One of the toughest decisions that you will have to make as an athlete going through the athletic recruiting process is not just the school that you eventually pick. If you are good enough and have enough recruiting interest, chances are high that schools from the same conference may come calling. What that means is you will have to make the difficult decision of picking a possible powerhouse in conference or a potential up and comer.
If you choose either route, there are definite advantages and disadvantages that must be weighed throughout the recruiting process. Obviously it does depend on what schools are recruiting you. If there are ten schools showing you interest, chances are that some are top tier teams while others are trying to turn their program around.
The easiest route to go is to the safe school that is going to win games. They may be the powerhouse in conference play and have the ability to compete on a yearly basis for the conference title and possibly more. In any conference at any level, it is easy to figure out what schools fit this profile. Just look at Alabama, Appalachian State, Northwest Missouri State, and Mount Union on the football field. All of these schools always find ways to win games, no matter what the year.
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While you will be getting a chance to win a lot of games over the four or five years you are at their school, there is also a good chance that the competition will be fierce. Coaches at schools with the highest profiles have to make sure that they have the best athletes year after year. What that means is that many will over recruit a position. Say as a redshirt sophomore, you finally have a chance to see the field at tight end. But if the coaches are not thrilled with your performance, they will definitely be trying to upgrade by finding a transfer or a recruit who can see the field immediately. It may not be fair but happens all the time.
These coaches want to continue their winning ways and if they hurt your feelings along the way, it happens. This occurs at schools at all levels, from Division I to Division III. If you think the powerhouse at the DIII level that Mount Union has built is not done by bringing in top notch recruits and transfer, then you are kidding yourself.
The other option that you can take is going to a less established school. The program may have had some bad breaks over the years or they have a new coach at the helm. What this coach is going to be selling to as many recruits as he can talk to is the chance to see playing time early in your career. Most new coaches take over a program because the coach before them has either been fired or stepped down because of the pressure that they are receiving from those around the school.
When a new coach takes over, they know that they must improve the talent that they have on their roster. What they must do is try to find as many recruits as possible and will be able to promise plenty of playing time for athletes early in their college career. And what I have also found is that the more game experience you have, the better it will help you over the course of your career.
It is easy to buy into these coaches in one aspect because athletes want to see the field early in their career. There is no doubt about that. But on the other side of the coin you are always taking a big gamble going to a school that is going to lose a lot of games, especially early in your career. But if you trust the coach and feel that he can turn things around, it will be a big advantage to be a part of things.
In order for you to make that decision between the two, you need to think long and hard about the positives and negatives of both. Would you be okay with sitting the bench three years and playing for your final two seasons? Or would you want to see the field as a true freshman, get game experience, but lose a lot more games in the process? If you have enough schools recruiting you, this is definitely something you will want to think about.