Athletes need champions to help them find the right college

There is still so much misinformation out there I feel compelled to address the issue of athletic recruiting once again. As a parent of a college athlete and a college counselor I have experienced different roles in this process. I want to impress upon student athletes the need to be their own advocates and to find a champion – someone who will partner with them and help them through this ever increasing complex process of college admissions.

A “champion” is defined as a “person who fights or argues for a cause or on behalf of someone else.” This person may also serve as the necessary “reality check”, a role sometimes absent in the student’s quest for glory on the athletic field. I cannot reinforce enough that in the term “student athlete”, the word student remains and should always remain first in the equation. How heartbreaking it is for an athlete who suffers an injury and cannot play to only then realize the school s/he attends is no longer a good fit.

The importance of being proactive, a term which is frankly not usually in a teenager’s vocabulary, nor mindset, is key in this process. That’s where a champion fits in. Actually, there is nothing wrong with having a team of champions in your arsenal – parents, coaches, school counselor, etc. However, at least one of these needs to be objective and unemotional, and as such, provide a heavy dose of realism at times. This role is frequently played by the school counselor, someone who realizes that admission to the college or university comes way before becoming a member of the team.

Though college coaches at some schools will work with admissions on securing a player, it is always ultimately an admissions decision whether an athlete gets an offer and there is too much at stake for coaches to ignore the academic ability of their players. After all, who is being served if an athlete has to drop out because he/she is unable to handle the rigor of the academic program?

Just like a good athletic coach, a student athlete can benefit from having someone partner with them in this all important quest to find the right institution where they will flourish both on the field and in the classroom.

Student Athlete Reminders:
• Start Early! Depending on the sport, your junior year may even be too late
• Actively Communicate with Coaches – Let them know you are interested in their school/program
• Visit Campuses, ask questions, observe teams in action
• Stay on top of deadlines
• Just like you need to be competitive on the field, transfer those skills to your quest for the right school program
• Find a Champion to support you through this process!

By Penny Deck, M.Ed., CEP is a College Counselor at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School