Ishmael Hyman, 16, of Manalapan is a lightning fast wide receiver on the St. John Vianney football team. Recently his coaches helped the junior send out an email to college coaches with a link to a highlights video he created.
"As soon as we clicked "send" -- the phone calls started coming in," said Head Football Coach Andy Carlstrom. Not long after, he got offers from Rutgers, Boston College, U. Mass, and Old Dominion. His mother, Tonia, says she's learning all she can to prepare for her next move in the strategic game of college recruitment. "You've got to be the one out there. You've got to be your own advocate," she said.
Which is why she, and about 100 other parents, turned out Thursday night to hear an energetic national college athletic scholarship recruiter with 50 years in the business tell the naked truth to how the whole business works. Recruiting Realities speaker Jack Renkens entertained the awed parents with his booming voice and slam-dunk logic.
He began with this zinger: "You don't choose the colleges. The colleges choose you."
He emphasized how the student's grade point average and courseload are key. How their manners are noted by recruiters. And how easily dreams can be wrecked when a Google search turns up connections to a racial slur, illicit photos or other evidence of bad behavior -- even unbeknownst to the subject. "Sadly, the bigger you are, the bigger the target you are," he said to the students. "Not everyone likes you."
He told the parents to get busy by seeking out information on the hundreds of lesser-known colleges to learn about their offerings -- the ones farthest away often have incentives to broaden their student base by taking a Jersey kid. Know that the number of student athletes fully funded at the Division 1 level is .8%, he said. There are far more opportunities outside the Division 1 level.
Renkens said technology has changed the way coaches get to know players. Gone are the newspaper clippings, the letters of recommendation and the DVDs. Chance are, there aren't any scouts watching from the bleachers. "It's 2012!" he said. Pay a professional videographer the $75 fee for a digital highlights reel and post it on the Internet, he said. Email college coaches with no more than three lines of information, and don't leave out the name of their current coach. Consider paying about $1,500 for professional recruiting consultants who will shop your kid for four years. One Chicago firm has 378 full time consultants working two shifts, endeavoring to match students with opportunities.
He warned them not be used. If an enthusiastic coach invites a student athlete to come for a visit, and doesn't offer to pay for said trip, it's just a tryout -- not a scholarship. "Never visit a college unless they pay for it," he said. If they are really interested, they will cough up the dough. And if that works out, expect them to want to come visit you at your house.
He told parents not to blame high school coaches for missed opportunities, later on.
"This is your responsibility," he said. "The coach is there for guidance and direction."