I recently had a chance to speak to a football recruit who was hoping to be able to play in college at a very high level. This athlete is a solid football player but he is someone who is more suited for the Division III/lower Division II level in college. But for whatever reason, he was not interested in playing at a small school.
This recruit basically said he was big school or bust. He wanted the opportunity to walk on at two of the biggest in-state schools or he wasn’t going to play. As I have mentioned, playing college athletics takes a huge commitment from you. I still feel strongly that limiting your options like this is not a smart move if playing in college is something that you really want to do.
The first thing I want to note is that no matter what sport, there is good football, basketball, volley, soccer, or whatever sport you want to play at all levels in college. Some recruits think that just because they played in the biggest class in their State, the DIII level is going to be below the high school level. Let me stress that is not the case because these athletes are four or five years older and have developed physically. Yes, some freshman can play at all levels but few dominate (outside of those with major pro potential).
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Going back to the Division III/small school level, most of the private DIII schools throughout the country offer a great education. Yes, you will pay a pretty penny for them but athletics can help you get academic scholarship money that would likely have never been there before. This is an option that is worth looking into because they may be a better fit for you overall.
What was most interesting during this talk is that this athlete wanted to walk on but he had no contact with either of the schools he was hoping to play football at. A walk-on spot can happen at any time but realistically, they are similar to scholarships. The coaches know who they want to walk-on early during the recruiting process and have a limited number of spots available. Waiting to try and do it this late is very difficult, especially at the Division I-A level, where the coaches should be on the ball with recruiting.
I know no matter how many times I write this, there are going to be athletes with Division I eyes that feel that they are better than Division II, Division III, and NAIA schools throughout the country. But when you limit your options, you can hurt yourself in a number of different ways. It could make the journey to college much more difficult if you are transferring from a Junior College or a prep school and bouncing all around to play at the Division I level. What may end up happening is that the DI level is not all that it is cracked up to be.
Many athletes have those Division I eyes because they want to be able to tell people for the rest of their lives that they played Division I basketball or football. But what matters most in college is that you enjoyed yourself and got a great education. This education is what is going to set you up for the rest of your life, not the four or five years that you played Division I football.
I feel strongly that having the big school or bust mentality is the wrong way to think about things. I understand that not every athlete wants to play at the smaller school level but what is looking into your options going to hurt? That level may be more suited for you and push you to a level any other school could not.