Archive for College scholarships

COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS: When to Have the “Santa Clause” Talk with Your Athlete

Just a little background before I discuss V.J. Stanley’s appearance on the radio show this AM.

Although sports parenting concerns have become a continuously rising issue for more than 25 years now. and there have been countless articles, columns, and other forms of media outreach on this topic, the truth is that there are only a few individuals around the country who have decided that they wanted to step up and do something about this issue and try to educate all parents, coaches, and kids about the realities of kids in sports.

You probably know some of the better known names in sports parenting, either because they have appeared on my show over the years, or perhaps you heard them talk at a sports parenting seminar. That would include Doug Abrams, Steve Kallas, Bob Bigelow, Jim Thompson, Fred Engh, and George Selleck.

V. J. Stanley, who was a top head college ice hockey coach at the Univ of Rochester for 21 years, and was also a top athlete himself, has recently joined these ranks as he too attempts to educate sports parents about “chasing the dream” of college scholarships and a pro contract. As V.J. pointed out, too many parents simply get caught up in the chase and, even worse, their children become, in effect, innocent victims. As a youngster moves away from the fun and enjoyment of playing a sport to feeling pressured to keep succeeding at a higher and higher level, eventually the games shift from fun to work. Even worse, for the vast majority of these kids, the dream usually ends up on the rocks, dashed by false hopes and the hard realities of winning at all costs for coaches.

V.J. expanded on these themes this AM, and one of the key points he made was that once you have what he calls the “Santa Claus” talk with your youngster – meaning that just as you have to sit down at a certain point and explain to your child that there is no Santa Claus – you need to have that kind of talk with your athletes about the reality of them getting a scholarship or signing a pro contract. V.J. says once he had that talk with his own HS-aged son, he discovered that his son had tremendous pressure lifted off him, and really started to enjoy his time on the varsity teams. Plus, he played better.

I thought it was a point worth reflecting on, and although most parents are either reluctant to have this conversation with their son or daughter, it’s clearly something considering before you and your youngster get caught up in a race – a race in sports that seemingly will go nowhere.

VJ Stanley can be reached at


Top 10 Must Do’s For College Recruiting

By Coach Wayne Mazzoni, NCAA Coach Since 1992


  1. Choose The College First.  The fact is, more than a third of college freshmen athletes DO NOT play four years of their sport once in college.  There are a variety of reasons for this, but to pick a school from all those choices mostly for the sport/coach, if that college athletic career  does not work out, you will be quite unhappy.  Start with schools you love first, then think about their athletic program.



  1. Find Out How Good You Are. Or aren’t!  If you are a DIII player and are chasing down DI coaches, you are wasting valuable time.  Talk to your high school or travel coaches, teammates, go watch college practices and games, go to camps, etc., and get a solid idea of what level is right for you. PS – don’t let your parents try to convince you that you’re DI material when you know, deep down, that you’re better suited for DIII.



  1. Narrow Your College List To 10-20 Schools. It could be a few more, or a few less, but get a list of schools right for you as a student, a person, and as an athlete.  There are about 3500 college choices, but only a select few that are right for each person. There are millions of jobs, but only a select few that are right for each worker.  Same with colleges.


  1. Market Yourself – The Right Way. There are only three ways a college coach can evaluate you.  Live (games, tournaments, camps), video, or evaluation from one of your coaches.  No one way is magic, but if your list is short, you can get each coach on your list to see you one way or another. But you have to take the first step – don’t wait for a college coach to contact you.


  1. Play As If Someone Is Watching You. Why?  Because they probably are and often when you least expect it.  Yes,  you first need the basic talent to get our attention, but after that we are looking at what kind of person you are.  How you handle adversity, your attention to detail, attitude, hustle, competiveness.  The list goes on and on. And yes, college coaches do their homework when it comes to prospects.


  1. Be Personable.  If you are not comfortable meeting and talking to college coaches, I suggest you do some dry runs out on a coach/school that’s really only a secondary choice. While talent means more than your personality when it comes to recruiting, having both talent and personality gets you way ahead. 


  1. Ask Questions. For two reasons.  First, you need real answers.  What is my future role on the team?  Who’s ahead of me at my position? Will I be on the travel team to away games? What’s the gym and field look like?  What are the other coaches like?  Do you have a strength coach, etc.   It also helps you show interest and coaches want players who care about their program. Do your preparation. Come with real questions about the team; understand that the coach will most likely not volunteer any other details unless you specifically ask him or her.


