Making the Team

Four tips to help you standout and make your high school team

With the first day of school right around the corner, not only is it time to get back to homework, test, and waking up early, it’s also the time of year for your high school team tryouts.

To some athletes this might be the most stressful part of the year. There’s nothing more nerve wrecking then trying to showcase your skills to a group of coaches and prove to them you would be an asset to their team.

Here are some tips for helping you make the team:

Nix the Nerves

Nervous much? Totally normal! Almost everyone gets nervous at try out time, even if you’re a returning player. To help with these nerves, create a routine that’ll keep you both prepared and relaxed. If that means listening to music, or reading  or just sitting somewhere quiet with no distractions, DO IT!!!

Separating yourself and mentally preparing yourself before a tryout can not only help you clear your mind but you can also use this time to visualize your tryout and what you want to do.  Imagine yourself running through your routes, making a great pass, or making every lay-up. Prepare your mindset to succeed!

Don’t worry too much about being cut, that’ll just distract you. Relax, have fun, and try your best. Make your tryout enjoyable.

Get in Shape

Hopefully you took the summer as an opportunity to get ahead and train on your own or with teammates. Every athlete knows the more reps you get in the better. During the summer sometimes there is “open gyms” or meetings leading up to tryouts. Make sure you’re attending as many of these opportunities as possible. It shows coaches you’re dedicated and want to be part of the team.

Now going into tryouts you want to make sure you’re physically fit to compete and well rested. Make sure the day before tryouts you get at least eight hours of sleep, eat a high energy meal, and drink lots of fluids so you don’t dehydrate.

Make sure you’re stretching and you inform the coaches of any injuries or medical conditions you have that could affect your tryout.

Get Noticed

Tryouts are not just about the amazing athletic skills you possess. Coaches are looking for well-rounded players. These characteristics include: leadership, focus, intensity, supporting teammates, and paying attention to instructions.

If a coach asks for a volunteer to demonstrate a drill or pick up equipment after practice, raise your hand! You want to grab this coach’s attention and show them you’re willing to go the extra mile.

Another item that might help you stand out is to wear a “pop of color.” For example a bright colored headband, t-shirt or shorts. This by no means is a deciding factor but it does get noticed.

For example as a coach I have been at numerous tryouts and we obviously don’t know every player’s name so there is times we will refer to a player by what their wearing when speaking amongst coaches. Remember it’s sometimes the smallest detail that gets you noticed, not just the skills you possess. Everyone there will have skills, think what can I do to set me apart?

Stay Cool and Show What You Got

If you’ve got game, don’t be afraid to show it!!!

Of course that doesn’t mean you have the right to be a ball hog or a “showoff.”  At tryouts you are competing for a spot on the team, not to be the team. So remember to be a team player and influence the athletes around you in a positive way.

There is nothing wrong with you tackling a player hard to the ground or finishing first in every sprint. After all you are trying to prove you would be an asset to the team, but be a good sport about it and always have a positive and encouraging attitude towards your teammates.

Remember if you make a mistake, take a deep breath, shake it off, and listen for feedback. Show coaches that you are coachable and well-rounded.

I hope these four tips help you on your upcoming tryouts and I wish you the best of luck!

Coach Sonya


College recruiting timeline

Part two of your step by step guide to college sports recruiting for your junior and senior year of high school

Your junior and senior year is where you will begin to see a lot more action and contact from coaches. That’s why getting started in your first two years of high school and laying a foundation then is important. You do not want to wait until your junior year to begin contacting schools. You have to compete against hundreds of athletes fighting for the same scholarships, so why not start early and get ahead?

