Sports have been an institution in the African American community for decades. It has been a vehicle to higher learning on the collegiate level, and, for a select few, a professional career has been like a winning lottery ticket. Sports have been a means to competitive glory and to a lifestyle that most people can only dream of.
Some Black people are athletically gifted towards the various sports that Americans crave. For that reason, many children grow up with aspirations to take their gifts as far as they can, and parents may see it as a way to pay for the expenses of college. But most parents and youth athletes do not understand how the system works, which can cripple the young athletes’ chances of making it beyond the high school level.
Times are different now. It is no longer about showing up on the first day of high school practice, working really hard and having a college scout take notice. A student and a parent have to be proactive and not just sit back and hope that a college finds them. The high school coach can only do so much, but there are many things that a player and his or her parents can do.
“It’s not that you can’t rely on your high school coach, it’s that you shouldn’t rely on your high school coach,” said Randy Taylor, director of recruiting for the National Collegiate Scouting Association. “It’s not their job. It’s your job as the high school athlete to get yourself recruited. The high school coach will help as much as they can, as much as their budget allows. Do they have video editing, all the things that you have to have to help a young athlete, male or female, get recruited? Sometimes coaches don’t have that. Maybe they’re old school and they do things a certain way. That may not be what’s needed these days for recruiting. Or they have many other athletes, and they teach a class, and they have their own families.”
Being recruited takes planning, and it has to start early. For athletes entering their senior year, if coaches are not already calling them, then they are way behind and they have to get on the grind right away. Even by an athlete’s junior year, many colleges have already eyed the players that they are going to go after.
“There are already two eighth graders that have been offered football scholarships,” Taylor said. “That’s the class of 2018. The recruiting process starts early. Ninth-grade English is just as important as 12th-grade English. The college coaches are always evaluating athletes. If you know that the coaches are starting early, then you have to start being a better prospect early.”
Being evaluated is of great importance for an athlete. Colleges host camps where high schoolers are run through various sport specific drills as university coaches search for talent. Most of these camps are held during the off-season and the summer. It is extremely valuable to attend these camps because college coaches cannot attend most games. Having the athletes on their campus, seeing them with their own eyes, being able to put them through drills and personally speaking with them helps them narrow down the field of players that they are looking for. Because of this, parents and athletes should contact college athletic departments to find out when and where colleges will be hosting camps.