Sprinting Down the Athletic Route: Part 1 Understanding Requirements

This year, I was fortunate enough to work with two dedicated, national track and field athletes, so please excuse the “sprinting” pun in the title. Also, I apologize for the lack of articles. The SAT and consulting season in 2018 was more hectic than I expected – I thought I would have time to write an article every two weeks, but, after August, I only had time for webinars. So, with the optimism of New Year’s resolutions, here I am again to answer questions, correct misconceptions, and encourage students and parents through the college admissions process.

And, for my first article back, I wanted to focus on student-athletes and their families. As I’ve worked with more and more athletes, I find myself sorting into the following:

DieHardProfessional – I am going pro in this sport or else
BackupRealist – I want to play in college but know how difficult that can be, so I’m trying to find a good balance of academics and athletics
FullRideGoals – I love my sport but need a full ride
AcademicAchiever – I will play in college, but sports is a gateway to the best education possible

Of course, people often fall into two or even three of those categories, but knowing your order of priorities is important in choosing schools. In future webinars and articles, I will talk about how these different personalities approach the admissions process.

Since there is so much to include when talking about athletic recruiting, this is the beginning in a series of articles intended as a general introduction to sports recruiting from Form 4 and up. The longer you wait to apply/ be recruited, the less money there is available, the more stress there is, and the less influence coaches may have over your acceptance.

A survey by the National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA) of more than 1000 college coaches found that 84% of all coaches identify prospects during or before the end of the athlete’s sophomore year (Form 5).

Understanding College Divisions

The NCAA is one of the main regulatory bodies for college sports and consists of three divisions. Division I and II colleges offer athletic scholarships. Division III colleges cannot offer athletic scholarships but often provide other forms of financial aid. Signing an NCAA Letter of Intent (Division I and II athletes only) means that you agree to attend that college for at least 1 year in exchange for financial aid.

To participate in NCAA Division I and II sports, a student must meet minimum academic requirements and be registered (and certified) with the NCAA Clearinghouse aka Eligibility Center which is a one-time fee of $90 USD for domestic students and $150 USD for international students.

The other two main regulatory bodies to consider are NAIA and NJCAA which will not be discussed in this series.

Minimum Academic Requirements

Athletes must maintain the following academic standards for Division I and II. Each Division III school has its own policies for academic requirements.

In the Caribbean, the above table translates into five CXC passes by Form 5 or two CAPE passes within 2 years. Furthermore, students should have taken core course requirements of English, Math, Natural/ Physical Science, Social Science.

The core course GPA of 2.3+ is required to compete in Division I, while a 2.0+ allows athletes to train in Division I but not to compete (also known as being a redshirt).

Timeline for NCAA

The NCAA gives students 5 years after high school graduation to use 4 years of athletic eligibility. The extra year is typically in the event that a student gets injured or needs to take time off for grades, for example. This means that if a secondary school/ high school student takes a gap year, then he/she only has the next 4 years to be a college athlete.

In the next article, I will lay out specific timelines for athletes and talk about optimal times to begin preparation…

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