  1. Admit It! If you can’t get into the school you are interested in due to academics, it’s all a waste of time.  So before you get all pumped up on a school who is recruiting you, make sure the coach talks to you honestly about your admissions chances and if he or she can help get you admitted. Talk to your high school guidance counselor as well.


  1. Get NCAA Certified. While most of you will walk through this step easily, others may have an issue.  But for the DI and DII bound of you reading this, the NCAA Initial Eligibility Center is a must.  Here is the link, take it from there.


  1. Get The Final Numbers and Feel. At some point, you and your parents need to know what the school is going to cost and if you and your family can afford it.  If a financial  package comes in at a number that makes sense to you, it’s time to do your overnight visit to the college.  On this visit, get a feel for the dorms, classes, coaches, teammates, practices, social life, etc.  This could be your place, so kick the tires and check it out in person.



For more information: Coach Mazzoni was a borderline talented DIII athlete who went to Gettysburg College to play football, but only lasted on year on the gridiron, before playing three on the diamond.  He was the type of pitcher who made the rest of the team’s ERA look good.


He has been a college coach since 1992 and has written several books on the recruiting process, as well as having lead recruiting talks since 1998 at over 500 high schools.  For more info visit www.GetRecruited.Net

COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS: Talking Recruiting in the World of Lacrosse

Everybody knows the sport of lacrosse has grown dramatically in the last 15 years. Up until recently, the sport was something of a regional novelty, played primarily in the Eastern states, and especially by colleges such as Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, and other schools in that region.

But then something happened and the sport took off. And in interviewing Brian Holman, a three-time All-American goalie at Johns Hopkins in his own playing career and now the highly-respected goalie coach at the Univ of North Carolina, he felt that those kids who play lacrosse tend to develop a kind of spiritual bond or affiliation not only with their teammates but also with the game itself.

I have seen that kind of pure love happen in other sports, most notably ice hockey. Kids who grow up playing that sport also seem to develop a lifelong fondness for it that seems to transcend other “love affairs” with, say, baseball or basketball. It’s very hard to pinpoint, or define, but that passion is there.

In any event, lacrosse has now grown to become a major intercollegiate sport all over the country. Programs are developing rapidly from coast to coast, even to the point where Coach Holman acknowledged that some of the newer regions are having some trouble getting enough quality coaching or game officiating at the younger levels simply because it’s still so new. “But that’s changing,” Holman observed, “and it’s all to the good.”

In terms of college recruiting, as the number of top college programs continue to grow, the competition for scholarships is also becoming more competitive. There may have been a time when a HS lacrosse player could easily obtain a college scholarship simply because there were fewer numbers, but those days are long gone. In addition to hundreds of HS lacrosse programs now, there are all sorts of club, or travel, programs that provide a real showcase of aspiring lacrosse players.

Like other sports, lacrosse travel team can cost a family thousands of dollars each year, and these programs often run from the fall through winter and through the HS lacrosse program in the spring and right into the summer. Holman acknowledged that these club teams can be very expensive, and that UNC looks for top players, regardless of whether they played travel or just HS lacrosse. Each year, he told me, they have open tryouts and each year they routinely have at least one walk-on make their team at UNC.

As the UNC goalie coach, Holman told me that when he evaluates potential college goalies, he looks for their presence in the net, how they direct their defensive players, and of course, it’s essential that they have quick, quick hands and are highly athletic. That’s the key.

Beyond that, Coach Holman continues to be quite optimistic about the future of the sport. Remember, he told me, that even though there is a fledgling Major League Lacrosse program, nobody really turns pro in the sport in order to make money. Again, it’s more about the pure love for the game.

As noted earlier, that’s a very special part of lacrosse’s tradition, and one worth noting. Both of my daughters played lacrosse in rec programs and right through HS, and to this day, they still go out with their lacrosse sticks and have a coach.

As a sports parent, that’s nice to see.


COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS: How Many Kids Transfer Schools?

Here’s an interesting tidbit that I read in the Wall Street Journal, and it was so stunning, I felt compelled to share it with you:

“More than 400 men’s basketball players have decided to transfer since the regular season ended in March, according to ESPN, and the NCAA says about 40% of Division I men’s basketball players leave the schools where they initially signed by the end of their sophomore year.”