Junior year

  • Send out athletic resumes and register with the NCAA Clearinghouse, if you haven’t already done so. If you have done this already make sure you update your information with the clearinghouse.
  • Take the SAT and/or the ACT and ask that your scores be sent to the NCAA Clearinghouse.
  • Review the NCAA requirements, and make yourself aware of any changes.
  • Continue striving for academic success and make sure you are on target with your core classes.
  • Continue to do your research on schools that interest you. You should begin to see your list of colleges narrowing down.
  • Continue to work hard on the court/ field on physical fitness, diet, sleep, and strength.
  • Follow up with coaches and make sure they have received your updated school and club schedules. After your school season send them updated stats, and any special recognitions you may have received.
  • Try to determine your market value. Trainers, club directors and non-bias coaches can help with this. You can also obtain these opinions by attending camps, showcases, and setting up meetings to talk about your potential.
  • If you can, try to visit some of the colleges you’re interested in as an unofficial visit.
  • Create a highlight video showcasing your skills. Also include about two minutes of actual game footage. You can have these ready to be sent out through DVD, or create your own YouTube channel so that you can upload your videos and email the coaches with the link.
  • In July after completion of your junior year, if permissible phone contact with potential coaches. Remember coaches cannot call you back until July 1st.

The summer before going into your senior year

  • Plan out your 5 official visits . If you are being seriously recruited by a school, they will ask you to make an official visit to the school meaning your travel, room and board are paid for.
  • Try to talk to current and former players from the schools you are still considering.
  • Look at what schools will truly benefit you and your long-term goals; such as a degree, your career or in some cases playing professionally.
  • Talk to the coaches and ask them what you need to do and work on in your senior year so that you are prepared to compete at the collegiate level in a year.

Senior Year

  • Take your five official visits.
  • Do not let up on your academics. Study hard and play hard but always remember you are a student first.
  • Send out your senior year school and club schedules.
  • Send out the last of your athletic resumes and videos, if you develop a new interest in a school.
  • Make sure you are aware of your sports National Letter of Intent signing dates.
  • Have serious conversations with coaches regarding; where they see you playing, scholarship availabilities and amounts, the importance of academics in their program, what they’re practice schedule is like, and how both the school and you will benefit one another both athletically and academically.
  • Ask a lot of questions and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the schools you’re still interested in.
  • After wavering many choices and doing much research, choose the school that’s right for you.
  • Lastly, sign your National Letter of Intent.

Some schools may ask their top recruits to make a verbal commitment to their school during the spring or summer prior to their senior year. You need to know that (1) you do not have to verbally commit just because they want you to, and (2) a verbal commitment does not bind you to that school. The only thing that binds you to the school is when you sign your National Letter of Intent and Offer of Financial Aid.

If you make a verbal commitment you do have the right to change your mind and de-commit, but not after signing your NLI. If you choose not to attend the school you signed your NLI with or you transfer before one year of completion, you will lose at least one year of eligibility.

Ok, there you have it, a recruiting timeline to help you navigate your recruiting process throughout high school. Remember to be patient, ask questions, be involved and choose a school that will provide the best experience for you academically, socially, and athletically.

The next level is waiting for an athlete like you! The recruiting process is in your hands and your success is in the amount of effort and dedication you put forth.

Best of luck!

College recruiting timeline

A step by step guide to college sports recruiting for your freshman and sophomore year of high school

Your freshman and sophomore years are where you begin to build the foundation of your recruiting process and begin to develop relationships with potential colleges and coaches. The more active you are in these early years the better. College coaches want you to be interested in their program, ask questions, and seek information. Begin to build a strong foundation now, and junior and senior year won’t have you overwhelmed, for in those two years all the big action happens.

