Preparing for college sports in high school

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Lots of things start to happen in the high school years for student-athletes.

Girls. Guys. Cars. Knowledge of everything, meaning that by this age our little ones know everything about everything. They know how much they should study. They know how much they need to practice. 

Superstars until they get to ninth grade, our children have pretty much been the biggest, strongest, fastest and certainly the most skilled at whatever they try. It is now, however, when the best youngsters from several middle schools begin to converge on each high school with similar designs of making the team. That team may be the junior varsity or, for the athletes who have made a commitment to excel, possibly make the varsity.

It is at this juncture that parents and children may make the decision to leave high school sports altogether and participate on nonschool sports teams. Some even leave home and play at very expensive schools that are designed to prepare young high age kids for college participation, with the thought that they have enough talent and desire to play professional level some day. It is at this level, however, that a financial commitment can only be met by a minutely small number of families. 

For those supremely talented youngsters, there are scholarships available, even at this high school age level, such as IMG Academy, an athletics preparatory academy in Florida that includes football. This type school is both academic elite and athletic, laying claim that a degree and participation practically assures a college scholarship.

There are tennis academies, golf academies, and probably by now academies in just about every sport for both and male and female athletes.

So, parents, do you have either one of two things: A prodigy child that is so far ahead of practically every youth in America, or enough income to take a chance on your little one to develop into a college-level prospect?

For those youngsters, and families who cannot afford or who do not want to go these routes, high school sports is the way to earn scholarship assistance from some college level participation.

From the lessons we learned with our boys, the decisions as to pursuing college sports are made in about the ninth- or 10th-grade level. It is at this level, where camp attendance at the college of your choice in the sport of your choice, that the exposure to those colleges actually begin. 

These camps are not cheap, and these camps are paid for by families. No scholarships are available for these camps.

If you are not aware that colleges are very interested in your young male or female athlete by the end of their 10th grade year, chances are pretty good that no college has become interested. 

Words of advice are that if some contact has not been made by this time in your child’s high school career, further evaluation is recommended at this stage. 

Understand, parents, that there will be ups and downs. There will be doubt during this entire process. Understand, parents, that there are thousands of other families that are vying for the same playing and scholarship slots as are you.

The effort and commitment are worth the reward. Even if playing in college, and earning scholarship help, is not achieved.

Mike Radford, a former collegiate athlete and former teacher and coach for Wilson County Schools, and his wife, Maureen, are the parents of two former high school and collegiate student-athletes.