What this means is that close to half of these kids on Div-I teams — presumably most of them on scholarship – probably aren’t starting or getting enough playing time in their freshman year. Even worse, they are probably still on the bench by the end of their soph year, while their coach is bringing in more talented freshmen.

As a result, that original player realizes that he’s never going to get any real substantial playing time, and rather than sit on the bench for four years – albeit on scholarship – he decides to find another school and move on.

Transferring from one college to another seems simple enough, but the amount of emotional upheaval shouldn’t be minimized. For starters, it’s most disheartening to the player that, despite being recruited, the coach is basically turning his back on him. And of course, all the of the kid’s family and friends back home are embarrassed for him as well.

Of course, I’m generalizing on all of this, but as a former college coach, I have a sense of how these situations play out, and even after a kid transfers, happy endings are hard to come by. 

Even worse, I just don’t know if there are any easy answers on this. If nothing else, let the numbers — 40% transfer rate – serve as a warning to all aspiring college athletes and their parents.

COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS: College Soccer Coaches Offering Scholarships to Girls in Middle School

The New York Times ran a big feature piece two weeks ago about how Division I soccer coaches are furiously recruiting girls at the middle school level, and offering them athletic scholarships even before they have started HS.

This is hard to believe, but then again, maybe it’s not. This kind of thing has  been going on for sometime with college basketball coaches chasing middle school players who happen to well over 6 feet tall. I also  hear this kind of recruiting craze is going on with talented lacrosse players as early as ninth and tenth grade.

But here’s the problem with girls soccer. Most college coaches recognize that there are only a certain number of highly talented female soccer players, and yet, there are more than 300 Division I soccer programs.

So, rather than wait — as the NCAA mandates – until the summer after the girl’s junior year in HS, the coaches are flocking to travel tournaments when the girls are still in middle school – and they offer these kids college scholarships. Why? Because there is a feeding frenzy from all the competitive college women’s soccer programs to sign up talent as soon as possible.

Now, the girls benefit because they have the security of having a college scholarship in hand even before they start ninth grade (I guess the college coaches don’t worry too much about SAT or ACT scores or high school transcripts). And their girls’ parents are ecstatic. After all, they can now sleep well, not having to worry about big tuition biils.

But pity the college coaches – they’re on the hook with these kids – even though they won’t be playing in college for another 4-5 years! And remember, these scholarship offers are binding on the college.

What does the NCAA make of all this? According to their handbook, college coaches are not allowed to reach out to HS soccer player until after their junior year. But the college coaches get around this by simply contacting the girl’s travel team or HS coach, let that coach know of their interest, and then the girl can then contact the college directly. And that’s just what happens.

So what’s the solution? Remember that the NCAA is always undermanned in terms of trying to enforce its rules. So maybe the time has come for the NCAA just to give up, that is, abolish these rules regarding recruiting and let the college coaches just go at it as they wish.

Sounds like a radical solution, to be sure. But maybe the time has come?


COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS: More Insights on the College Recruiting Game

The response to last week’s show with Wayne Mazzoni on the inner secrets regarding the college recruiting game was so overwhelming that I felt compelled to ask Wayne to come back on this AM to handle more calls and dispel more of the myths and misconceptions of college recruiting.

On today’s show, Wayne emphasized again that less than 4% of all HS varsity athletes will ever be good enough to make a college team, regardless of Div I, II, or III level. As such, he reminded listeners that aspiring athletes need to make sure that whatever college they attend, they have to ask themselves, “Would I be happy here on campus even if I never play a sport again.”

That might be a tough question for an 18-year-old youngster to answer, but at the end of the day, it’s an essential one that an incoming college student needs to answer. Remember, while it would be wonderful if every aspriring college athlete see his or her dream come true and makes their college squad, but the reality is that it just doesn’t happen all the time.

Also along those lines, Wayne then explained how “slotted” athletes are those athletes who are heavily recruited primarily by those schools which are heavily competitive in terms of academic admissions. That is, once a college coach at one of these schools decides that this particular athlete is slotted, then the admissions office will flag them and pretty much insure they will be admitted to the school.

Obviously, slotted athletes are very few in number, but once a coach tells a recruit that he or she is slotted, then the youngster has an excellent chance of not only being accepted BUT will also be viewed by the coach as being someone who will be given every advantage to be an impact player as a freshman.