Below you will see a timeline that shows what a student-athlete needs to be doing in their first two years of high school:

Freshman Year

  • Get situated with being in high school, and set up a solid high school curriculum with your academic counselor. If you are up for a challenge sign up for one or two honors courses to help boost your grade point average (GPA) and class ranking.
  • Begin to familiarize yourself with colleges you may be interested in attending. This includes doing research on admission requirements such as grades and test scores you’ll need to have, which schools offer scholarships and financial aid, and what athletic level you need to be at in order to play at certain schools.
  • Go see local college sporting games in your area from the junior college level to the big universities.
  • Talk to your high school coaches, athletic director or look online for a local and competitive club team for you to join. You want to get as much exposure and practice as possible.
  • Set up a workout schedule to improve your physical. Focus on developing a balance between improving your athleticism and being a strong student in the classroom.
  • Register with the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Sophomore Year

  • Continue striving for academic success and make sure you are on target with your core classes.
  • Stay active on your high school and club team.
  • Continue to do your research on schools that interest you.
  • Meet with your guidance counselor and develop a list of colleges that meet your needs academically, athletically, and socially.
  • Send an introduction letter or email to coaches of schools you are interested in and ask them to send you information regarding the school. Be sure to include a copy of your upcoming season. If your schedule is not available send a follow up letter as soon as it is.
  • Try and talk to college athletes or a former college athlete in your sport and area that can share their recruiting story with you.
  • Update your academics with the NCAA Clearinghouse and continue to monitor the academic requirements of colleges you’re still looking at.
  • Start to familiarize yourself with the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT).
  • During the summer between your sophomore and junior year begin to prepare your athletic resume, which you will send out to coaches.

Due to sports associations such as the NCAA and NAIA, there are rules and regulations that will place certain restriction on what a coach can do. An important thing to know is, as an athlete you can call or initiate contact with a coach at any time.Remember, the recruiting process is in your hands and your success is in the amount of effort and dedication you put forth, so why not get started early?

Be sure to check back next week, where I will cover both the junior and senior year recruiting timeline.

Be involved, not overbearing

How to support and guide your student athlete

As a parent, it is important that you are well informed and involved in your child’s college sports recruitment process. Upon entering their freshman year of high school, the recruitment process will begin and you will be surprised at just how fast the next four years will pass.

For the past five years I have coached and developed young athletes and the biggest problem I see when it comes to dealing with young athletes and their parents is that the parent sees the athlete as an extension of themselves. They want to live their dream through their child, and in some cases want that college scholarship more than the athlete themselves.

In order to help support and guide your student athlete it is important you know about the recruiting process. Below are a few tips that as a parent you should understand.

Skill Level

It is easy to get caught up in the success and skill level of your student athlete and the dream of them one day playing in college. What you must remember is that there are thousands of athletes just like your child competing for those same scholarships every year. Encouraging your child is great, but you also need to be honest with them when it comes to determining their skill level and looking at the right division levels that they can compete in post high school. It is okay for your child to aim and shoot for the big name colleges and teams, but you also need to have them to look at smaller name schools in DI, DII, DIII, NAIA and junior colleges that are just as competitive and may offer them more scholarship money, more play time, and a better academic program. The athlete should want to play for a program where they can compete and challenge themselves, not be sitting on the bench cause they aren’t ready to compete at that level.

Let Your Child Navigate Their Recruiting Process

As a parent your job is to support and guide your student athlete. You want your child to be proactive in their recruiting process. Although it is time consuming and long, the overall experience is fun and your child will feel so much better and appreciate the outcome so much more when they know they made the right choice. When college coaches reach out to an athlete they don’t want to speak to the student athlete’s parent, they want to speak to the athlete themselves. After all they are the one’s joining the team and committing to the college, not mom and dad. If a parent is too heavily involved and overbearing the coach may see that as a negative sign and take that athlete off of their interest list. You want your student athlete to develop a relationship with the coach and program. If they can’t dedicate themselves and commit time to their recruiting process and balance that with life in general, how do you expect them to balance it all at a college level?  You don’t want to be the reason why your child loses an opportunity to play at the college level. Let go, sit in the passenger’s seat and let them be the driver.

