How Academics and Athletics Team Up to Help Student-Athletes Win
For student-athletes considering collegiate athletics, it takes a team effort from the start.
Parents, counselors, and athletic coaches all play integral roles as their student-athlete with collegiate ambition makes their way through their high school years.
At Laurel Springs, our team of academic counselors works closely with our student-athletes and placement management team to help guide students with ambition to play the sport they love beyond their high school years. Parents are a big part of this process. From the start, they’re key partners, says Deena Paradiso, counseling manager for Laurel Springs. It's a journey in which support is sometimes necessary for survival.
“Supporting your student-athlete’s journey to recruitment can feel like a part-time job for parents," Deena says. "It's a laborious process kids typically can't do on their own."
All full-time students at Laurel Springs School have access to Deena’s team’s resources with goal-setting, time management, skills development, and college and career planning. In addition, student-athletes at Laurel Springs are also offered valuable guidance on NCAA eligibility and staying on track for meeting academic requirements, as well as resources specific to their unique search for the opportunity to play their sport at the college level.
Alex Proctor, student-athlete and placement manager, says his team focuses on preparing kids for the next phase, helping them navigate the sometimes confusing world of finding the perfect fit to fulfill their collegiate dreams. While Deena's team supports the academic side of the student's journey, Alex's team helps prepare them for the wild ride often involved in the world of student-athlete recruiting.
"We'll have talks with kids before they meet with coaches to help them learn to structure their conversations. We work a lot on helping them build confidence," Alex says.
Athletics-related webinars and one-on-one conversations with students and parents run the gamut, from outlining what to expect during college visits to role-playing discussions with coaches and staff to providing insight and understanding of NCAA timelines and eligibility requirements. The goal on both the athletic and academic sides is to support and inform—it’s a holistic approach often leading to questions parents and students have about the process.
Here are some of the tips Deena and Alex often share in conversations with student-athletes and those supporting them:
Expert Tips for College-Bound Student-Athletes
START PLANNING SOONER RATHER THAN LATER
For athletic purposes, we're looking at honing in on your ideas by sophomore year," Alex says. "If college is in your plans, you need to figure out what you need skills-wise (athletically) and determine if your plan is realistic for the school and path you’re considering."
On the academic counseling side, Deena recommends students considering attending schools with high tuition rates start hashing out logistics as early as 9th grade. While the goal of many student-athletes is to score scholarships, this is not a guaranteed path, she says. Nor does earning scholarships guarantee all costs will be covered. Deena suggests students and parents look at costs associated with tuition, room and board, and ancillary expenses at a variety of schools so they can appropriately gauge what is realistic financially. This will help, too, when working with both academic counselors and those on the student-athlete management side to guide goals.
"Have a serious conversation about finances—what's available, or potentially available, in the form of student loans, personal loans, etc. Understand the cost differences between attending a school in-state vs. out-of-state,” Deena says.
FIND THE ALL-AROUND RIGHT FIT
"We are big proponents of encouraging students and families to look at prospective schools in the big picture," Deena says.
Ultimately, students should ask themselves one overarching question to decide if the college is a good fit: Would I be happy here if athletics was not in the picture?
From unexpected coaching or roster changes to injuries, there always exists the possibility athletics may take a back seat more than initially planned.
Unfortunately, many things can happen in the world of athletics," Deena says. "Do not pick a school based on athletics alone. Choose the school—the whole school—so if anything happens, you are where you want to be."
Look at what the school offers for athletics, academics, and social life, Deena suggests. These are just a few questions helping future grads to gain a better understanding of what a school's big-picture experience looks like:
- Do they offer the major I'm looking for?
- What is the student-to-faculty ratio?
- What is the retention rate?
- What is the graduation rate?
- What types of support and health services are offered?
- What do the dorms/residence halls look like?
- Will you have a roommate?
- What types of activities are available for leisure on and off-campus?
- Will you need a car, or will you have access to everything you need on campus?
LOOK AT TEAM ROSTERS
If your true dream is to play competitively in your sport, sitting on the bench won’t fulfill you. Take a close look at the make-up of the team. How would you fit into the existing team? For instance, Alex says, if there are four freshman goalies on a soccer team, and that's your position, how realistic is your goal to get playing time in that lineup? Questions like this can help you determine which schools align with your goals.
CONSIDER THE DISTANCE FROM HOME—AND OTHER FAVORITE PEOPLE AND PLACES
Another significant consideration is a school's distance from home. A student may have a tremendous athletic opportunity. If they've never been far from home or without a direct support system, doing so for the first time as a collegiate athlete may be daunting. In addition to lack of support and being in a new environment with pressures of athletics and academics, the distance may limit family members’ opportunities to see their student play.
One helpful method when considering a school far away from home is for families to figure out how often they can realistically travel in a given year for attendance at events and regular visits.
HAVE A BACKUP PLAN (AND BACKUP YOUR BACKUP)
Being recruited is very exciting, and it’s crucial to remember schools are at liberty to make any decision right up until your signature is on the dotted line. We recommend considering your backup options—plan B (or C or even D).
Until you sign a letter of intent, nothing is guaranteed," Deena says. "Remember, your main goal is finding a school in which you’re going to be happy—no matter what."
TRUST WHAT YOU LEARNED
Laurel Springs students bring to college valuable soft skills in time management, focus, and self-direction, the result of learning in an asynchronous learning model for their years in Upper School. These skills will serve them well in their college search and as they embark on their time in higher education.
The skills our students develop due, in part, to the flexibility [of the asynchronous model] help them work successfully within a framework," Alex says. "Time management, self-advocacy, and empowerment are all part of the appeal of the asynchronous model, and students receive great benefits from this model."
Deena says the more important advice she can give student-athletes is to lean on their love of academics and athletics and consider overall happiness.
"If you truly don't know where you want to go, but you know your dream is to play sports in college, do some soul searching," Deena says. "In the end, you'll end up where you're supposed to."
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