By: Andy Hutchison, Sports Editor06/16/2006
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Just because you're a high school athlete with standout statistics and a desire to go professional, it doesn't mean you've got a great chance to get recruited to play college sports. Conversely, just because you're not a Division I-caliber athlete with college coaches knocking down your door, it doesn't mean you can't get a scholarship to play a sport at the collegiate level.
These are just a couple of the points made by Holy Cross baseball coach and author Wayne Mazzoni during a recent talk to local parents and athletes. Mazzoni, author of "The Athletic Recruiting and Scholarship Guide," hosted the College Athletic Recruiting Seminar at the Fairfield Public Library to inform high school athletes and their parents on what it takes to be noticed by college coaches.
Mazzoni, a Bridgeport resident, listed eight steps, each loaded with several sub-steps, to go from high school hopeful to college recruit.
First, the prospective college athlete must narrow down his or her list of schools based on the type of college they wish to attend for academic purposes. Only 25 percent of freshman athletes play a full four years, he notes, for a number of reasons, including lack of commitment, grades, injuries and losing a roster spot to a stronger athlete.
The second step is for the student to get a realistic assessment of his or her athletic level.
"How good are you? That's the hard thing to figure out," Mazzoni told his audience.
Mazzoni suggests that athletes do everything from watch college games at varying levels - Division I, II and III - to attend camps and showcases to determine where they fit in.
He says there is a misconception that the biggest jump in high school/collegiate sports is from Division III to D-I, when in fact the biggest jump is from high school to D-III. The difference between D-III and I is far less significant and some athletes might be surprised to find out how competitive D-III teams are, he said. At the same time, he noted, they might determine that they are in fact good enough to compete at the Division I level.
Step three is for athletes to get college coaches to notice them. Sending video highlights to coaches and attending showcases are two ways to do this. Because the school year is a busy time for coaches, summer is when high school athletes should showcase their skills at camps. They can ask college coaches which ones to attend if they want to get a look from a particular school.
Statistics are not as important to coaches as seeing an athlete in action, since their performance could depend on the level of competition. In addition, stats aren't necessarily accurate, Mazzoni said. But in the case of athletes in individual sports, where track times or golf scores are recorded, for example, those numbers speak for themselves, Mazzoni said.
Call the coach
Although coaches can't initiate the recruiting process until July 1 before an athlete's senior year, "there are about 50 ways around this," Mazzoni said.
"Don't be afraid to call a coach," he told the parents, explaining that they can initiate the recruiting process even as early as their son's or daughter's freshman year. College coaches might keep files on the young athletes and track them as they get older.
The four steps in Mazzoni's process include determining which schools a student is academically eligible for, determining which school is right for a specific athlete given both athletic and academic factors, learning about scholarships and, finally, making the final decision on which school to attend.
Mazzoni advises athletes to register with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Clearinghouse after their junior year. The clearinghouse makes grades available to coaches. Each collegiate division will require certain grade point averages and SAT scores to be submitted. Information on how to submit information can be found at NCAA.org.
Once a coach shows interest in an athlete, he or she should find out if that particular school's program is suited for them. In some cases, coaches won't allow athletes taking certain majors that demand heavy study or lab time to participate on a team, Mazzoni said.
When it comes to receiving scholarships, very few colleges give full rides, Mazzoni said. If a student-athlete is recruited and given a scholarship, that may only mean he or she is given $5,000 per year to attend a school and play a sport there, for example, Mazzoni said. The NCAA restricts coaches in each sport to a limited amount of money they can spend on scholarships each year. Even athletes without financial need can receive scholarships, Mazzoni said.
Of all the high school athletes in the country, only eight percent will continue their playing careers in college. Even if an athlete is recruited, he or she will have to work hard to earn playing time.
"The days of just showing up with the cleats are almost gone. Walk-ons are heavily recruited athletes who did not receive scholarships," Mazzoni said.
D-I and II schools offer athletic scholarships, and D-III schools don't, although all schools recruit, Mazzoni said.
In the end, deciding which school to attend should be based on a multitude of things, including cost and gut reaction. In some instances, a student might be better off attending a school with a higher-level D-III team than a lower-level D-II team, he added.
"If all things are equal ... I would go for the better academic school," Mazzoni said.
For more information on athletic recruiting, visit www.showcaseathlete.com.