As a high school sports star, you may be fortunate enough to find yourself in a position to work toward a career as a professional athlete. You’ve got the right combination of knowledge, natural physical gifts, and work ethic to be considered one of the top prospects in the country.
That’s great…but it carries a burden as you think about choosing the right college. The players who are just a little behind you in potential have a tough decision to make as they consider college, but for the top-level players like you, the decision is doubly hard. For them, the road will soon end as a player, and they’ll follow a path that may be derived from their playing years but won’t directly involve time on the field or the court.
Should you commit based on a coach? Should you use a college recruiting website? And beyond that, you have to think about finding an environment where you will thrive academically, fit in athletically, and be close enough to family. You will also have to think about which program meets those criteria with the added impact of determining which one will also help you get the best chance of a professional career.
Here are some of the things you should take into consideration as X-factors in your pro potential.
As appealing as a certain school might be, you should think a little bit about its visibility. Do you ever turn on a national sports network on Saturday and see their football team in action? Are they one of the colleges that require an identification graphic during tournament play so that viewers know which team is which?
Teams that get on TV and in the media are the teams that help generate professional athletes. They get the coverage, they get the buzz, and they get the name recognition. Scouts have to do a lot of work to find athletes in the more obscure programs, reducing the chances that you’ll ever be on their radar.
If it comes down to a school’s national profile, your professional prospects can depend on choosing the better-known institution.
When you think of college volleyball, you probably think of UCLA. If it’s football, Alabama comes to mind. These programs are not only at a high level of excellence, they’ve been at that level for many years.
As such, scouts know to look there for prospects. No matter how well you may perform at State U, you carry the implicit endorsement of the program when you are enrolled at the best-known colleges in a given sport.
Of course, on-field performance isn’t the only part of a school’s reputation that figures in. Pro teams will want players who come from a disciplined, well-run program whose players who can be coached or managed effectively.
Injuries are almost unavoidable for college athletes. You’re at the point in your career where you must prove what your full potential is, so you push everything to the limit. Every so often, you’ll exceed those limits, and something will go wrong. Or you may sustain an injury within the process of competing.
Whatever the reason for your downtime, the progress you make toward a recovery depends largely on the resources available to you from the school. The programs with the best trainers, best medical staff, and best facilities will not only help you recover from injuries. They’ll also reduce the odds that you’ll suffer one to begin with.
A successful pro athlete doesn’t just burst onto the scene when his or her eligibility is up. Many of them have already caught the eyes of scouts on TV, but many others have also already been talked up by their coaches through a complex networks of sports friends and acquaintances. If scouts haven’t heard of you when your senior season ends, you’ll probably struggle to get noticed.
Look at the coaching tree of the staff. Who has worked with people who are now in the pros? Who has gotten people picked in the drafts wherever they’ve coached? Knowing these ins and outs will go a long way toward letting your performance reputation precede you among scouts.
Choosing the Right College Requires Knowledge
Choosing the right college is complicated for anybody. It’s trickier still for those who wish to play a collegiate sport, and the difficulty is off the charts for those who hope to earn a paycheck with their athletic skills. If that final group includes you, do a thorough examination of your program options before you commit.