It’s quite the ride to a full-ride

Student athletes have to bring their A-game, recruiters say
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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It’s often considered the pinnacle of high school athletic achievement. The equivalent of being a first-round draft pick in the professional world and a definitive payoff for four years of blood, sweat and tears. While many high school athletes hope to land full-ride athletic scholarships, they are elusive for most. The reality is fewer scholarships exist than athletes who want them. The path to getting one takes dedication, according to recruiters and successful recruits. Aside from honing athletic skills and performing well academically, student athletes have to be prepared to be their own advocate in the process, according to Michael Linenberger, men’s soccer coach at Sacramento State University. “The student athlete needs to do a lot of legwork,” Linenberger said. “There are so many kids out there playing and so few roster spots available.” Linenberger said students that take the initiative early in their high school athletic career have a better shot at getting a scholarship. Athletes who are persistent and show a particular interest in a certain school also tend to fair better. A mass e-mail sent out to several schools, one time is typically not enough to peak a coach’s interest, according to Linenberger. “Start e-mailing the coach. Say, ‘this is what I have done and this who I am,’” Linenberger said. “Sophomore year isn’t too early to make contact. Put yourself on their radar.” The amount of scholarship dollars a school has to allocate also depends on what percentage of the NCAA maximum they are funded to. For example, Linenberger said that while the NCAA maximum for mens soccer scholarships is nine and a half, Sacramento State is funded for 7 and half. That money is split between returning players and new recruits. Linenberger said he also prefers to divide that money among most of the players, rather than offer full scholarships. “Typically in any given year we have two to three scholarships available depending on how many seniors we lost,” Linenberger said. “We typically have 25 on our roster. Eighteen are on some kind of money.” When it comes to scouting players, Linenberger said he primarily looks at club soccer teams and high school soccer in the greater Sacramento-area. While he does have certain coaches that he has grown to trust for referrals over the years, Linenberger said families should be leery of club coaches that guarantee scholarships as a result of competing on their team. Sacramento State Compliance Director Katherine Zedonis said parents and students also need to be aware that a scholarship is a one-year agreement. Before going out of state or choosing a school that is unaffordable, they need to consider that there is always the possibility their scholarship will not be continued all four years. Checking to see how long a coach plans on staying at a university is a good way to avoid being let go because of coaching changes, according to Zedonis. Recent Placer High graduate Colin Burnett will be playing football for Sacramento State in the fall on a partial scholarship. The quarterback said that his scholarship will cover about $6,000 worth of expenses, which is almost half of the cost of tuition. Although the offer came late his senior year, Burnett believes making contact with coaches played a pivotal role. “I sent my highlight tapes to everywhere I could possibly play at — whether that was Division I, II or community colleges,” Burnett said. “I sent out a resume and a letter of recommendation. It’s kind of in your hands if you want to play at the next level.” Burnett said that the scholarship will put some extra pressure on him to perform on the field and in the classroom, but it will be well worth it. Matt Wade, football recruiting coordinator and wide-receiver coach at UC Davis said the coaching staff at Davis splits up California into 10 regions to evaluate players. They make contact with high school coaches to find prospective players. Wade said attending football camps at UC Davis and showing a genuine interest in the school are two things students can do to further their chance of getting a scholarship. When it comes down to it though, Wade said some students may show that interest, but not have the skills they are looking for that year, or be good enough to play at the Division I level. Self-promotion can be helpful, but isn’t the only way to get a scholarship. “If you are a good enough player, and if we are doing our jobs right, then you will get noticed,” Wade said. According to a report published by the National Collegiate Athletic Association the estimated probability of playing at the college-level is relatively low. Only 3.1 percent of boys high school basketball players will play in the NCAA, with a slightly higher 3.5 percent of girls basketball players reaching the college-level. Statistics rise slightly for other sports, but stay low. Six percent of high school football players play in the NCAA. Men’s ice hockey had the greatest number of college-bound athletes with 10.8 percent. According to Wade, most high school football players who make it to the NCAA will not play in Division I. Mike Robles, assistant athletic director and media relations at UC Davis, said staying academically admissible is a huge factor in the University of California system. UC Davis’ athletic programs are funded to 90 percent of the NCAA maximum. According to Robles, women received slightly more athletic scholarship funds in the 2009-2010 academic year at UC Davis. “Women received 52 percent of athletically related student aid, scholarships and grants in 2009-2010,” Robles said. He agrees with Linenberger and Burnett that self-promotion may be the best route for students aiming for scholarships based upon their athletic talent. “I think sometimes the student athlete takes the initiative. It’s a two way street between the coach and student athlete,” Robles said. “High school kids these days will market themselves.” Reach Sara Seyydin at