How To Help Your Athlete Make The Right Sports And Academic Program Choices That Will Align With Their Interests, Dreams, & Aspirations

For today’s blog, I would like to give you some ideas on how you can help your athlete make the right sports and academic program choices. We want these to align with your athlete’s interests and their sports and academic dreams and aspirations. I want to stress first and foremost that this is your athlete’s journey, not yours. You MUST let them pursue the academic and sports programs that resonate with their interests, goals, and dreams. The only way to help your athlete reach maximum potential, and take advantage of every opportunity along the way, is by helping them chase those that resonate with them.

Your athlete won’t enjoy college or university life if they don’t have any interest in it. It’s important that you let them be the leader of this journey. Let them make decisions and deal with the consequences of those decisions. It’s part of growing up. In the early stages, there’s planning and research that we as supporting parents can do, that will guide our athletes to a solid decision when applying for college or university. There are many ways you can encourage your athlete to make the right sports and academic program choices.

The Competitor’s Edge Masterclass

Before I begin, I want to let you know we are about to kick off our next masterclass on the 16th of November, 2020 at 8:00 AM, AEST, Brisbane time. It will be five days of free LIVE training sessions. You will create your athlete’s four-year sports and academic plan, putting in place a solid strategy that will help them maximize every opportunity on the way to college sports success. If you are not yet registered, we do have a registrants only bonus draw for those who register via the registration page, so jump on over and get registered here today!

Big Decisions

This blog will give you some ideas on how you can help your athlete in making the right sports and academic program choices. It can be quite a big decision to make, in fact, it’s one of the biggest decisions your athlete will ever make. Therefore, it’s important they know how to make well-informed choices.

Your Athlete’s Race

The biggest piece of this journey is that we, as parents, must understand that while we’re our athlete’s biggest supporters, and we can guide and help them make informed choices, they have to be the ones to lead. They have to be the ones that are running this race. It’s their skills, abilities, and voice that will get them over the finish line. By letting them lead, and put their own skills, abilities, and voices across, they will ultimately land the program they desire. So that’s one piece, and it’s the biggest piece to this journey, to let them lead and use their own skills, abilities, and voices.

When your athlete communicates with coaches or admissions staff, all the paperwork, social media profiles, sports portfolios, resumes, emails etc, must have their voice. It’s also your athlete’s hard work, determination, drive, focus, motivation, and perseverance, that will enable them to fully maximize opportunities. With hard work, early preparation and research, they will be able to make the right sports and academic program choices for them.

Guidance & Support

It is super important you understand this is their race. You can run beside them and give them their sweat towel and water bottle whenever they need it, which will keep them moving in the direction they need to be. So we’re guiding and supporting them, but we’re not doing this for them.

Without sounding brutal, you had your chance, you have run your race, and now you can enjoy watching your athlete run their race. You can support them as they pursue their academic and sports dreams. If it’s more so your dream, they will be doing something they’re not interested in just to please you, which can create problems further down the track.

Focus On The Dream

If your athlete is in the starting stages, they’re in year nine and college is a definite possibility, sit down together and begin creating a list of hopes, goals, and dreams. Focus on the dream and envision what your athlete wants for the future. Where do they want to be in 5, 10, and 15 years? When you know what your athlete’s interests, dreams, hopes, goals, desires, and aspirations are, it becomes much easier to create a solid plan from year nine on, that will help your athlete maximize those opportunities, and make the right sports and academic program choices for them.

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Program

There are many contributing factors that come into play and should be taken into consideration when it comes to college sports programs. Discuss with your athlete what those factors are, and from there, let them decide and make informed choices.

Encouraging your athlete to consider these contributing factors will allow them to explore what resonates with them, what’s within their interests, goals, aspirations, and dreams. Knowing what factors to take into consideration, they will be able to move forward making well-informed choices.

Talent, Level, & Participation

Your athlete will need to think about their talents and abilities, and what level they are at. Ask them to consider their level of talent and abilities. Look at programs that will be suited to that level. How much participation will an athlete of their level be involved in? Do they want to be in a highly competitive environment, improving, learning and growing all the time? These are the things they need to take into consideration when looking for the right sports and academic program choices. Do they want to grow, learn and improve? Or, do they want to enjoy the sport they love, have fun and focus more on the academic side of things?

The College

Next, your athlete can think about the actual college. It’s not just about sports and academics, but also what social aspect they looking for in a college? Do they want a strong sense of community? The social aspect can make a really big difference when making these choices. Your athlete might not like the extracurricular activities that are available or lack thereof. Do they like the culture, community, and environment?

There are so many things that come into play. Check what previous success rates of past students are. What are the graduation rates of past student-athletes in the program your athlete is considering? What is the reputation of the school? Does the reputation excite your athlete? What sports and academic program choices are available?

University & College Fairs

If your athlete is unsure what degree they want to graduate with, I encourage them to attend university and college fairs. They are informative fairs where your athlete could end up making their decision when they realise there’s an available program they had no idea about, which really interests them. Encourage them to attend some of those fairs if they are still unsure. Even if they are sure, encourage them to attend a fair anyway. They may find there is something else they can add, or there’s something completely different that grabs their undivided attention.

