Bridging Athletes From High School to College - 5 Services Provided by the College Athletics Counselor

Joshua Corder, College Athletics Counselor, Volleyball Coach, Landmark Christian School
High school students interested in college athletics face added responsibility and obligations during the college search and application process.
It is common for most high schools to provide a dedicated college academic counselor; however, few public or private schools offer dedicated college counseling for academics and athletics. Typically, recruiting services for high school athletes dreaming of a college athletic career are provided by private companies who charge according to the level of services purchased. At Landmark Christian School, student-athletes have the benefit of an athletic counselor on campus to help guide them through the journey. I’m Joshua Corder, and I serve as the athletics counselor and volleyball coach at Landmark Christian School. I’m excited to share how we help high school student-athletes in the college recruiting process. 

The athletics counselor works collaboratively with student-athletes, parents, coaches, and colleges to empower and equip student-athletes. We identify and support student-athletes’ unique college admission needs so they may continue to develop their God-given passion and talents to impact the world for Jesus Christ at the collegiate level in their sport and beyond. Because most student-athletes go through the college selection process only once, it is a privilege to have a dedicated counselor employed at the school, bringing experience and expertise in the full spectrum of college athletics to the table. 

The college application and admission procedures are specific and exact with every sport being unique. College athletic counseling is also detailed and most often can’t be learned and cross-applied from any other arena. Parents with more than one student may become more familiar with the college admittance process, but the specifics may change within that framework. Because kids are different and sports are too, it requires an individualized approach.  

As an athletics counselor, we provide six services for the high school athlete: evaluation, consultation, eligibility assessment, strategy development, guidance, and mentorship.  

1. EVALUATION
In most cases, parents make initial contact with the athletics counselor. This is where parents play the most significant part. Parents typically have been an essential part of supporting and developing their child's athletic interests and talents for many years. If they have a child passionate about a sport, especially if that child is an upperclassman, meeting those parents and connecting with their student is a priority. At Landmark Christian School, we have excellent coaches that may also refer an athlete to the athletics counselor.

2. CONSULTATION 
After the parents make the initial contact, the athletics counselor meets with the athlete and consults with the coaches and the academic college counselor. Together, we formulate a detailed assessment of academic and athletic strengths for that student. From that point, we begin looking into different colleges that will most likely meet the needs of the student and vice versa.

Thus, it begins - personal athletic counseling to train, equip, empower, and prepare students for college athletic life. The athletics counselor’s goal is for the student to connect with the college that is the best fit for that student, to determine the student’s scholarship opportunities, and to help secure that scholarship. The athletic counselor mentors and works directly with the student, empowering them to take responsibility for their college athletics in a way similar to how the college academic counselor prepares them for academic excellence in college.     

3. ELIGIBILITY ASSESSMENT 
The next step is an evaluation of candidacy for athletic scholarships. There are many questions to be answered. How passionate is the student about the sport? What is his/her overall potential for the sport? How competitive is the arena? How much skill is required for this sport? Is this an entirely 'live and breathe sports' focus or a student with less intensity? What is needed for the student’s particular sport to achieve success at the college level? Is this student willing to commit the time and energy required to play at the college level? Where does the student's natural talent merge with work effort? Does the student love his/her chosen sport? Are they passionate about it? What is the likelihood of burnout and injury with this sport? Has participation in the sport led to previous injuries for the student? How much time has the student committed to skill-development? To offer a personalized and supportive approach requires a relationship with the student. The athletics counselor seeks to know the student to make the best student-college match. The athletics counselor and the athletic department see and know each kid. The college recruiting process is a partnership; parents connect, coaches consult, the athletic counselor counsels.

4. STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT
The athletic counselor at Landmark Christian School predominantly works with upperclassmen, but younger athletes become part of the funnel depending on the sport and other specifics.

The college athlete recruitment process is an intense and diverse process. Discipline and work are necessary and there may be disappointments along the journey, but also great rewards as athletes ultimately find their fit. Parents try to navigate and protect their student-athletes’ best interests while being in unfamiliar territory. The athletic counselor’s primary strategy is to mentor and empower the athlete to take ownership of his/her own college athletic experience. Strategy development includes: 
  • Assistance with applying to schools and attracting college athletic recruiters
  • Recommendations for Division I, II, or III programs that best fit student's needs and goals
  • Advice regarding the following recruitment processes:
    • NCAA recruitment procedures, rules, deadlines, and policies
    • NCAA Eligibility Center and related policies for student-athletes
    • Athletic-admissions rubrics including the Ivy League Academic Index
  • Recommendations for engagement in athletic camps, clinics, and showcases
  • Development of strategies for coach-to-coach contact
 
5. GUIDANCE and MENTORSHIP
The athletics counselor equips student-athletes with the knowledge and skills to successfully reach out to and communicate with college coaches and athletic advisors in college. He empowers the student to lead; they meet continually throughout the process for review, guidance, and direction about: 
  • Creation of athletic resumes and cover letters for college coaches
  • Student-generated emails to college colleges
  • Advice for generating film highlights
  • Review of athletic and admission offers from colleges

As an athletics counselor, I see the process of athletic counseling predominantly about exposure and mentoring. It's about empowering the students and assisting them in identifying the best colleges for their unique academic goals and their athletic talent and passion. The athletics counselor coaches the students through the process of connecting with coaches and colleges. Together, they determine: Is it the right fit? If yes, how can I bring this dream to fruition? Collectively, many parts and pieces play together in developing a student for college. 

Parents that are informed of the process are better equipped to support and encourage their student in the best way. Colleges are not interested in connecting with parents - colleges want to hear directly from the student. They want to begin to develop a relationship and understand not just how great of an athlete the student is but who the student is as a person. Typically, colleges have a well-developed sense of a student's voice and desire to hear directly from them.  

The athletics counselor partners with parents and coaches to empower student-athletes to:

  1. Identify colleges and universities with athletic programs that will offer a good fit for an individual student.  
  2. Specialize and develop talent for athletes that are passionate about their chosen sport.  
  3. Mentor student-athletes through the process of connecting with and communicating well with college and university coaches
  4. Equip students with the tools needed to pursue their athletic dreams
  5. Bridge the gap between dependency and independency as each student-athlete takes more responsibility and ownership of their future path 

If you commit to a sport you don't love, you are going to end up hating it. Ultimately, the end of a student's high school athletic career and the beginning of their college career is about independence and transition. The Landmark Christian School Athletic Counselor aims to make this time in a student's life special. By working with high school and college coaches with the student in the middle we serve as a critical bridge-builder between two worlds: the world of a child and their day-to-day dependency on parental support, and a budding adult having more autonomy and independence. The college athlete recruiting process is about transition and setting a student-athlete up for success and continued discipline and joy, on and off the sports field.    
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