Wayne Mazzoni has dual careers: one, he’s the long-time pitching coach at Sacred Heart University (Bridgeport, CT) which is a very successful D-1 program, and two, he’s a nationally-recognized expert on college recruiting (check out his website at CoachWayneMazzoni.com).
Over the years, I have had Wayne on my show to talk about college recruiting tips from the view point of the HS athlete and his or her parents. College recruiting is always a hot topic.
But on this morning’s program, I turned it around a bit. I asked Wayne about how the college coaches themselves viewed the recruiting process, and Wayne’s thoughts were fascinating.
For starters, he emphasized that too many kids (and parents) fail to realize that with the exception of D-I football and basketball, most colleges are very limited by their budget for athletic scholarships, and as a result, it’s the rare athlete who gets anywhere close to a full ride, again, with the exception of football and basketball. As such, Wayne made it clear that many HS athletes, who have excellent grades, can often qualify for an academic scholarship which, along with a partial athletic scholarship, will help pay their tuition.
“If there’s one piece of advice kids need to know is that they really ought to pay attention to their HS grades,” said Mazzoni. “Because if the recruiting college coach can tell the admissions office that your grades are good, that’s going to help a lot in terms of paying bills. Remember, college these days is expensive, and it’s foolish not to get all the scholarship money that you can, regardless of whether it’s for academics or athletics.”
COLLEGE LIFE WITHOUT SPORTS?
In addition, Wayne cited a statistic that most aspiring athletes don’t realize: that about 50% of the kids who start college playing a sport will end up leaving that sport as they continue in college. There could be any number of reasons for this, e.g. injury, lack of playing time, too much practice time, etc. But very few students seem to know this when they look at colleges. Maybe that’s to be expected — after all, they anticipate being a key member of their college team.
But sadly, this doesn’t always happen. And kids can become depressed and lonely when they stop playing their sport in college.
“This is why I tell kids over and over again that you must find a college where you will be happy for four years even if you aren’t playing a sport there,” Mazzoni says. Remember, for most athletes, their career ends at the end of high school. Playing sports in college is extra dessert.
It’s a good point. The attrition rate for kids leaving a college sport is very high. And don’t forget, with each incoming freshman class, there are more recruiting athletes coming into the mix.
ARE SHOWCASES THE ANSWER?
Whether one likes it or not, if your son or daughter wants to be seen by a college coach, getting seen at a reputable showcase is a big, big help. As Wayne says, “I receive hundreds of videotape highlight reels each year, all of them polished, and all accompanied by glowing recommendations from their HS coach. But in truth, I really need to see the youngster play and perform in person. Tapes really don’t help that much.”
He also made it clear that the NCAA has very strict rules and regulations about the recruiting process, and that parents need to understand that the NCAA regs have to be adhered to by the college coach. That being said, any good college program is recruiting for new players 365 days a year, and they are looking for top prospects two years ahead.
One last important point. Wayne made it clear that, sometimes, it seems that kids and their parents are so focused on living their athletic career in the future that they don’t really enjoy the ride during HS. “That’s a shame,” notes Wayne. “You should focus on and enjoy your HS career. Do well there and the future will take care of itself.”