Athlete/College Relationship

It’s good to know how involved and how much a college will do for their student-athletes. Do they go above and beyond for their student-athletes, or are they more academic-focused? These are the kind of things your athlete should think about when making sports and academic program choices. Don’t let them limit their choices.

Begin With An Extensive List

In the beginning, your athlete’s lists should be quite extensive. It should have many colleges and programs for you to research together. Encourage them not to limit their choices. There are so many times student-athletes have gone on to do college sports programs they never knew existed, then they fall in love with the program and go on to smash it out of the ballpark. You don’t discover magic like that when you limit your choices. In the beginning, I would put fifty or more on the list. Then it’s the process of elimination after that.

Consider All Divisions

Another suggestion I have is to ensure your athlete is considering all divisions, not just division I. Just because a school is Division II or III, doesn’t mean they’re not highly competitive and treat their student-athletes really well. Your athlete may find that one program they didn’t know about that resonates deeply with them.

Division I & II

Don’t let them limit themselves to just one division, look at all of them. Division I schools are highly competitive, require an extremely high level of commitment, promote high visibility, and offer full-ride athletic scholarships. Most Division II schools competition levels can range from highly competitive to above-average. Division II can be just as competitive as Division I. There is strong visibility, and a high level of commitment required for some Division II schools, and they do offer some athletic scholarships. Division II is definitely worth looking at.

Division III

A Division III school can be quite competitive, however, their competition levels vary. They don’t offer sports scholarships as such and are primarily academic-focused. If a Division III school has a program your athlete is interested in, they should definitely pursue it. You can always find scholarships in other places that will give your athlete an opportunity for a free ride through college. If it’s the program they really have their heart set on, let them do it. It is their decision in the end.

Always Ask Questions

Before making these choices, encourage your athlete to attend on-campus tours, COVID restrictions permitting, and check out the athletic facilities they have. Meet the coaches and ask questions. Always make sure your athlete has pre-prepared questions for the coaches. Ask what the expectations of their players are. What will their workload look like, both on and off-season? These are the questions they should ask before making those sports and academic program choices.

The Coach & Players

Your athlete can search for past student-athletes from their current high school. Have a chat to them and get some insight on their thoughts on the program, what they thought about the coach, the team, playing style, training style, and so on. They can also attend training sessions and competitions. Encourage them to check out how the coach interacts with the players. How do they train? What is their training style? How do they play together as a team? What vibe do they get from the players as people? Can your athlete see themself training the way they train? Encourage your athlete to imagine themselves there with the team, to picture if that’s the style that they want to train with and if they can handle training with them for the next four to six years.

Coach History

Research the history of the coaching staff? Have they been there a while and seem very loyal? Or, does the school go through coaches very quickly? Sometimes that can be a sign in itself, so really look at these things. How many others are being recruited for the same spot your athlete is looking to be recruited for? Your athlete must look at these things before they make any sports and academic program choices. And like I said, ultimately at the end of the day, it is their decision.

Academic/Sports Flexibility

What’s the school’s sports and academic flexibility look like? This is really important because your athlete will be travelling and will compete away at tournaments. They will be attending big games and training camps. The school needs to accommodate for this. Generally, with student-athletes, most colleges will, but please do make sure first because your athlete may find it’s not quite what they thought it was. Sports and academic flexibility is a massive contributing factor.

When you’re thinking about the sports aspects, you want to be thinking about how much playing time your athlete will be receiving each year, each game, each semester. Will they play in their first year? Will there be a strong health and safety priority for student-athletes? Do they have good strength and conditioning programs? nutritional programs? Health insurances? All of these are very important to a student-athlete. So if they’re not there, then please find somewhere else. Health and safety are first and foremost the priority.

Well-Informed Choices

To find the right program, your athlete wants to decide firstly, what’s important to them.  Are they interested in Science, Art, English, Politics, or Technology? You can start there. If they have multiple interests, they can pursue programs that cater to multiple interests. For example, you could have the arts/ sciences, or business/Politics, and English/Arts. There are many different programs your athlete can utilize that will cater to their different interests if they have strong, multiple interests. Let them work that out. It’s up to them to work out whether they want to do a combined program for their multiple interests, or if they have one primary one they are passionate about and want to focus on.

School/Work Life

Further things to think about when making the right sports and academic program choices. Do they want to do an internship? Do they want to work throughout their summers? One thing you need to be aware of is if your athlete decides to do a co-op or internship program, it will take time away from their other sports and academic commitments. But if that’s something your athlete is really passionate about doing, then let them do it. There are some advantages to gaining work experience through internships, such as being able to graduate sooner. Your athlete will have to weigh up the pros and cons. Just be mindful and do point out to your athlete, they may need to give up certain sports and academic commitments to do an internship.

Community

Naturally, your athlete will want to think about extracurricular activities, campus life, and community. We want your athlete to enjoy where they are, the activities and people, the community, and the culture. They should know if they will be comfortable there for 4-6 years. All these elements should be considered. I very much suggest your athlete is researching all of them.

