Thursday, April 20, 2017
Friday, April 7, 2017
(Here's something I wrote several years ago when my friend Rick Hurst was publishing newsletters for high school athletes and parents in Michigan. I have since then sent it out occasionally to parents who want my advice about college athletic scholarships.)
Many high school athletes, and some of their parents too, dream of the day
they receive a full scholarship to play their sport at a major college. However, it is not that simple and for a variety of reasons it is something a handful of high school athletes get to experience. The amount of real DI scholarships is limited, and those that do receive them are a small group of very talented young men and women.
Television, the Internet, and the print media fill up our days with live games and news articles about our favorite Division I teams. However, in the big picture more NCAA athletes participate on the lower levels of college athletics than at DI.
DI football teams have the most amount of scholarships, 85. But remember, that is not 85 per year, it is 85 per team. Spread that over five classes of athletes, most DI football players will be in their team’s programs for five years, and that translates to 17 a year. Men’s Division I basketball has 13 scholarships, woman have 15. Again, spread that out over five years that’s less than 3 a year for men, and three on the nose for women. That’s not a lot. Women’s volleyball with 15 scholarships, and men’s and women’s hockey with 18 apiece, also have enough scholarships to field complete teams.
What a lot of athletes and parents don’t know that with most of the rest of the sports on the Division I level there are not enough scholarships to field teams two deep with athletes. For example, baseball has 12 scholarships, but a good team needs at least 20 players to cover each position with starters and back ups, and stock a pitching staff. Men’s soccer has ten scholarships, but to have a full scrimmage in practice you would need 20 players.
What do soccer and baseball coaches do? There are two popular methods. The first is to give as many full scholarships as you can to the best athletes as you can find, and fill the rest of the team with nonscholarship players. Other coaches split scholarships, and then work with athletes and their families on other forms of financial aid, including loans and academic scholarships.
Splitting scholarships is the norm on the Division II level. For example in football DII coaches have 32 scholarships to split amongst a team of 80-100 players, sometimes more. And remember on the Division III level there are no athletic scholarships. Student-athletes at those schools live and die by their financial packages, just like every other student. Yet, without scholarships, there are over 400 DIII schools offering athletic programs across the country.
But getting back to the DI level. How exactly does one do to get a DI scholarship? The only thing that an athlete can do is practice and play to the extent of his or her ability. In today’s world of the Internet, DVD players, websites like YouTube, everything else is pretty much out of your hands. Yes, you can get a highlight video together. And yes, you can send out letters and attend recruiting nights, but in almost any sport who the premier athletes are is pretty common knowledge. In most sports, if you are not being recruited by DI schools by the beginning of your senior season, you probably are not going to end up going DI. And by being recruited I don’t mean receiving a letter in the mail, but by being actually contacted by a coach and asked to make an official visit to the school’s campus.
If you think you might be a DI athlete, or your child might one, I suggest you go to a Division I sporting event where you can get really close to the athletes. I don’t mean going to see a football or hockey game at Michigan or Michigan State, but something where you even interact with the athletes afterwards. Go to a wrestling match, or a women’s basketball or volleyball game. Sit as close to the action as possible and see how intense it is, and how big, quick, competitive, and athletic the participants are. It doesn’t even have to be your sport, or your child’s sport, to get an idea of what it is like on that level.
The most important thing to consider when deciding whether to play a sport in college, no matter what the level, is the time you will have to commit to the sport and how it will affect the time you have to put into your studies. Remember, athletics is not the ends of the means. It is a vehicle you use to attain a quality college education. Even those gifted and lucky few who go on to play sports professionally must be prepared for that day when their sports career ends and their real career starts.
(Greg Cielec is a Cleveland, Ohio, based freelance writer, as well as a fifteen-year veteran of coaching football on the college level. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his website at www.gregcielec.com.)
(I've been lazy about posting the things I have written for other publications, but I'm trying to get caught up. The following was published in August of 2016 in the official Journal of the American Football Coaches association. It does a good job describing what I do at Thomas More College.)
Having academic support specifically for student athletes, especially football players, is often out of the reach of budgets at most DIII schools, especially small private colleges. Schools often have a variety of support options for all students, including athletes. But to tailor tutoring and other services to athletes and their schedules is often out of the budget at most smaller institutions.