That’s in contrast to a kid who is a walk-on who may or may not even make the team. Furthermore, college walk-ons  have to understand that the coach and his staff is aggressively recruiting for next year. That means that your son or daughter will be facing the same challenge when they become sophomores and have to face incoming recruited athletes. In other words, it doesn’t get any easier.

Wayne also reminded listeners that college athletic scholarships are based on year-to-year renewals. A lot of parents and athletes don’t realize that.  And if a new coach comes on board, most new coaches like to get rid of the “old” recruits and bring in their own.

In short, it’s vital to do your homework, and that takes times. I urge you to check out Wayne’s website GetRecruited.Net. It’s an excellent way to edcuate yourself as you start out on this campaign.


COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS: The Myths and Misconceptions of College Recruiting

I always enjoy having Wayne Mazzoni on my show because he provides real truth and clarity when it comes to the world of college recruiting.

That’s because, as the pitching coach at Sacred Heart University, he knows what really goes on in the recruiting wars. He’s also very much in demand for speaking engagements to HS athletic groups, and above all, be sure to check out his website BeRecruited.Net if your son or daughter is thinking about playing sports in college.

Wayne touched on a number of topics this AM, and I only wish I had more time as the calls that poured in were all smart and right on target. But among the myths that Wayne exploded:

There’s a college out there for any HS athlete who wants to play intercollegiate sports in college. Wayne made it clear that’s really misleading, even though a lot of HS guidance counselors will mistakenly tell to their students. Wayne cautions HS kids and their parents: even Div. III programs, although they can’t offer scholarships, are usually very active in their recruiting and the jump in talent from HS to Div. III sports is quite substantial.

That is, if you’re just an average HS player, don’t be misled into thinking that you can go to a Div. III program and will make the team as a walk-on. Yes, you might, but making the team AND getting playing team are two totally different things.

In fact I know of some Div. III baseball programs where the head coach has a no-cut policy: you try out, work hard in practice, and you make the roster. But being on the roster DOES NOT guarantee any playing time. As one student told me, “You dress for the games, but never, ever get in. After awhile, you just cut yourself.” Not a good experience.

Online recruting services are a good solid way to be marketed. Mazzoni made the claim that he doesn’t think that any college coach takes these services very seriously, and you are better off saving your money to help pay for your college tuition. He says you should just reach out to the college coach yourself, and finding out if he holds an off-season camps where the athlete can attend and meet the coach in person.

Recruits v. recruited walk-ons v. walk-ons. Wayne made the distinction very clear: recruits are those kids who have received some sort of athletic scholarship to be on the team. A recruited walk-on is someone who has been admitted, but was not offered any scholarship money.  You should also know that the scholarship money kids will get more opportunities to be a starter than the recruited walk-on.

And traditional walk-ons, much in the mode of the famous Notre Dame “Rudy” movie, well, they get a chance to practice until the coach decides whether they should be cut or kept on the team. Just bear in mind that many Div. I programs don’t even allow walk-ons these days. And that the feel-good movie “Rudy” was made more than 30 years ago. In other words, there aren’t many modern-day Rudy’s running around.

I plan to have Wayne back on the show again soon, because I want to prevent as many heartbreaking stories that I can about college recruiting. It is a difficult business, and too few parents know how the game is played.


COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS: Has The Time Come to Pay Student-Athletes?

With all the recent stories and headlines regarding college football players being paid illegally by boosters, and with the spate of best-selliing books (such as John U. Bacon’s FOURTH AND LONG and Jeff Benedict’s THE SYSTEM), it’s no surprise that the age-old debate of whether college football players should be paid has cropped up again.

Even TIME Magazine made this debate into a recent cover story.

While there’s no question that college football players at the Division I level are already on full athletic scholarship — getting their tuition, room, books, and board all paid by the school — you can certainly make a strong argument that these students are indeed being paid. Unlike millions of “regular” college students, these football players can graduate without having accumulated thousands in debt. And that’s a significant point.

But let’s back up a bit. At the start of every college football game that’s televised, they routinely introduce the players with their year in school, height, weight, hometown, and then their major. How many times have you wondered what “University Studies” means or “General Studies”? I have no idea what those majors are. Call me a skeptic, but I assume those are merely majors  that allow the athlete to simply maintain their eligibility to play.

Furthermore, here’s an idea my Dad, Hall of Fame sportscaster Bob Wolff, has promulgated for years. Since most college grads have zero idea of what they want to do when they graduate, why not administer a standard Myers-Briggs’ vocational test when they arrive at freshmen? That will at least help point them in the direction of what talents they may have.

