Thursday, December 11, 2008

Getting Through the Stages of Grief in College Recruiting

Most decent athletes start the college recruiting process expecting a lot. Everyone is a top D I prospect before reality sets in. Given that there's about 330 D I schools, and about 1500 more between D II, D III, NAIA, and NJCAA, it's not hard to figure out where more are going to end up.

Student-athletes go through this process over the course of a year or so, and when they figure out that it's not going to play out like they hoped, it's like watching people go through the five stages of grief:

Denial: "I'm really good, this can't be happening to me"

Anger: (directed at others) "Those coaches are jerks--they don't realize how good I am," or (directed at yourself) "Why was I so bad when they were watching"

Bargaining: "Just let me get a small scholarship, just give me something I can tell everyone about--I'll do anything if I can just keep playing for a few more years"

Depression: "I stink--why bother anymore, what's the point"

and thankfully, Acceptance: "It's okay, I found a place where I can play and I fit in pretty well. I'll just enjoy it, maybe I'll even get a decent education while I'm there"

Save yourself a lot of time and self pity--get to the acceptance part quickly. Not making the D I cut doesn't mean you're a lousy athlete, it's just a numbers game and there's a lot of competition for a few spots. The sooner you can aim yourself at the right level, the more you'll enjoy recruiting and the more you'll look forward to what's next.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

One Last Election Connection

I was lucky enough to get two tickets to the Obama rally in Grant Park on election night. I debated whether or not I should go. My concerns? Crowd control issues, difficulty of getting in and out of the city, standing on my feet for an unknown number of hours, not being with my closest friends who have shared this whole election season with me, just the whole hassle factor of attending something like that. But my fifteen year old wouldn’t hear of it. He understood the historical significance of it and wasn’t taking no for an answer. So we bit the bullet and went.

Most of those concerns were realized but I would do it again in a second. It was such a thrill to just be part of it and neither of us will ever forget it. So what’s the recruiting connection? When I think back to the beginning of the process for us, it felt like there were so many obstacles and so many things we didn't know how to do. It would have been easy to let all those things aggravate us to the point of paralysis. But we took the bull by the horns, worked through the obstacles, and I would do it again in a second. The outcome was well worth it—just like our trip to the rally.

Don’t fall prey to getting intimidated by what seems too overwhelming, confusing, or mysterious to figure out. Nothing is as hard as you think. Take a minute and shoot me a note--what are the obstacles that are looming large in your way?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Learnings for the Recruiting Trail

It’s the day before the 2008 Presidential election and I find myself drawing parallels between this election and college recruiting. We have all watched this political season forever. Everyone has their own take on what they’ve witnessed and their own personal reaction to it. I learned something interesting about myself during the dog days of the presidential campaign. I had some pretty strong feelings about my candidate and got more and more frustrated and anxious when I heard what I thought were unfair attacks or untrue lies. Late in the campaign, a friend talked me into volunteering at a phone bank. There are few things I find more distasteful than cold calling and trying to twist arms, but I did it. Much to my surprise, I felt great about it when we finished and here’s why: you can only feel powerless for so long before it starts to get to you. When you take some action, it’s liberating. I know that sounds clich├ęd and who knows if the calls I made did any good for my candidate but the cobwebs of inaction were cleared and I was energized to soldier on.

So what does all of this have to do with college recruiting? The parallels are unmistakable. When the recruiting season starts, you’re pretty clear on what would constitute a good outcome. Time goes on. You’re waiting for something to break and getting a little antsy. More time goes on. Maybe a few things start coming your way but not what you were hoping for. Now you’re getting anxious. And frustrated. And finally, worried that time is passing and you’re not getting any closer to the goal. Inaction is usually the result of distaste for the task (as it was for me cold calling) or lack of knowledge about what to go do (as it is for many families and college recruiting). What makes them similar is that passivity leads to frustration, and effort invigorates.

So please, just do something. Take action. Educate yourself. Make some contacts, Do some research on college programs. Learn about scholarships. Talk to coaches. Just do something. The process doesn’t belong just to the college coach, it belongs to both of you. There’s no honor in waiting for him or her to initiate something. Make the process your own and you will be delighted at how much more you will begin to enjoy it.