I ran a marathon on Saturday. OK, it was only 5K, but for me it felt like a marathon. The humidity was just short of stifling, the temperatures were in the 70s, and it was only 7 am. On top of that, I was up until 1 am preparing for the launch of Athletic Scholarship University.
And on top of that … yes another “on top of that” statement, the course was a quarter-mile more than 5K! I know because I had my running app on during the race. Yeah, somebody had a sense of humor.
Despite all these things, I ran my best race in years! Maybe it was because this was sea level and I live at 6,800 feet elevation. I was mighty proud of my 8:55 miles, over 30 seconds ahead of my normal pace. I was a gazelle.
Now let me draw a comparison to recruiting. You’re running a marathon, not a 5K. It can last years, and you need to be ready. Here’s how you can train for your recruiting marathon. And that’s how you need to look at it.
#1. Mental preparation is key. When I prepared for my 5K, I knew it was going to be warm and humid. I knew the course was over 5K (I ran it last year). So I was ready. In the same way, you need to be mentally ready to run your recruiting course. If you can anticipate as much as possible, then you’re ahead before you start. Yes, there will be surprises, but prepare for things you know about in advance.
In recruiting, mentally prepare by going your homework on schools, programs and coaches. Know in advance which schools are priorities for you. Go online, make phone calls, place visits. This is all part of the preparation you should do in order for the recruiting process to run as smooth as it can. But do be ready for surprises.
#2. Keep moving. I was in pain after about the second mile. But I was not going to quit. In fact, if I had stopped to rest, I probably wouldn’t have continued. When you’re pursuing your athletic scholarship, just keep moving, even when it seems painful. Emotionally, psychologically, even physically. The biggest reason, I believe, that athletes don’t get the scholarship they’re pursuing is that they stop along the way. They just quit because it gets too hard. They don’t see results. They get discouraged. Those are realities in this effort. But– just keep moving! It will pay off. You’ll get through the hardest parts and receive your reward. I’ve seen it over and over again.
#3. Don’t let other people get you down. I was ahead of my friend Tim in the race. Until the last 200 years. The creep passed me when I was coasting. I tried to get the lead back at the end, but he heard my footsteps. He won. Barely. I owe him next year. I might note, though that he is 10 years younger than me.
Did I let Tim’s effort get me down? Yeah, for a few seconds. But he actually woke me up and I gave more effort at the end than the rest of the race. I gave everything I had in the last 50 yards. Tim actually pushed me.
So the lesson here is that when someone gets you down, change your perspective and use the experience for the opposite effect. Make it push you to excel. In your sport and in your recruiting efforts. If a friend gets a scholarship, congratulate him and raise your efforts to the next level.
#4. Train. I didn’t run a marathon, so it wasn’t like I had to train a lot for this race. But I do run 3X a week, which helped me greatly. And at 6,800 feet. So, really, I did train.
You need to train for your recruiting pursuit, too. Train by being diligent in contacting coaches, visiting schools, improving in your athletic performance (you need to keep getting better if you expect to compete at the next level), responding to coaches and providing updates and being faithful to do the recruiting basics right. This is what I mean by training.
#5. Make wise choices along the way. When I ran my race, I had to decide how I would run it. I didn’t blast out of the gate and I didn’t try to keep up with guys 30 years younger than me. I would have died… literally! I had to pace myself. I had to decide how to run hills and when to lock into my pace. I made decisions all along the way.
You, too, have choices all along the way to a scholarship. Not just the final school choice. But choices like which camps to attend, which schools to visit, which programs to pursue, how to contact schools, and a myriad of other choices. Wise choices are necessary. You can’t just take a shotgun approach to this effort. It needs to be planned and the best choices executed along the way.
Now drive this home. How does your athletic effort and strategy parallel your recruiting effort? What you learn in competition is directly applicable to your scholarship pursuit. Think about it. Talk about it as athlete and parent. Have some good discussion.
Parents, help your student-athlete navigate the scholarship marathon. Be there for him or her. You’re the coach.