the next level."

8 Remember the recruiting process is different for every sport and every athlete.

Athletes in non-revenue sports (not football and basketball) will probably have to work harder to be recruited.

"Recruiting budgets differ across the board," Strasman said. "You can't expect the recruiting process to unfold like you see on TV and in the movies. A mistake many students make is that they expect coaches to come knocking on their doors."

Start e-mailing schools and teams that interest you early in high school. Have friends and family take video for a highlight reel to send to coaches. And create an online profile that includes your r?sum? and game film for a place to direct coaches.


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