Supporting College Athletic Aspirations

The following article was contributed by Dickie Sompayrac, President at Knoxville Catholic High School, Jason Surlas, Athletic Director at Knoxville Catholic High School and Kat Coy, Department Chair of School Counseling at Knoxville Catholic High School.

The college search process, for any student, is a journey.  The idea of moving on after high school can be exciting but also full of a million questions.  To complicate the process, if you have hopes of playing sports in college, you have just added another layer of questions and often confusion.  It can seem overwhelming and maybe even impossible at times, however, with a few supportive structures in place by the high school, both the student and family can be guided through the process with ease.

At Knoxville Catholic High School, about 20% of our students graduate with commitments to play sports in all college settings.  The first thing we do is work together, for the benefit of the aspiring athlete.  Our Athletic Department and Guidance Department partner together with the family to help support the athletic recruitment process.  We have found that by establishing our individual roles, and what we hope to accomplish as a team, families come out of the process feeling supported and happy with their college destination.  We focus our efforts on four steps: assessing reality, planning, hearing from the experts, and celebrating.

Assessing Reality: The first step comes from our Athletic Department and falls to the coaches to help students assess the reality of playing college sports.  We ask our students to have an honest conversation with their coaches to get a realistic sense of their athletic ability and empower our coaches to always respect the dream, but plan for all future options.  Though all students tend to be familiar with DI sports, we also discuss DII, DII, NAIA, and Community College (NJCAA) options as well.

Planning: The second step is planning.  Our Guidance Department works individually with students and families to create a plan.  We developed a “College Athletics Recruiting Handbook” that explains the various options to play sports (NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA), discusses rules and regulations for all levels, and most importantly, an entire section on how the family can market the student athlete.  This section includes a marketing plan, tips for creating an athletic resume, timeline, and sample letters.

Hearing from the Experts: Another crucial part of the planning process is involving the experts.  Just like our students, sometimes families listen best when the information comes from an “expert”.  All NCAA institutions will have a staff member who would be happy to partner with your school to provide an informational night for athletes.  We set the date, secure the facilities, and invite our families.  The presenter delivers the bulk of the content and we also distribute our College Athletics Recruiting Handbook.

Celebrate: The last step is an easy one – celebrate!  Our Athletic Department facilitates multiple signing day events throughout the year.  If they commit somewhere, we celebrate them!  Of course, a myriad of parents, siblings, coaches, and KCHS faculty are present to celebrate this occasion.  However, another amazing sight is how many friends and teammates come to support our future college athletes.  Oftentimes these events are ‘standing room only’ as the student dawns their new school colors and signs a letter to commit.  There is no doubt it is a special event for our future athlete, however the more important part of this event is the hope we are instilling in those younger generations who are watching.

In the end, aspiring college-bound athletes must think ahead and work diligently to achieve their dreams.  With the Athletic and Guidance Departments working together as a team, it provides each student with the knowledge and support that will hopefully help them find their next starting spot.