This is especially important for football players who assume that their major talent in life  is playing football. It’s about time to clue them in that 99% of them are NOT going to play pro ball. If nothing else, get them thinking early on about having a back-up plan in life if the 49ers or Bears don’t offer them a contract.

Then, have each athlete work with a freshman counselor to think seriously about a career in marketing, or in criminal justice, or in teaching, or in writing software code. That’s the real purpose of higher education, not spending more time in the weight room.

But back to the original point. If my son is going to risk concussions and serious physical injury while playing college football, I’d like the school to not only pick up his tuition, room, board, and books, but I also would like the school to pay him an annual stipend. College football is a Billion-dollar business these days, and while the athletes don’t pay the price of tuition –  they DO pay the price with their bodies.

Perhaps the school could award the financial stipend so long as the student posts passing grades each year in school AND shows real progress in learning a secondary skill AND stays clear of trouble with the law. That, to me, makes a lot of sense, and is definitely worth considering seriously. The time has finally come.


DANGERS OF CYBERSPACE: Now Athletes are Having their Twitter Accounts Scanned

Life used to be so much simpler with sports parenting….

But these days, in the year 2012, we have yet new challenges to encounter, most notably concerns about social media. We already know about Facebook and kids posting stupid comments and photos online that only result in trouble for them…but now as Twitter becomes more popular, athletes are even more vulnerable than ever before.

Don’t forget the cautionary case of Yuri Wright, the talented HS football prospect from Don Bosco Prep in NJ, who tweeted last year some racially and sexually suggestive nonsense. Within hours, several major football programs rescinded their offers to Wright, and the HS expelled him. You  have to wonder: a little proactive forethought would have saved this kid from a world of upheaval.

Now, more and more universities, as Doug Abrams covered on today’s show, are scanning their athletes’ twitter feeds, and have even gone so far to ban a number of words or terms from being used. The Univ of Kentucky and Louisvlle have a long, long list of banned words from twitter.

If it all sounds bizarre, well, yes, I guess it is. But then again, major universities don’t want to risk their athletic programs because one of their athletes puts out something dumb on twitter.

What’s the takeaway for sports parents?

Very simple. In much the same way that you need to educate your athlete about education, drugs, steroids, sportsmanship, and so on, you now need to add concerns about social media to the list. Unfortunately for sports parents today, the list only seems to get longer.

As I noted, sports parenting used to be a lot easier.


TRAVEL TEAMS: US Soccer Federation Continues to Make Life Difficult for HS Soccer Players

I had discussed this issue back in Jan and Feb of this year, and it was a serious issue then. Now, this issue only continues to spread, this time to Long Island, which is a long-time hot bed of excellent HS soccer.

In short, the US Soccer Federation, one of the nation’s leading travel programs, is insisting that talented HS soccer players make a choice: either play with us, or play with your HS varsity team… but you can’t do both.

Here’s the problem. There’s no real good reason why USSF should be forcing kids into this dilemma. Sure, we all know that college coaches recruit only from travel teams and showcases, but to make a kid walk away from his HS team and buddies for an extra 10 weeks of soccer? C’mon. That’s not only not fair, but it’s also wrong.

Dick Hogan, my guest this AM, is a long-time HS and college soccer coach on LI, and he was outraged by this mandate. Already HS programs are losing top players because of this. Then, Matt Allen, the highly-successful soccer coach at Byram Hills HS in Armonk, NY, called and complained about it. Byram Hills is losing two top players…Mamaroneck HS is losing 5.

And of course, it’s all being done in the pursuit of trying to gain a partial scholarship for college soccer. There are, of course, no guarantees here. USSF doesn’t guarantee anything more than each kid on its roster will get 25% playing time in a game. That same kid on his HS team would play 100% of the game. Plus, of course, there are no guarantees of athletic scholarships. And of course, a kid also has to pay hundreds of dollars to play on a USSF team.

To me, I just find this entire situation totally outrageous. Sure, the USSF people feel that an extra 10 weeks of training will help the American boys reach the Olympics in soccer. I’m not sure I buy into that. Besides, the American female soccer players didn’t seem to have any problem in being competitive, and of course, winning the gold in London. As of right now, the USSF doesn’t have the same mandate for HS girls.

It’s hard enough being a kid playing sports these days. Why does the USSF have to make it that much more difficult?