Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of blog posts reflecting on the educational pipeline by Karen Gross, former president of Southern Vermont College. She has taught students from preschool through graduate school. Her first piece covered breaking down pre-K–20 silos, and her second piece covered changes in the college admission process. Her next piece will focus on reimagining preschool education. Her children’s book, Lady Lucy’s Quest, was just released.
Many children dream of becoming an athlete in college and then professionally. Parents are excited by the idea of their child receiving a full-ride athletic scholarship, not realizing how challenging it is to obtain and retain one. However, how high school students “get into the collegiate game” is complicated and filled with pitfalls.
Athletic recruiting is a big business. Many books, articles, and movies explore the issue. (See The Blind Side.) NCAA’s rules are numerous. Some provisions make perfect sense. For instance, a student cannot be considered a prospect before ninth grade. Some measures seem absurd. Consider that a college recruiter cannot even buy a cup of coffee for a Division III transfer recruit when visiting that student at his or her original institution.
I am familiar with the vagaries of collegiate and professional athletics from being in the trenches both as a parent of a Division I athlete and an educator at a Division III institution. Our son attended a sports academy in his last years of high school after having been a student at an independent K–12 school. He was recruited and competed as a Division I athlete, but he then transferred out of that DI college to a university that did not offer DI sports. He has since graduated from college, earned a PhD, and is now a professor.
I’ve established my own bona fides in athletic recruiting in many ways. While I was president of Southern Vermont College, an NCAA Division III school, I served as president of the New England Collegiate Conference and also participated in the NCAA Division III President’s Advisory Group. I have personally recruited athletes (I’m four for four), and have worked with a remarkable NCAA lawyer on issues involving NCAA rules and possible infractions. I have also written about collegiate athletics for an NCAA magazine and for the online publication CollegeAD.
Based on my experience, I offer six key points to help guide parents, teachers, school counselors, and coaches of students attending independent schools.
Point 1. The NCAA Is More Than Just Football and Basketball.
NCAA’s moneyed sports, with their televised football and basketball championships, receive the lion’s share of public and media attention. Individual NCAA-sanctioned sports that many independent schools offer, such as tennis, golf, and track and field, receive a limited amount of attention.