Have you ever been told you have a 72 hour window to make a decision that’ll impact the rest of your life?

Welcome to the world of collegiate athletic recruiting.

At the age of 17, I took a tour of a university I was interested in. I met with the baseball coaches, some of the players, and saw the facilities – and then we immediately got down to the business of it all. The university offered a scholarship and, needless to say, I was elated. You might assume that I was then given a few weeks to think it through – to really mull it over – to discuss the pros and cons with my family and friends, teammates and coaches – and to ultimately make a calculated, informed decision.

But that wasn’t exactly the case. After the university made the initial offer to me as I stood on that particular campus, they told me it would remain on the table for only 72 hours. Seventy two hours! That’s three days – three days to make one of – if not the most – important decisions of my life up to that moment. At 17 years old, many people would be easily pressured – and I, too,  would have been if not for the fact that my parents had made the trip with me and understood what was going on more than I did, in all my naivety.

In general, the world of recruiting is tough on an athlete. Every year, athletes ages 15-17 have to make decisions on not only where to attend school for the next four years of their lives but also where to live and breathe their sport – whom they want to represent. That is not an easy task. That is not a three-day task.

You want me to come to your school, play baseball on your team, and represent you – but you’re only willing to give me a 72-hour window to say yes? It is no wonder why this sort of rushed set-up leads to many athletes transferring after their first year. The pressure athletes face when given ridiculous “deadlines” to make these important decisions is so great – and many athletes cave and just say yes without fully thinking it through. And you can’t blame a 16-year-old kid for having clouded judgement – especially in this day and age with social media and other influences pushing kids in so many different directions.

I understand the belief that certain student athletes “just know” or “ fall in love” with a certain school. If that is the case, a student will let the coaches know, and a timetable of a few days shouldn’t be necessary. When a student  athlete knows, they know. But if he or she doesn’t know, putting a time restraint on the decision-making process is not right and pressures them to make a decision they are not ready to make.

The decision should be well thought-out by the athlete and his or her loved ones and mentors. Nobody else should have a say in the decision. After all, a lawyer doesn’t make a case alone, and a doctor doesn’t cut someone open without a whole slough of assistants. But in the end, it is the athlete’s life, and it’s the athlete who should have the final say.

In my opinion, it is better to have the student athlete at the “wrong” school if they make the choice then it is to have someone else make the “right” decision without the student truly wanting to be there. In baseball, we pitchers are taught that it is better to make the wrong pitch with conviction, then the right pitch with uncertainty. I believe that lesson can be used in this case, and many others.

The best advice I can ever offer to an athlete going through the recruitment process is this:

Opinions only matter if they belong to people who matter.

Family, CLOSE friends, and people you look up to (mentors) are the only people who should have any sort of influence on your decision.

Coaches and recruiting coordinators need to understand how big a deal it is when they offer a scholarship to an athlete. It represents an incredible opportunity and a humbling honor, but also a weighty responsibility. And no university/college coach should ever pressure an athlete regarding a decision on where to attend college. If you have to pressure a student athlete to attend your school, maybe he or she shouldn’t be there in the first place.

For any coaches reading this, take it from someone who has been through it… Pressure is a turn off, and if you do pressure a kid and he or she accepts your scholarship offer based on your pushing, then shame on you. Pressuring a teenager to attend your school solely because you  want his or her talent and ability to benefit your team is plain wrong. Realize the stress these kids are already under, and appreciate their need for some time to weigh their options with their support network and really think it through. Give students a respectable timetable.. not 72 hours. Show them the school, give them all the information they want, and, simply, let them make an informed, un-hasty decision. To put it in the most simple terms, just imagine it was your child that was going through it. Would you want them making a decision due to the pressure they felt? Or would you want them to make decision based off where they feel comfortable and will enjoy the next four crucial years of their lives. Act as if it was your own child.

And yes – being given a scholarship is a privilege, and perhaps those presented with such a privilege should not be complaining. But the thing most people do not realize is that these athletes are not given scholarships; scholarships are earned. You earn the scholarship through hard work, sacrifice, and being relentless in your craft. So when you get a scholarship, it is quite rewarding and you should be able to make appropriate decisions without added pressure.

Another thing some people do not realize, is that, just because you are going to school with a sports scholarship, that does not mean you are going to walk out of there with a professional contract. As fans, we see them on ESPN and National Television and assume they’re all first round draft picks in their respective sports, but that is not the case. One of the reasons I chose to write this blog was because I saw an interesting stat floating around social media. Here it is:

COTPWaRWoAAH5nT.jpg-large

That chart just shows an example of how important a decision this is for a student athlete to make. This is bigger than who has the best sports program or most fans. College is a crucial 4 years for any student and a clouded, pressure induced decision shouldn’t be pushed on a student athlete.

I completely understand that coaches’/recruiting coordinators’ jobs are not easy and they need answers and commitments as soon as possible. They must move on and recruit another student athlete if you don’t accept their offer.. But be respectful of the student athlete and give a respectable timetable. Whether that student attends a specific school, that school will still field a team, and fill that scholarship offer. The student however, if they make the wrong decision, it can impact their entire life and future.

The easiest way for this to happen is to be open and honest with each other. Athletes, do not lead coaches on for weeks on end if you are not truly interested in attending that school. Give them a chance to move on. And coaches, be respectful of the decision making process and if a timetable is needed, make it reasonable.

After all, it is the athlete’s life we are talking about. Let him or her decide what to do with it.

Some things are bigger than sports.

Please remember, this is my point of view and opinion. This was an example of something I went through and figured if one kid can relate, then it was worth writing. The recruiting process is not always like this and not all coaches and universities pressure athletes. However, this does happen, and I am sure student athletes are going through this as you read this. So please understand, this is not the case with ALL universities and not the case with ALL student athletes. This is an opinion and also my advice for student athletes going through this or that will go through this.

3 Comments

  1. Insightful. Many student athletes go through this – and although the recruiting process DOES offer excellent opportunities for them for which they should be honored, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a side to it that’s tough to handle – mentally, emotionally, etc.

    Like

  2. Rob,
    You are older than your years in thinking. I enjoyed umpiring your games in HS and your writing is excellen. After teaching English for so long, it is great to read excellent organized and thoughtful writing.

    Like

  3. made me think, Rob – here are some details I worked up for baseball. Think it’s different due to the amount of time spent in the minors compared to the other sports…

    Coming from a DIII college athlete with her bachelors and 3 masters degrees, it’s sooo important to choose your schools well – would be interested to hear if this is a common tactic. I would hope that most coaches would understand the need to take time to make such a significant decision!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s