Athletics

Football player standing alone on the tunnel into a stadium

Fall 2020 College Admissions and Student-Athletes

As we discussed in Part I, college admissions this fall will look VERY different than what students like you were expecting. In this article, we’ll look at advice for upcoming seniors who are student-athletes.

To learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting college recruitment  – and what student-athletes like you can do in these trying times – I reached out to Steve Britschgi, founder and president of Advocates for Athletes (A4A). From standardized test preparation to skills videos, A4A offers a variety of services custom-tailored to each student-athlete’s needs.

Note: Some answers have been edited/condensed for clarity. 

Thomas: What questions do you hear most these days from current and potential clients? ​

Steve: By far, the two most common questions I hear daily are ‘Do you think there will be summer AAU competition, showcases, or college camps?’ and ‘Do you think there will be fall high school sports?’ My answer is that it’s all speculation at this point, so you just have to make sure that you are ready to go when your sport does open up. Use this extra time to work even harder to get ahead of the competition. So many things you can do, the simplest of which are pushups and sit-ups. There are also so many creative ways to keep in shape, get stronger, faster. At A4A, we are setting written goals for our athletes to work on turning any weaknesses into strengths at this time.

T: This fall, it’s likely that some schools and districts will remain closed while others open up again. How do you think recruiters will try to give student-athletes who can’t yet play competitively a fair shot at recruitment? ​

S: Hard to say! That’s the million-dollar question right now. Without being able to watch an athlete play, it’s hard to recruit them. How do you give them a fair shot? It’s tough unless they have credibility from the year before or the coaches already know who they are. Coaches cannot recruit on just a resume. They have to know what they are getting, especially if scholarship dollars are involved. And, again, it will make it that much more difficult If there is no summer competition or camps to watch athletes perform (which I believe there will not be).

So, how will recruiters give a fair shot? Not sure, but if you present yourself the right way and do all the right things, you will make the recruiters’ job easier. Combination of film, resume, reputable references, character of the athlete, passion for the sport, GPA, work ethic, interview, past stats and their height, weight, strength, speed as it pertains to the athlete’s sport. That’s where the creativity comes in.

T: It seems that college coaches (like the students and families that you serve) are still trying to figure everything out. One suggestion I’ve seen is that student-athletes record themselves. What advice would you give to a student-athlete who wants to create a video but plays a team sport? After all, it’s not safe right now for teammates to meet up.

S: Do it!! Film a workout; film yourself doing drills that pertain to your position. If you are a pitcher, film a bullpen. If you are a QB, show your arm and footwork. If you are a lineman, show your strength and get off the line. If you are a basketball player, show your array of shots, form, footwork, dribbling, hops, etc. If you need to get your dad or brother or sister to help, do it! But look good in the video and go all out. First impressions last forever so make it a good one. Then send with a well-written letter/email and film that looks good. Keep it to 3 minutes and make sure it can be seen, not grainy…clear! 

Biggest mistake that an aspiring athlete to make is to sit back and wait…wait for what?? Have to be proactive and then have to be persistent. BUT make sure you are being honest with your ability and send to schools in NCAA, NAIA, NCCAA divisions that you have a true shot playing in/at.

T: Have you heard anything from your high school and college contacts regarding keeping players and spectators safe in the coming months? Even if nothing’s 100% decided, I think readers would like to know what ideas are being proposed.

S: It is still too early at this point to speculate but I have heard ideas about no fans at games, keeping them 6ft apart in line, 6ft apart in the stands, mandatory masks, letting a certain number of people in attendance, regulating the inflow and outflow. I am sure that going forward, that will be a huge topic of discussion for all levels of sporting events. 

But players are a different story. How do you keep them safe? I do not know! Take football players, for example. Twenty-two guys on the same field at the same time, a foot apart on the line of scrimmage, sweating, spitting, and tackling. I have not heard any ways to change the game to make these athletes safer. I don’t know how they can. This is all new for all of us, so I am sure we are going to be hearing a lot of different ideas in the very near future. Safety over money is and should be the number one concern.

