As a current college coach and a former professional and collegiate player, I have an incredible passion in helping junior players make the best choice in picking a college program. JuniorGolfUSA has given me the unique opportunity to be transparent about issues which affect the college search process. In this article, I want to address some core issues about the constant changing environment of the recruitment process and in particular scholarships. In each of these articles my goal is to express the thoughts of collegiate coaches and bridge a gap between players and coaches. The main goal is to help each individual player to find a place that can prepare them for life. I believe this is a place where they can grow and thrive academically; socially and on the golf course. That is why picking the right program is incredibly important and every player and parent should have the right perspective in order to make the best decision.
We can think of college golf recruiting as a market where coaches exchange scholarships or scholarship money for players who can help them accomplish their program goals. According to the NCAA statistics, only 2% of high school athletes receive an athletic scholarship. This process was already challenging before 2019 and every athlete had to really stand out to receive a scholarship. Since COVID-19, the market has changed incredibly and made this process even tougher. This market change was primary caused when the NCAA decided to grant an extra year of eligibility to sports that were affected by the virus. With collegiate golfers getting an extra year of eligibility, as well as junior golfers looking for spots, the market size doubled almost overnight. This had unexpected consequences. In business terms, there was a lot of supply and little demand; therefore, without even trying, coaches had more great options in the market. This consequence drove them to offer less scholarship for a player that possibly had more scholarship before this happened. As this strategy started to work for some coaches, others noticed and used the same tactic. This created benefits for coaches, but hurt a lot of players, especially those from less affluent families.
Unfortunately, as the market was changing, few junior golfers altered their strategy. We have seen a growing number of outstanding players from the 2021 class choosing schools outside the power-5 only to get a bigger scholarship. While this may have great long-term benefits for the sport and collegiate golf, there were a lot of junior golfers that were disappointed in how the process unfolded. I believe this article might help future classes to understand that scholarships have changed forever, but also it is important for junior golfers to understand how and why they should be making a commitment.
As 2022/23 are currently engaged in the recruitment process, you need to understand that there are less spots in every team and less scholarship money to be awarded. This certainly can hurt some players with smaller budgets. It also requires a new fresh strategy. No longer can players just shop for scholarships, they need to put their focus on other aspects which are more likely to impact the player’s experience. I believe choosing the right school is much more than just the amount of scholarship that is given. Every player has to ask herself/himself questions as:
- What city do I want to live in for the next four years?
- What kind of coach do I want as my mentor and coach?
- Do I like the players on the team?
- Is it close or far from home?
- Can I grow as a person and as a player?
- What will the degree do for me in the future?
I do believe the previous questions help to narrow down the choosing process. However, I do understand that scholarships are sometimes a requirement for some athletes in order to go to school and for more reason, I also believe the right combination of characteristics needs to include the proper academics. Academics are so important because maybe your dream school might not have a full athletic scholarship and it might be very expensive, but with a strong academic background, you could earn more scholarship with your academics and make that dream come true. Another reason is because you never know what doors your strong academic background can open. I know your plans might be playing professional golf right now, but earning a high GPA can create big future opportunities.
As a coach and previous collegiate player, I am a believer that a strong work ethic in the classroom also transfers to your golf game and it is something that I am always looking for in players. Although facilities, cities, distance, and coaches are extremely important and key factors to consider when picking a school, academics and building a strong character are essential. Great coaches transcend their sports and look beyond the results on the course. As great coach John Wooden once said, “It’s the little details that are vital, little things make big things happen.” The right coach is going to challenge and push you in every way, and probably make you uncomfortable. At the time you may curse them or hate them, but hopefully as you mature, you will realize that their faith in you and desire to drive you made a huge difference.
I hope you enjoy the information, find it helpful, and encourage you to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or topics you want covered in future articles.