seth@mckinziesportsreport.com

Final Thoughts on College Pursuits for Young Athletes

By: Seth McKinzie

Some final thoughts on the LL mini-series “How Do I Get My Child a Scholarship?” are necessary. As many readers know, LL has been around almost 30 years of Gravette sports. In that almost-three decades span there have been quite a few very good players come through. Still, with the “quite a few” number there are just “a few” who have signed a letter of intent to play college ball and only two have competed at a Division I school.

Have the waters of the talent pool shifted toward high tide? LL thinks that may be the case. As the population change has occurred in Northwest Arkansas the student population at Gravette High School has grown. Current GHS junior Cally Kildow is committed to play softball for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Kildow is set to become the very first Southeastern Conference athletic signee in Gravette High School history (Blair Savage signed with UofA when the Razorbacks were still a member of the Southwest Conference).

On the softball team alone, there is a high probability that multiple players will receive some sort of scholarship to continue playing at the next level. Does that prediction, however, mean earning a scholarship is now somehow easier?

LL never wants to discourage a young person for dreaming big. Are the odds stacked against a kid from Gravette if he wants to grow up and be the starting quarterback for the Hogs? Yes, but the odds are stacked against just about every kid across the country with a similar dream.

Often it seems the desire to play some sport in college is pushed more from the parent than the athlete. Everyone wants what is best for their child and in the eyes of a parent there is no greater gift than that of their children. People do, however, need to stop and think about how healthy the push is to earn (that’s the key word here) a scholarship.

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Notice the word “earn”? That is because earning a scholarship is exactly what happens. Does an athlete have to have been blessed with a superior athletic ability? Yes. Does the athlete need to have worked hard in the classroom to be eligible to enter college and play sports? Yes. Will the athlete have to continue to work hard on the field and in the classroom to keep said scholarship once they arrive on campus? Yes.

It is not easy, folks. The demands placed on high level athletes is great. As a matter of fact the requirements are likely some of the most strenuous a person will ever face. LL has often thought being a college athlete is akin to a new parent in that the athlete, much like the sleep deprived mom and dad, never truly owns his own schedule. It is controlled by someone else. LL saw the sunrise many times from the practice field or while walking into the weight-room.

Something that parents and their athletes likely do not understand is mercy from college coaches typically comes in the form of trash cans strategically placed during offseason workouts. The purpose of said trash cans? Vomit. Vomit from the strenuous nature of the workouts. LL participated in four sports during high school. That is a lot of practices, workouts, games, and meets. Never once was there a threat of “tossing cookies”. A few days into a true freshman season in football changed all that.

Question: Why does it seem colleges recruit from certain high schools but may not touch another school’s program?

Answer: Some programs just “get it”. This means the coaches all work together to promote their athletes. If a kid is on the cusp of being a college player then the head coach and assistant coaches are working the phones, sending out film, and helping the player get to some camps. Overall success helps, as in if a team has been to the state semifinals two years in a row as opposed to missing the playoffs every year, but the buy-in of the entire athletic program makes a difference.

Also, the coaching network is smaller than some might think. If a coach has had a bad experience with athletes from High School A that coach might warn colleagues that high school program does not properly prepare their athletes to compete at the next level. Attrition is a part of the process and college coaches know this. Transfers happen. Injuries occur. Kids quit. If a school has shown a tendency to produce those types of kids then, fair or not, it can impact the recruitment of athletes from that same school for the near future.

Question: My son loves basketball…like really, really loves it. He really enjoys playing football and baseball but he is consumed with hoops and wants to try to get a college scholarship. What do you think about him focusing on basketball and quitting the others?

 Answer: Your son is five-foot-six and 16-years-old. Unless his father is a tall guy and your son could possibly grow after turning 18-years-old LL would say the likelihood of playing hoops in college is slim to none. Are there very small programs that he could play at? Maybe but he would still be looking at not very many, if any at all, options.

LL does not say this to shoot down his dream but it boils down to this: LL would absolutely hate to see a kid waste his only opportunity in life to play all the sports he enjoys. Basketball was taken away from LL in February 1998, in West Fork. Baseball was forever taken away from LL in May 1998, in Berryville. Track in May 1998, in Paris. Football got LL all the way to Fall 2001, but it ended there. The letters for football started coming just after LL’s junior season. Never once did the thought of cross any of the minds in the McKinzie household to focus on football so that chances for a scholarship were increased. As a matter of fact, the school LL ended up signing with out of high school had just named a new head coach. He had not seen LL play in person and only had some film left behind by the former staff. Know when the coach made the offer to play football? After watching LL play basketball. This was the conversation:

“Well Seth, you are by no means a college basketball player but I can tell by watching you move that you are a better athlete than even what I thought after watching your football film.”

Honestly, LL thinks that offer might not have come if the coach had not been able to evaluate talent and athleticism on the basketball court. Wild, huh?

So, unless your basketball lovin’ son is six-foot-eight…let him play everything. And, even if he is that tall maybe introduce him to the tight end position in football and show him some clips of Randy Johnson pitching a baseball.

Hopefully these little articles have at least helped any folks who may seriously have been battling with these thoughts and decisions. There are two truths to the whole recruiting game:

  1. It does take talent, athleticism, and a little bit of luck
  2. Finding out you don’t have what it takes to play after high school is tough to swallow

 

If LL can ever help out in anyway, please feel free to shoot an email to seth@mckinziesportsreport.com.

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