So, What About Those Sporty Teens?

In an issue that’s focusing on college choices, it seems appropriate to have at least one article about “the works” – that is, aiming both for college and the chance to play on the Varsity sports team.

I am not such a pro at this to share with you how we “did it”, but, as a mother with a college-bound swimmer, I can at least cover some of the basic arrangements and decisions that one makes along the way.

The short version is that there are four different levels of sport involvement at university level: NAIA, NCAA-III, NCAA-II, NCAA-I. All of these offer sport scholarships of one kind or another except for NCAA-III which will put together financial aid packages via other avenues if they want you to play or swim or run for them.

The other three divisions have additional hoops to jump through for your transcripts:

  • NAIA, which are small, independent schools where sports scholarships are available. It has its own approval process for homeschool eligibility: www.playnaia.org/page/HomeSchoolGED.php
  • The two upper divisions of NCAA have their site, too: www.ncaa.org/student-athletes/future/eligibility-center
    There are all kinds of rules about when coaches can contact you, so be sure to read the information on these sites carefully. The bottom line is that the recruiting process doesn’t really start until the 2nd half of the Junior year, and transcripts aren’t due till the end of the Junior year. The websites have all the information about how to submit transcripts, and there’s a good Facebook group to support people through this called Homeschool and NCAA

Approvals.

What can you do in the meantime? Focus on those academics!

Being athletic and sporty, and great at your strokes, position, races, or whatever is all well and good, but you’re going to college to get a degree. This means academics are still your first focus. If you can’t keep up grades as a homeschooled athlete, you’ll really struggle as a college athlete.

There are many ways to do this, and it often depends on your state rules. We live in Texas, so we have no academic hoops to jump through as homeschoolers in terms of record-keeping or state testing. While this is great in many ways, it also means we are well advised to seek external corroboration of the transcripts that I’m making.

We have taken the SAT and have also enrolled for dual-credit at our local community college. We’ve had our fair share of online courses, too, since my business, Dreaming Spires Home Learning, provides a variety of subjects via live delivery to homeschoolers, and it’s through this avenue that we’re getting our external academic references.

Step two is starting to narrow down your choices for your child’s sport and studies based on factors that you prioritize.

For us, that meant colleges that offered swimming, obviously. She’s also very academic so she wanted a school with high SAT averages. Other factors come into play depending on your child: location, size of school, tuition “book” costs, majors and minors on offer, the academic division of the school and the relative performance of their athletes, and – my daughter’s most important criteria – whether or not they would accept her dual-credit hours.

It was a lot of research and trial-and-error for us over the Christmas break, and then I found a site called NCSA or Next College Student Athlete. We signed up to the site to access their dos and donts, sat through a phone call by one of the agents who gave us an orientation about the site plus their sales pitch for very expensive subscription costs, but with no money changing hands, we were able to set up a student-athlete profile and have access to a whole check-list of things to do at this stage of the process. They also supply a number of useful charts that you can manipulate via various search terms, so if you want to play for an NAIA school, for example, you can filter out colleges of other divisions.

Being athletic and sporty is all well and good, but you’re going to college to get a degree.

– Dr. Kat Patrick

This resource was a lot easier than re-inventing the wheel as we had been doing!

Even without the agented subscription, we have begun to get inquiries from coaches who have seen the NCSA profile we created. Most of them don’t factor into her carefully crafted Venn diagram of what she’s looking for, but a couple have piqued her interest and we’ve started a dialogue about campus visits over Easter.

We’ve also started being pro-active ourselves, contacting coaches of colleges on our spreadsheet and discussing the future with them, weeding out those that seem out of her ability or where there’s just not a good vibe.

It may seem that we’re being a bit precipitous since she has another year and a half till she graduates, but college visits are often recommended in the Spring of a student’s Junior year, not to mention that many colleges offer early decision deadlines as early as November of the Senior year.

Finally, there may be that nagging question about why play sport in college anyway. Some people think that it just takes away from academics, that there’s no future in it for most college athletes, that it may end up more expensive that just staying at home with the local community college. While all that may be true to some degree, let me share with you what I got out of being a scholarship athlete at an NAIA school in basketball “back in the day”.

The obvious advantage besides money toward college is keeping your body and mind in good shape, but you also are slotted into a routine where you have someone to answer to who’s above you and expecting things from you, so it’s very hard to slack off. You haven’t got time for goofing around or spending all day watching tv or playing computer games; you become an expert at time management. Further, you have a ready-made social group in your teammates, a support system of the coach and counselors at your disposal, and by golly, you sure learn a lot about yourself when it comes to pushing through the hard stuff.

So if you’re looking to pave the way for your student athlete to continue playing sport after high school, I hope you’ll come over to the Facebook page about homeschooling and NCAA approvals, and tell us that you saw the link in Learning Tangent Homeschool Magazine.

Resources:
Homeschool and NCAA Approvals: www.facebook.com/groups/412094025796980
Next College Student Athlete: www.ncsasports.org
Dreaming Spires Home Learning: www.dreamingspireshomelearning.com

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