Many high school sports seasons across the country have been paused or canceled altogether, but recruiting has not stopped. To help aspiring college athletes prepare for the next level, Anne Arundel County Public Schools and Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) partnered for a virtual information session on January 12.
The session was led by Holly Ismail, NCSA’s director of regional recruiting and former All-American athlete who was once recruited for volleyball and basketball. She later played Division I basketball at Syracuse University. Joining her via video was Michael Ionescu, who has more than 15 years of tutoring experience with i2ieducation.
The Pandemic Has Changed Recruitment
As Ismail explained, Division I colleges are in a dead period until April 15, 2021, so college coaches cannot recruit in person.
“What you can do, and I encourage you guys [to do] if you’re in that timeline, visit the schools anyway,” Ismail said. “Just because you can’t meet with the coaches doesn’t mean you can’t get a little bit of a feel of a campus. I know some don’t have a lot of students on campus. Some don’t have any at all. It kind of varies, but the biggest thing you hear is control what you can control, do what you can do.”
She urged student-athletes to contact college coaches by Zoom calls, texts and emails.
Division II, Division III and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics returned to a normal recruiting calendar on September 1, but not all of those schools are meeting recruits.
“The recruiting is going to affected in a pretty big way through 2025 graduating classes because spring sports from last year, fall and winter from this year, can all take another year whether they’ve played a full season or not,” Ismail said, urging athletes to be patient, because college coaches are still determining which players are returning next season.
Ismail advised athletes to build a winning team comprised of parents, high school and club coaches, guidance counselors, teammates and friends. Athletes, though, should take control of the process.
“Ultimately it is up to your son or daughter to be the one to take charge of this process,” Ismail said. “Have a balance there. You certainly can help them, but you don’t want to do too much because that is going to turn away coaches as well.”
The minimum grade point average for Division I is a 2.3, although that won’t make someone “very recruitable,” Ismail said. Division I athletes are also required to complete 16 core courses (English, Algebra I or higher math, natural or physical science, etc.) by graduation. Division II athletes need a 2.2 GPA. For some universities, test scores are important.
“A lot of scholarships are tied to maintaining a certain GPA or having a certain SAT score,” Ionescu said. “… there is kind if a backlog of players now because how the pandemic has backed everything up scheduling wise. You have a lot of students now who are competing for the same sports. The only thing that coaches are going to want to do is create more competition with that. They’re going to be looking for other things that make you stand out from the crowd and having competitive SAT scores is going to be part of that.”
Recruitment Starts Early
Almost 50 percent of prospective student-athletes for women’s basketball have had some type of contact with college programs by the time they’re done with their freshman year, Ismail said. Individual sports, like track and field, tend to start later. For boys, recruiting often starts at a slightly older age than girls.
“That’s just because, of course, it just a takes a little bit longer to have that growth and that strength sort of kick in for you,” Ismail said.
She also encouraged youth to take the process seriously regardless of their next destination.
“There’s not a huge difference between Division I, II and III,” she said. “It’s still a lot of work to be able to go and play and achieve your dream of playing at whatever level it is. So don’t take it for granted, if you’re like, ‘Hey, you know what, I know I’m not Division I’ that you don’t have to do much for Division III,’ that it’s just going to happen, right? You still have to put the work in. But I will tell you guys again, if you’re qualified, there is a place for you. You just have to put the work in, just like anything else, to be successful.”
Choosing The Right School And Being Persistent
Student-athletes should create a list with a minimum of 25 schools that make sense for their individual needs.
“Where do you qualify academically?” Ismail said. “Where do you qualify athletically? What type of schools are you looking for? What size? What location?”
Ismail emphasized that all student-athletes should send video, and not just stats, to college coaches.
“It doesn’t really matter if your stats look great, some measurables look great. At the end of the day, they’ve got to see what you’re doing on the field, on the court,” she said. “So video has to be done well, and you want to make sure the beginning portion of highlight videos are really, really solid so they want to continue to watch.”
Some athletes may not have much film because of injuries or because they have yet to play on varsity.
“Coaches right now are telling me, ‘Send something,’” Ismail said. “If you can do some type of skills video, coaches are open to look at that, guys. You are in the same boat that everybody’s in, so everybody’s just trying to figure this out. Coaches have had to pivot as well.”
Watch the full video on the AACPS YouTube page.