3 Reasons to Investigate Opportunities Beyond the NCAA & NAIA
“I need a FULL RIDE in sports to go to college.”
As a recruiting educator, I hear this quote quite often from student-athletes looking for scholarship opportunities to continue their education. Their parents usually nod in the background as they ask if I can help them ‘get seen’ by college coaches to find funding for their education with sports. I always ask the student-athlete what colleges they have contacted. If they have not named multiple junior colleges, I encourage them to market themselves with video and by sending emails to the college coaches letting them know of their interest.
For some teens, the better opportunity to be fully funded through athletic scholarships may be at a 2-year college. Having been a college coach for 14 years at the NCAA Division I, II, and NAIA levels, I had many student-athletes transfer to play and be very successful for me at 4-year colleges after spending one or two years of playing with the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) at a 2-year school. It is an option that many do not fully explore just because they have the disease of “D1 on the brain”.
For my book, Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide, I interviewed over 65 college coaches and athletic directors. In addition, I interviewed multiple executive staff of various governing bodies, including Dr. Christopher J. Parker, Chief Executive Officer of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Dr. Parker reinforced the opportunities of this level, “The NJCAA is 79 years old and we focus on student success. We empower students to be their best and strive for their goals whatever that may be. We value our 47 national championships and have passion for every student. Also, [I encourage student-athletes] to not just say no to a college without seeing or hearing them out. Often students will just say no, when in fact, they turned away a great opportunity to at least review.”
I want to encourage you to consider a few reasons why it may be a good option to investigate:
1. Stay Closer to Home for Social and Academic Reasons
Dr. Parker continued, “Some students need more time to develop socially and choose to stay at home for a couple years and compete at their local two-year college. Sometimes they are being way too specific in their major when they truly aren’t sure. Have an idea in mind, but don’t lock yourself in before you start. Look for colleges and opportunities that give you flexibility. That’s what two-year colleges do.”
2. More Opportunities To Be A Leader On A Team
Dan Kenneally, the Head Women’s Soccer Coach for Spartanburg Methodist College, has spent 32 years working in athletic departments. He serves as the Title IX Deputy Coordinator and Director of Soccer at the NJCAA school in South Carolina. “Being at a 2-year school, you are going to have to step up and be leader during your freshman year. If I have 20 freshmen coming in, I am always asking who are going to lead as freshman? We need them to step up and make an immediate impact.”
3. Potential Athletic Scholarships & Future Athletic Opportunities
Dr. Parker continued, “The two-year level often provides varied opportunities if not on a full scholarship to a 4-year college, then a student-athlete can earn a scholarship to an NJCAA college or at least save a lot of money if needed by living at home, the continued athletic development to reach his or her highest level of competition upon transferring and academic development if necessary.”
For those who graduate with an Associate Degree from a 2-year school, it is usually a pretty easy transition in terms of eligibility and transferring classes, but always check with the 4-year school and the NCAA or NAIA for transfer requirements. However, if a student-athlete does not obtain the Associate Degree, it is still possible to be eligible, but it can be a bit more complicated formula depending on which classes transfer into the 4-year college. If you are interested in playing at a 4-year after spending some time at a NJCAA college, I would highly recommend you start planning for that process early in your freshmen year of college to ensure the coursework you take will transfer and apply to NCAA or NAIA eligibility.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.