There is nothing more precious in the world than one’s honor and loyalty. When you finally narrow your choices and select a school, be proud. The school is making a financial and educational commitment to you, and that commitment is a two-way street. I see too many athletes transfer for reasons such as these: “I’m not getting enough playing time”; “I hate my teammates”; “It’s too far away from home.” These are situations that the athlete should have thought about before signing.
Remember, nobody owes you anything. Show humility, not arrogance. Give, do not take. Just because you are a high school star does not mean you are a college starter. Yes, some players will adjust more quickly than others. Be receptive to learning. Do not announce to a coach that you deserve to start. Earn that right. Show the coach in practice how much you want to start. That is more satisfying. It annoys me that some recruits ask, “Will I start?” or “How many minutes will you play me?”
Do not ask or expect a coach to break the rules regarding recruiting. Although it happens repeatedly, it is wrong. Have a sense of honor. Know what you can have and ask for it—nothing more, nothing less. I’m always amazed when I hear about athletes who have been taken care of by schools, coaches, or boosters later reveal wrongdoings that create major problems for that institution. The athletes are now gone so it does not affect them; it affects only the current and future athletes of the school. Why do that to your alma mater?
As corny as it sounds, you are in charge of your own destiny. Allow friends and family members to offer you advice on what school to attend, but make the ultimate decision yourself. You are the one who has to live with your decision, playing ball, going to school, and making the necessary adjustments for the next 4 years at the selected college. Your parents and coach are not going to school with you. They may not like the same things you do. This is your chance to make a good, solid independent decision. Weigh all the factors, make your choice, and stick with it.
In reaching this important decision, here are some questions that student-athletes should ask themselves:
- Does the school meet my academic needs?
- Is this the right school for all my personal needs?
- Is the coach a good person and a good coach as well?
- Does my game fit the system?
- What are my teammates like?
Academics should be at the top of your list of topics when asking questions of coaches, academic advisers, and school officials. You are being awarded a scholarship because of your athletic ability, but you must take your opportunity for education seriously. Your letter of intent is a contract. For 4 or 5 years, you will receive a paid education in exchange for your time, commitment, loyalty, and hard work in representing your institution. Think about what field interests you. No matter what it is, give it plenty of thought. As with anything you do, you should have an organized plan for the classroom, specifying where you want to be and how to achieve it.
You should find out the graduation rate of the athletes at your institution. This gives you insight into the commitment that the school has to its student-athletes. It will also give you an indication of how many years it has taken for other athletes to receive their diplomas. Many coaches will tell you that accurate graduation rates cannot be calculated because transfers and dropouts, for example, count as nongraduates. Tell them you understand that, and ask for a breakdown. If the school has numerous transfers and dropouts, this could tell you something about the program.
Things to Ask
1. What is the coach’s graduation rate as coach at this school?
2. What is the team grade point average?
3. Is a study table required? How many hours or days does it meet?
4. Is tutoring available? If so, from whom and at what cost?
5. Considering my high school grades, reading ability, and college admission test scores, can I compete academically at this institution?
6. Does the school offer a complete program in my field of study? Or will I be offered softer courses designed to keep me eligible?
7. Does the school have an academic athletic advisor?
8. If a player has a conflict between a class and practice, how is the situation handled?
9. How much class time is missed during the year because of basketball?
10. What happens if I can’t maintain the GPA required?
Examine your personal preferences. In what area of the country would you like to attend college? Going far away from home can be scary. Do you want friends and relatives to be able to watch you play? Or, do you want to break those apron strings and see how you develop away from the security of home? Do you prefer a warm or cold climate? Do you want to attend a big school or a small school? Some athletes love the big-time schools, complete with nationally recognized football programs and a host of other sports. Others are more suited for a smaller city, nestled in the country. The number of students and other factors should help you decide what environment will ultimately make you happy.
Things to Ask
1. Do I want to spend the next 4 to 5 years of my life in this college environment?
2. Given my ethnic background and recreational interests, can this college and its surrounding community provide for my social needs?
3. Do the athletes live separately from other students, or do they mix with the school socially and academically?
4. Can my parents, relatives, and friends come to see me play? Do I want to attend a college that is close to home? How important is this to me?
5. Exactly what does the scholarship cover and what does it not cover?
6. Will the school find me a well-paying summer job that conforms to my career plans?
7. If I become injured and am unable to play, will the school continue to honor my scholarship and continue to help me obtain a degree?
8. Does the institution have an active organization of alumni and boosters who help athletes with career planning?
9. Are other athletes at the school who come from my environment and background happy with the social structure?
10. Will my scholarship cover a fifth year if I need it to get my degree?
11. How many days do I get off for Thanksgiving and Christmas?
12. What happens to my scholarship if I sign a National Letter of Intent, then get injured during my senior year of high school?
13. What major cities and airports are near the school?
14. How safe is the campus?