Many students-athletes have a difficult time determining if a school is a good Athletic Fit, and deciding where they should be applying to play college sport. Even if you are the most self-aware person in the world, it can often be difficult to gauge your own competency and determine what level you should aim for or what types of schools you should be looking at. Most parents and players think they are better than they are, and don’t have a clear idea of what levels of ability are required at NCAA D1, D2 and D3 schools. Even if you know what NCAA Division you should be trying for, there is a wide range of schools within each Division when it comes to athletic competitiveness, no matter what NCAA sport you are looking into.
Following the 4 steps below will greatly assist you in evaluating what types of schools you should be applying to, from an athletic perspective, when deciding where to play college sport.
1. Speak To Student-Athletes
ACA recommends getting feedback from individuals who have played your sport in college at a high level. For example, if you are a soccer player that wants to play for a high-level NCAA Division 3 program, it would be beneficial to get honest feedback from an individual who has played or coached at that level.
It can be great to hear, “You’re good enough to play for Stanford!” from a parent, but unless that parent has played your sport at Stanford, he or she just isn’t qualified to make that judgement. So, if you are unsure if you are capable of playing at a specific school or level, getting honest feedback from current or former player, coaches, or other individuals that have played your sport in college is a good place to start. Getting honest, unbiased feedback can be difficult so it is important to get assessments from several different sources if possible. If you do not have access to any individuals that can accurately assess you as a player, there a a number of other ways for you to assess your playing level.
2. Attend College Games
You will need to watch a number of college games in-person to get a feel for the level. Watching collegiate games is a necessity for anyone that is serious about playing sport in college. A big reason that players and families enter the recruiting process with unrealistic expectations is that they’ve never taken the time to watch a collegiate contest. How can you know if a college is a good Athletic Fit if you haven’t seen the team compete?
If you are not able to physically attend a game, go to the school’s website to watch a live stream. As you are watching, try to answer this question honestly: “Would I compete if I were playing in this game?” Look at the technique, athleticism, strength, awareness, intelligence, etc., of the players on the field and see how you stack up. This could go a long way toward helping you objectively evaluate where you should be focusing in your pursuit of college sport.
3. Assess Recruiting Emails
Another way to gauge your level as a player is to assess the emails that you receive from college coaches. If you are in the 11th grade and attend a sporting ID camp with lots of college coaches in attendance, pay attention to what you hear from the coaches after the event. If you receive 15 emails from a number of NCAA Division 1 and NCAA Division 3 programs, that is a good indicator that you have the potential to play for some D1 and D3 schools. If you go to several events and do not receive any interest from coaches, even though you feel that you performed well, it may mean that you do not have the skills and/or athleticism to compete at the college level. Be careful not to read too much into what you hear or do not hear from college coaches after events, but it is important to consider all forms of feedback during the college recruiting process.
4. Speak With Your Coaches
You should also speak directly to your own coaches when deciding where to play sport in college. Often, your coaches will have had a good amount of experience watching their athletes get recruited to certain schools and will have a decent idea of what level of ability is correlated to certain levels of college sports. Have an honest conversation with these coaches about your decision to play sport in college and ask for their feedback and assessment.
These general steps should assist you in getting a good idea of which types of colleges you should be looking at when you begin your college recruiting process and are deciding where to play sport in college. Some sports are more oriented toward statistical based athletic comparisons, such as a 100 meter sprint time, making them easier to assess. For other college sports, particularly team-based sports, getting good honest feedback before beginning your process of selecting schools is vital. Getting admitted to play at a NCAA Division 1 school but spending 4 years riding the bench will not result in a great experience. Be thorough, and you will massively increase your chances of having a productive and enjoyable college athletic experience. For more college recruiting information, check out the ACA Blog.