13 Point Checklist for Evaluating A College Athletic Program Beyond Playing Time

National Athletic Training Month NATA | 5 Important Health Aspects to Consider When Attending A Major College Recruiting Showcase Tournament | Coach Renee LopezAs we recognize the amazing work of health professions throughout March with National Athletic Training Month, I think it’s appropriate I offer advice from fourteen years as a college coach and now as a recruiting educator to take a “Broken Leg Test” when choosing a college. Many high school student-athletes get caught up in the level the college competes in or in the amount of athletic-scholarship being offered during the recruiting process. Unfortunately, there are so many more factors that often get overlooked. My weekly blogs and recruiting education business number goal is to help families navigate the overwhelming process to help focus on the top priorities in choosing a college athletic program.

Looking for a Full Ride? by: Coach Renee LopezAs the author of the book, Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide, I have interviewed over 65 college coaches and athletic directors to offer a true insider’s perspective. In my research, almost every single coach discussed the value of coming to visit a campus and fully getting to know the university beyond the athletic program.  I always refer to this as taking a “Broken Leg Test”.

Coach, what on earth does that mean?  Well, in a nutshell, let’s say this scenario plays out:

You have trained all summer prior to entering your freshman year and are in the best shape of your life. You complete your first fitness test with flying colors and are excited for the first intra-squad scrimmage. You go through warm-ups and feel the butterflies in your stomach. Your name is in the starting line-ups and your stomach starts to turn even more. The competition begins and in the first 10 minutes of play, your shoelaces get caught in another athlete’s laces and you tumble to the ground. You land very awkwardly and feel tremendous pain.

The certified athletic trainers you just met a few hours or days before rush over to you. They do some initial evaluation and everyone prays it is a minor injury. A few hours later it is confirmed. A broken wrist for a tennis, volleyball, softball or baseball player. A broken leg for a football or lacrosse athlete. The dreaded three letters of a torn ACL for a basketball, field hockey, or soccer player. In all likelihood, their 3-5 months season is probably now being redirected to possible surgery, rehabilitation, and cheering on their teammates. I have witnessed all of these injuries happen in various sports during the first week of practice, typically from just a mishap of bodies flying to the ground.

So this “Broken Leg Test” is exactly this scenario played out….If the unthinkable injury happens to you, ask yourself if this is still the right college for you to attend? I have gathered together the information from numerous college coaches across all divisions and all sports from the interviews for my book to create an important checklist with this “Broken Leg Test”. With the increase in early recruiting taking place and subsequent transfers, I seriously encourage you to evaluate this list of questions. Then, research any that you cannot definitively say yes to immediately about your first choice college. Do not let a large athletic scholarship offer or your love for the coach dictate the 4 year choice you are about to make without thinking through each of these aspects:  

  • 1. Does the school have the academic programs that will help me with pursuing my career and getting a job?
  • 2. Are the right academic support systems on campus to make me successful such as class sizes and tutoring programs?
  • 3. Am I able to be accepted with my current test scores and GPA on my transcripts?
  • 4. Will I also be eligible at this level for the NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, etc?
  • 5. Does the college offer the social atmosphere I can be successful in time management for balancing your academics, athletics, and social life?
  • 6. Is the college located the right distance from home for me?
  • 7. Will I be able to get to a grocery store, the movies, a mall, etc if I don’t have a car?
  • 8. Is the college located in a setting that I can feel comfortable (city, suburbs, country)?
  • 9. Do I feel safe being on this campus? Have I learned the safety measures the school has put in place? (Read: “My Child Wants to Attend This University Out of Town. How Do I Know If It’s Safe?”)
  • 10. Do the living arrangements such as a residence hall or campus apartment feel new, yet comfortable and a safe place to live?
  • 11. Will the coach challenge me to grow and evolve as a student and person first, and then as an athlete?
  • 12. Do I mesh with the current athletes on the team?
  • 13. If not on a full athletic scholarship, will they offer me other merit scholarships besides loans? Is the overall financial package affordable for me to attend this university?

Before you commit to a college, I would highly recommend you digest each of these areas and can wholeheartedly answer a resounding YES to each question. Unfortunately, injuries do happen. Most coaches do not remove athletic scholarship in this scenario, but it is important to ask at the college you are committing your athletic career to for the next four years.

FREE Special Report: Strategies to Emailing a College Coach | Coach Renee LopezThe “Broken Leg Test” is just the start of understanding what all need to go into the college recruiting process. Would you like to know more about the college recruiting process? Go to www.lookingforafullride.com to get your FREE Special Report and receive our weekly blogs via email! You can also click on the right side of this article to visit our previous blogs including our 3 part series about Committing To A College, our 2 week series on Thinking Beyond NCAA Division I, and our 2 week series on Important Health Aspects!

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Coach Renee Lopez

Looking for a Full Ride? by: Coach Renee Lopez

As a 17 year coaching veteran, Coach Renee Lopez is a recruiting expert for high school student-athletes. She uses her NCAA Division I, II, and NAIA Head Coaching experience to help families navigate the recruiting process to be identified by college coaches and help them find the right “fit” for playing at the next level. She has produced 3 All-Americans, over 30 All-Conference athletes and Her teams have been honored with awards for team academic accomplishments, sportsmanship, and sports ministry. In addition, Coach Renee Lopez has been named Coach of the Year by her peers.

She presents recruiting seminars across the country, has recently been featured in USA Weekly, with the National Alliance for Youth Sports, on SiriusXM Radio and ESPN Radio. She is the author of the book, Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide where she has interviewed over 65 college recruiters across all sports and college levels. In addition, she runs 9 Facebook groups to help facilitate conversations on college recruiting education, coaching education, leadership development, and sports ministry. She is also a certified speaker, trainer and coach for the John Maxwell Team, Jon Gordon Company, 3Dimensional Coaching, and the Positive Coaching Alliance.

She also does private consulting for student-athletes and their families to help in understanding the often daunting process of recruiting. (See one family’s testimonial.) If you are looking for help in the college recruiting process, please email Coach Renee Lopez at info@lookingforafullride.com.