This from NCAA President Mark Emmert: “All of the Division I commissioners and every president that I’ve talked to is in clear agreement: If you don’t have students on campus, you don’t have student-athletes on campus,” Emmert said. “That doesn’t mean it has to be up and running in the full normal model, but you’ve got to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students. So, if a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple.”

T: Finally, COVID has brought uncertainty to nearly every economic sector. Have you seen an impact, and even if not, are you considering tweaking your business model (e.g., offering new or modified services)? I ask as it relates to what clients might encounter in the next 1-2 years. ​ 

S: A4A has seen a slight impact as some families are understandably needing to tighten their belts and watching their money closer. Most see engaging in A4A as an investment, though. Our fee is very reasonable, and the return on investment, say a scholarship worth $80,000, is a pretty darn good return on the fee they pay.

No plans to change our model. We started working with out-of-state athletes a few years back so we were forced to go with FaceTime and Zoom meetings. You see, we meet with these student-athletes for about an hour a meeting, setting goals, creating a plan, researching schools, writing emails, etc. Who would have known that was the way we would be meeting with all of our athletes today…..via video. That has worked out very well for us.  

However, every athlete is different, so we can create a personalized plan based on who they are and what their needs are. We continue to listen and adapt as necessary. That’s what keeps what we are doing fresh with each new client.

Final Thoughts

Student-athletes applying to college this fall certainly have plenty of challenges when it comes to the admission process. However, there are still numerous ways that they can network with – and most importantly, impress — college recruiters and coaches. If you are a high school student-athlete, I recommend that you visit the A4A website and learn more about their excellent services.

Finally, to all the student-athletes out there, keep honing your skills and try your best to stay healthy as possible.

The Power of Surrounding Yourself with Positive and Like-minded Individuals

By Matt Wujciak

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers, and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it in yourself.” – Steve Jobs.

For those who say that your success falls solely on your shoulders are wrong. If they weren’t, then Sociology wouldn’t be part of thousands of curricula across the nation, Malcom Gladwell’s The Outliers wouldn’t be a #1 National Best Seller, and the argument of Nature versus Nurture wouldn’t be discussed every other day in your Psychology class.

You’re a product of the social environment and culture that you are a part of.

The truth is that your success in the classroom or in the office falls on your shoulders, as well as those who you consistently choose to surround yourself with outside of the classroom or office. Being around a positive group of people who share similar goals and interests can be the single greatest catalyst to help you “make it…”

whether that might mean getting into the college of your dreams, making the JV basketball team, landing an internship or job, or simply passing a chemistry project that’s due tomorrow.

Actively look to place yourself around the people who live the lifestyle that you want… people who are going to help you get there. You might just learn some of your most important life-lessons from these people over a cup of coffee or long car ride.

I’ll give you an example of one of mine. My oldest brother, Pete, was once a Division I collegiate athlete, captain of his team, and bright and ambitious student in the classroom. It is no wonder that he is now a very successful lawyer… one of those positive individuals who seem to affect everyone around him by just believing in them.

One afternoon I was riding around in the passenger seat of his Jeep with him as he began lecturing me about his captainship. “I’m running sprints next to three of my teammates,” he said. “They’re winded and they’re dogging it. If I want to push them to get better, I need to know them. I need to know how to bring out the best in them, what works and what doesn’t with each teammate.

I speed up to the most gifted player in first place and make a remark about how he let someone as slow as me catch up to him. I slow down to the middle guy and tell him that he could be better than the first guy if he worked twice as hard. I slow down again to the last guy and tell him to try to finish the drill and beat his personal best time,” he said.

“We did this week after week. The guy who was in first place went on to be an All-American. The guy who was in second became a captain the following year. The guy in third earned the starting spot he waited his entire career for.”

Everything he said had gone right over my head. Years later I realized that he wasn’t boasting about himself or his teammates. He wasn’t talking about athletics at all.