They can go to in-person tours, but if your athlete is in their senior years and ready for these steps now, they can take virtual tours. I know it’s not as effective as an in-person tour, however, given the craziness that’s been going on, we are lucky we live in the digital age where all of these elements are still possible with a bit of improvisation. Take advantage of those tours, visit chat groups often and find what the overall “feel” of the community is. Your athlete will know if they feel connected to it. It will help them when making these tough sports and academic program choices.

Re-Cap

To recap, visit campuses, do online tours, visit chat groups and social media profiles. Most colleges and universities are on social media. You can also visit social media profiles of past students and see what they have to say about the community. There are so many ways you can work out how your athlete will feel within the community. If they’re not comfortable in the community, around the people, with the activities and the culture, then they’re not going to be comfortable there for the next four to six years. Try to ensure when your athlete is looking at sports and academic programs, they are also looking at the community.

Academics

What degree does your athlete want to graduate with? It might be early days yet and they may just have interests at the moment, but this question gives you something to work with and somewhere to start. What is your athlete interested in? Look at the programs that align with those interests. Within those programs, look at the courses and ensure they are courses your athlete will be interested in. Researching courses will be imperative if your athlete wants to make the right sports and academic choices.

Learning Mode & Location

Next, how does your athlete want to learn? Do they want to learn online or do they want to be in a classroom setting? Do they want to be on campus or off-campus? They will need to think about these questions when deciding on programs they want to study. How strong are their grades? Are they sitting at a good average right now, or do they need to work on them? Do they want to be close to family? Would they like to play at a top tier school? Do they want to play as a freshman? Would they prefer small classes or large classes? Are they after a particular coach or a particular playing style?

Decide What’s Important

These are the decisions your athlete should sit down and really think about. Decide what’s going to be important to them. When they eventually go to college, they will need to know and understand how to make informed choices, which is why we are here to help them. They need to understand the sports and academic choices they have ahead of them.

Begin Research Early

I strongly suggest researching programs early in the journey. Go through your athlete’s lists of interests, hopes, goals, dreams, and desires with them. Then research those programs, and the courses within those programs, to find out what your athlete needs to do so they always have something to work towards. Their interests will change over the years, but a lot of the time their program interests will stay around the same or similar subject areas.

Research programs and have the details placed clearly in front of your athlete. They will know what they’re working towards and can keep track of how they are progressing. It’s also a handy way to monitor where their grade point averages are sitting at so they know they are keeping where they need to be in order to be offered a place in their desired program.

Finances

Next step, is to start looking at finance options. What finance is out there that will be offered by the college? What is their finance package like? From there, we can look at further funding that will be needed to carry your athlete through to the end, where they will come out a professional sports player and have a kick-butt career, one they can take with them everywhere they go. Finances will play a very important role when making the right sports and academic program choices.

All About Research

Finally, once all decisions are made, it’s time to commit to their program. The steps in themselves are quite easy, but it really is all about the research. You’ve got to research every aspect. You want to research the college, the sports, the academics, and the social aspect of every establishment. Then you have to research the programs of each college. And within those programs, research the course loads. There is an extensive amount of research that goes into your athlete making the right sports and academic choices for them. As I said at the beginning of this blog, this is their race, you are just running the beside them with a water bottle giving them the hydration, the energy, the focus, and the drive they need to keep pushing forward.

Learn To Trust Your Athlete

Please encourage your athlete to trust their own instincts. You have got to let them learn and continue giving them credit where credit is due. They’ve got as far as they have so far, and they have instincts just like us. So we need to embrace that and give them the leeway to trust their own instincts and make well-informed sports and academic program choices from there.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, now you have a plan your athlete can put into action and if not, let’s tweak it until we get it right. Your athlete will see the programs, the schools, the academics, the sports, the social, and the cultural elements of every school, and they will discover one very perfect establishment for them to spend four to six years as they build themselves to be the best that they can be.

I did a live session discussing how to help your athlete make these informed decisions when it comes to choosing the right sports and academic programs. If you would like to check it out, you can do so here. After watching it, you will have a good idea about what you need to do now to help your athlete make well-informed decisions, and they will make the right sports and academic program choice that they will enjoy and achieve success at because it was THEIR choice.

Masterclass Reminder

Also, don’t forget, we have our Masterclass kicking off on the 16th of November at 8:00 AM, AEST. It will be five days where we are literally going to build out your athletes 4-year sports and academic plan, LIVE, together. It’s going to be tons of fun. There will be lots of bonuses, prizes, giveaways, and chit-chats. Make sure you are registered to go in the draw for our bonus prize. You can register here. If you would like to connect and have a chat before we kick-off, I am offering FREE 15-minute connect calls for the next two weeks. You can find my calendar and schedule your call here.

I hope you have a wonderful week full of happy grins and big wins, take care for now. Yours in sport, Brooke Hamilton.

What do you find the most challenging part of securing sports scholarships and maximising opportunity from year 9 for your athlete?

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