Have an Open Mind to Outsiders Opinions

As mentioned earlier every parent would like to think their athlete has what it takes to play at the top level. Parents, you need to be open to obtaining lots of advice from outsiders. No I do not mean the other parents in the stands; I am talking about legitimate opinions such as trainers, club directors and non-bias coaches. You can obtain these opinions by attending camps, showcases, and setting up meetings to talk about your student-athlete and their potential.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Okay, now this is probably the aspect that most concerns parents and where they should be most involved. It is important that you set up a financial plan and budget on what you can afford to spend on your child’s education. By setting up your financial plan and budget you make it easier to negotiate scholarship amounts.

As Tom Schlegel from College Sports Scholarships wrote, there are many myths about college sports.  It is best to inform yourself about the financial ability of programs your child is pursuing as well as your own financial ability. The number of scholarships available per sport and the amounts of the scholarships fluctuate from year to year.  If a college is really pursuing an athlete they will do their best to accommodate them and get them to their school. That is why it’s important that the athlete build a relationship with the coach.

The most important thing to remember is to let your child be the star and be proactive in the entire process.  It is great to be an involved parent, but the child will benefit most down the road when they’re able to take control of their life, mature and make big decisions. As a parent be your child’s support system, help them stay organized, and remind them to be confident in their ability to succeed.

Ask yourself these recruiting questions

Find the right fit before you commit, and sign that National Letter of Intent

Across the country, high school seniors are counting down the days to graduation. For potential college athletes, it means the deadline for signing their National Letter of Intent  (NLI) is approaching.

If you haven’t signed your NLI, your regular initial signing dates begin on Feb. 1 and Apr. 11, depending on your sport. Don’t worry if those deadlines make you nervous, these are the dates your signing period begins. You have until April 1, May 16 and Aug. 1 to sign your letter depending on your sport. A key point to know is once you receive your NLI you have 14 days from the date on the letter to sign.

Ask yourself and your potential coach these questions before your big signing date:

Does the college offer your major?

You’re a student athlete. The goal at the end of four years is to obtain a degree not a championship. You need to look at schools that can provide you with both a great team and an academic program. Make a list of universities you would like to attend and offer your major. From there, begin the process of elimination. As you become more informed regarding what you want and what you’re looking for, you’ll begin to see your list get smaller.

What dollar amount of scholarship will you receive?

This is the big question of recruiting. Is the school offering you a partial scholarship, full ride, or asking you to walk on to their program and earn a scholarship?  Only four sports offer full ride scholarships: football, men’s and women’s basketball, and women’s volleyball. If you’re not receiving a full ride, make sure you complete your financial aid application. See if there are loans, grants or work-study opportunities available to you if you are not receiving a fill ride.

Where will you live?

Does the college offer dorms, shared suites, off campus housing or apartments? If you’re an underclassmen are you required to live on campus? This is the place you will be calling home for the next couple years, so make sure you are happy with your living arrangement.

What’s campus life-like outside your team?

Do you want to be a “big fish” in a small pond, or a “small fish” in a big pond? What’s the schools relationship with its surrounding community? This may mean taking an unofficial visit and spending more time in the area with the coach and players. Contact a coach through email or a phone call and let them know when you will be in town, and would like to take a tour of the campus, sit in on a practice, meet with an advisor, and possibly have lunch with him and a member of the team. There may even be a sporting event going on at the time in which you can attend.

How much playing time can you expect?

There’s nothing wrong with asking a coach where you rank on his or her roster. Don’t be afraid to ask a coach where they see you benefiting his or her program.

What if something unexpected happens?

As an athlete, the chances of experiencing an injury can and possibly will occur. Make sure you ask, if I get hurt and cannot play for a short or long period of time what happens? Then there’s always the possibility you’re living thousands of miles from home and get homesick, or realized you’re not at the right school and decide to leave the university, how does this affect you and your eligibility?

As you can see, there are many questions to ask before signing your name on that dotted line. Be patient, stay confident and make this process fun. You’ve worked hard to get to this point, and being a college athlete is your dream.