Smithfield: Sports

Want to get your kid a sports scholarship? Read this

UNC assistant coach Gunter Brewer poses for a fun photograph holding receiver T.J. Thorpe (5) in his arms during the Tar Heels' media day on Saturday, August 2, 2014 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.
UNC assistant coach Gunter Brewer poses for a fun photograph holding receiver T.J. Thorpe (5) in his arms during the Tar Heels' media day on Saturday, August 2, 2014 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.

What can I do to help get my child recruited for college?

Of all the questions I’ve gotten in my nearly 27 years covering high school sports, this is by far the No. 1. According to the NCAA, only about 2 percent of all high school athletes earn a college scholarship.

So to help answer the question of how to help get one, I asked some common questions to two college coaches – North Carolina football assistant coach Gunter Brewer and Tennessee assistant men’s basketball coach Desmond Oliver. I also consulted Lane Odom of SportsMatch, a local company that charges a fee and then takes over the recruiting process for parents, helping to match student-athletes with prospective colleges.

Answers are edited for brevity.

Q: What’s the best thing to do first?

Oliver: I would say work on your game. A lot. That may sound kind of crazy, but it’s a fact. More importantly, tape everything. If my kid is a sophomore or a junior, I want to have some quality games tape recorded to send out. It’s also based on where you play. If your program isn’t high profile, guys may not know about you. Don’t be afraid to go to local elite camps – low major, mid-major, high major. (Schools) may have scouting services at their events, and you get to play in front of (recruiting experts) and those guys see you play in a different environment than high school or AAU.

Brewer: It starts with the high school … keeping the staff there informed of the intentions of the young man and what are his top schools. If little Johnny wants to play at a Power 5 school, sit down and narrow it down, have a candid conversation with him about where the child is in the high school program. Lean on the high school coach and his connections, the people they know who recruit the area.

Odom: Finding reality. Finding out “what level am I” and getting a dependable evaluation from someone. Find someone who knows a college coach and say, “I might not be for you, but who am I for? Am I a D-III player or D-I?” A lot of kids think they’re playing for Duke and (North) Carolina, and percentages are not that high for that to happen. It comes down to size.

Q: Should kids or parents reach out directly to the schools they are interested in?

Brewer: They should reach out by email or Twitter and make sure the coach follows them back. They need to promote themselves at a young age and social media is a great way to do that. I’m not a big fan of paid recruiting sites. We don’t put a lot of stock into that.

Oliver: If they’re a rising junior or senior, I say yes. As a freshman, sophomore? Probably too early for that, unless the coach is calling you. Most kids who play at our level don’t have those offers yet. Sometimes kids get them early and schools back out because (the player) doesn’t get better. Talk about what you’re hearing and get direction from those involved in the process. As far as calling everybody, it’s too time consuming. I wouldn’t do it.

Odom: Write (schools) a personal email, very succinct and right to the point. Tell them a little about yourself, give them your GPA or SAT score, link a little video and say, “I’d really like to find time to talk to you on phone.” Parents should proof read and make sure it’s tight and impressive. That’ll mean something. Follow up with the phone call. I like for the kid to do it. It’s a great exercise for the kid, helps them grow up.

Q: What should be on a “highlight” tape?

Brewer: I would ask a position coach at my school what he recommends I put on my tape. Sometimes (during games in Chapel Hill), smart ones will ask me, “What are you looking for in a tape?” You want ESPN stuff to start it off to grab attention, in the first 10 to 12 snaps there’s a wow factor, and then some substance in there. Here’s a receiver blocking, and maybe there’s not a catch but a great route or someone intercepts the ball and you chase them down showing effort. Those things are lost because people think it’s about home runs.

Q: How do I know what level my kid is – is he Division II, Division I? What?

Brewer: You don’t always know right away. Some kids stand out. At some point, these kids change. That’s why we like to track them from seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th grade. Kid puts on 20 pounds and drops his 40 from 4.9 to 4.5. We look at bloodlines. … You’ll be pretty intrigued if Mom or Pops won races or played in the NFL. Genetics has something to do with it. So start with your high school coach.

Oliver: I think Mom and Dad need to find someone they know, an AAU coach, a high school coach, someone they can confide in and ask those questions.

Q: Any final words of advice?

Oliver: Pick the right AAU program. Finding the right program from an early age is crucial. And find the right high school program. To me, kids have gotta play. Unless you have a really tough-minded kid, it’s hard sometimes for a kid who lacks confidence to be in a very competitive environment and expect him to fight his way out and show promise.

Brewer: As you go through ninth, 10th grade, you start finding out who’s contacting you. I would protect myself and have more than one love. School A might be my love, but I’d keep some fires going on with I-AA and D-II schools that are near me. That’s why we invite all those schools to our camps, the exposure part of it. A lot of kids get offered at our camps not by us but by the Elons, the Marshalls and the UNC Charlottes that come to our camp. We ask colleges to come for that purpose. Why do that? In turn, those people help you. It’s what you’re supposed to be doing, giving (kids) opportunities.