At Thomas More College in Northern Kentucky we are trying to do something different, offering academic support for athletes as part of our over all academic support system for all students, but to also service athletes with their special needs and schedules.
When college President Dave Armstrong first approached me about rejoining Head Football Coach Regis Scafe at Thomas More I told him I wanted to do something more than being a football coach. In my preceding 15 years coaching with Coach Scafe, first at Case Western Reserve than at John Carroll, I still taught either at a local high school or college. I really enjoyed doing both, teaching and coaching. I mentioned to President Armstrong and Coach Scafe that I would like to do something that included both academics and athletics. A couple of weeks later President Armstrong gave me call and asked if I would like to be a part time football coach and also be the Academic Advisor for Athletes. I would be part football coach, but also a member of the school’s Success Center. After discussing what he had in mind, I decided it was an opportunity I could not pass up.
By the time you read this article I’ll be finishing my first year as the Academic Advisor for Athletes at Thomas More. We feel we have made great strides in our approach to helping our student athletes, especially football players, but we also know there is much room for growth and improvement.
One of our first goals was to create productive study tables for all student athletes. Often at a DIII school academic support for the football team will include students coming to the football office, signing in on a pad posted in the wall, and studying in a room that might also be an equipment closet. No tutor available, with coaches and grad assistants down the hall breaking down film or entertaining recruits.
We also didn’t want things to be like high school study hall. We wanted the student athletes to know that study table is a time for work. We hold it in the cafeteria three nights a week from 7:00 to 10:00. We picked this room because it’s big and students can spread out, it is also close to one of our computer labs and our library. After a student signs in to study table, he or she can stay in the library to work or go to the computer lab or library, depending on his or hers needs. They also need to sign in at those locations too.
Each individual head coach decided how often his or hers players would attend study table. For football we made it mandatory that all freshmen and any upper classmen with a 2.4 or below GPA attend at least 3 hours a week.
One important aspect of our study tables is that whenever possible I am the one moderating. I am a retired high school language arts teacher with 15 years experience as an adjunct English and Communications professor at several universities. This gives our student athletes immediate access to someone who can help them write and edit papers, prepare presentations, and organize themselves to prepare for test and quizzes. A also have a Masters Degree in Counseling, which has often come in to play, especially with first year college students adjusting to life away from home.
For tutoring help in other subjects, especially math and science, we use the resources of our tutoring department. But at least I can look over a student athlete’s assignment before I send him or her off to one of our tutors. Students can also work with each other to prepare for tests and quizzes or to work on group projects or presentations.
We also designed individual study books for each student athlete. It includes study tips and note taking ideas, as well as weekly, monthly, and semester long calendars. We made it mandatory for fall semester for each football player to use a study book. They fill it in weekly, listing classes, tests and assignments, as well as any football related responsibilities. We wanted each player to know what his upcoming week was going to look like. For second semester we made it mandatory for all freshmen and anyone else with below a 2.4.
We also included in each study book “scorecards,” individual progress reports that we made mandatory several time over the course of the semester. Each player needs to get an up to date grade from each professor, including any missed assignments, latest test scores, and attendance updates. It is also hoped that this would get our student athletes in the habit of talking to their professors on a regular basis about not only their grades but also their responsibilities for each of their classes.
Besides mandatory study tables and study books, I meet regularly one-on-one with every freshmen and every upper classmen football player with less than a 2.4. We do this at the first two weeks of the semester and somewhere in the middle.
We also have a lot of athletes who are commuters, and do much of their studying in between classes during the school day. Many of them can’t stay after practice to attend study table. To facilitate them I also take over a section of our library from 11::00-1:00 three days a week, offering the same services we do at night.
Our whole philosophy has been to avoid headaches before they happen. We want the student athletes to know that at the first sign of a struggle in class come and get help. Do not wait until it is too late.
We are happy with the progress so far, but we have a way to go. We know we are a work in progress. Before the next school year starts I am going to visit some area colleges to see what they are doing to offer academic support to athletes. I plan on visiting both DI and DIII schools.
If you want to share what you are doing in academic support for athletes, especially football players, or if you have any questions or suggestions about what we are doing, please contact me at email@example.com or 216.496.8286. We all want the same thing; we all want what is best for our student athlete.