He was trying to teach me the power of contagious emotion… how one individual can affect the rest of the environment, especially when that environment is comprised of likeminded individuals.

It is teammates, classmates, co-workers like Pete that serve as a catalyst to help those around them achieve success. No matter what grade you are in, or what stage of life you are about to endure, place yourself around individuals who are going to help you “get there.”

SPOTLIGHT: What’s It Like To Play On a Division III Team in College

By Kendell Shaffer

A dad and daughter talk about playing Division III tennis in college. Dad would like to be referred to as Happy Dad (HD) and his daughter, Pleased Daughter (PD).

Before diving into the interview, here’s an explanation of the differences between Division I, II, and III sports: According to prepscholar.com, “Division I offers the highest level of competition and Division I schools’ athletic departments have the biggest budgets. Division III is the lowest level of competition in the NCAA, and Division III schools tend to have the smallest athletic department budgets.” The article here does a great job of explaining the differences in detail.

“Division III offers no athletic scholarships, tends to have the lowest level of competition, but the highest number of participants across all divisions. Division III schools offer an average of 18 sports per school. Also, Division III has the highest average percentage of the student body participating in sports.”

Thank you so much Happy Dad and Pleased Daughter for sharing your story with us.

PD, how much time at college is devoted to playing tennis?

PD: I play about two hours every day and a few days where I spend three hours on court if I decide to do an individual session separately outside of team practice with my coach. Then on weekends, matches can range from three to four hours and if we have back to back matches then I spend roughly six to eight hours over the weekend.

Do you travel with your tennis team? If so, is that challenging during the school year?

PD: Yes, during the season we have at least six away matches which requires us to travel to schools in Massachusetts as well as the greater New England area. It can be challenging if we have weekday matches because I would often miss classes. In the event that I missed class, I would have to catch up with classmates and my professors which was hard because I felt like sometimes I would fall behind. Also, it can be challenging socially because if we have overnight tournaments we miss weekends events on campus.

I can imagine starting college not having a group of friends is challenging for students. It seems like beginning with a group of students who share the same interests, tennis in your case, would help make the transition away from home earlier. What has your experience been?

PD: I think that in the process of transitioning into college, being on a team helped me immensely. I was able to meet new people through my teammates and I also made connections with other athletes on campus. Specifically freshman year we had our main season in the fall so our team arrived at school about a week and a half early to train during pre-season. During pre-season, our team got extremely close and I became a lot more comfortable with my new environment so when school actually started I already felt pretty familiar with campus. Also, I think naturally the athletes tend to gravitate towards each other because we all have a common understanding of what it is like to balance sports and school.

Does being on a sports team at college help to give you an identity, or a group of friends to be with?

PD: Currently, the majority of my friends are other athletes. I find that being on the tennis team does give me an identity as an athlete because people know that I play tennis and they wish me luck if they hear that our team has a match or they ask me how practice went when they see me walking across campus in my practice gear. I think that playing on a team gives me a sense of purpose and accountability because I am representing not just myself but also the team as whole every day.

Happy Dad how do you feel about your daughter playing on a Division II team?

HD: Division III sports can be very appealing because you get to play a sport you love and you get a good education. Many Division I athletes won’t study abroad because they can’t miss the time due to competitions.

What advice might you offer parents whose child plans to play sports in college?

HD: Students and parents can become very anxious and even hysterical during the college selection process; DO NOT FALL VICTIM TO IT. Do your best not to allow parents or other students to influence you. Encourage your student to only apply to schools they believe they would attend. Only visit schools they think they would attend. Parents be realistic about applying to a school that you can pay for and the student has earned.

Have conversations at the dinner table about what your child thinks they are looking for. Help them consider the pros and cons of each possibility. When I took PD to my alma mater she didn’t like it. No specific reason. That was the end of the conversation and it was off the list.

Finally, take the college selection experience as an opportunity to learn more about your kid and watch them make the first big decision of their life.

Thank you, HD and PD, I appreciate your talking to me and best of luck to you both!

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