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District hosts Reality of Recruiting forum for student athletes and their parentsReality of recruiting forum

Diversity, character, and academic achievement. These are the top qualities college coaches seek in the young athletes they recruit – that’s according to Rutgers University’s Head Wrestling Coach Scott Goodale and Associate Head Track & Field Coach Robert Farrell and Fred Hill, Assistant Basketball Coach at Seton Hall University, who shared these and other insights into what it’s like to recruit, play and coach Division 1 level college sports at the Point Pleasant Borough School District’s recent forum, The Reality of Recruiting.

On May 4, the three Division 1 coaches joined Supervisor of Point Pleasant Borough Schools’ Athletics Chris Ferrone at Point Pleasant Borough High School’s Loren Donley Auditorium to take part in a panel discussion where they provided student athletes and their parents with a realistic look at the college athletic recruitment process. Superintendent of Point Pleasant Borough Schools Vincent S. Smith served as moderator.

“There seems to be a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding college recruitment and collegiate athletics in general,” said Superintendent Smith. “Coach Ferrone and I felt it was important to host this forum and bring together a panel of experts who could clarify some of those false impressions and shed some light on the process to ensure that the expectations of our parents and their children match the practical and financial realities of college athletics.”

The prospect of continuing their athletic careers at the college level is something that most student-athletes dream about but - depending on the sport - only between two and four percent will ever experience. And college coaches must consider a great many factors when deciding to recruit an athlete - the least of which is playing ability.

“The first thing I do when looking at an athlete, after checking their grades, is follow them on Instagram and Twitter,” said Robert Farrell, who’s currently in his fifth season as coach of the Scarlett Knights Men’s Track & Field Team and first as the program’s associate head coach. “Talent is easy. Talent I can see by watching an athlete compete but I want to know who they are off the track.”

Thirty-year coaching veteran Fred Hill said he looks for the player that’s going to contribute to the winning culture he’s helped establish with Seton Hall’s Pirates Basketball Team, he said, “When we won the Big East Championship in 2016, it wasn’t because we had the best team but because we had the best attitude. Character is number one after academics.”

Coach Goodale, currently in his tenth year of coaching Rutgers Wrestling Team, also ranks character as a critical factor in his decision-making process, taking it a step further than his colleagues, saying “I go on home visits. I want to see how a prospective recruit talks to his parents and siblings and I want to see the players room, to check if it reflects his character and attitude.”

All three coaches stressed the importance of academics, stating that was their first and foremost concern due to college admissions becoming more and more selective.

“I look at it as though we’re making an investment in the players we recruit,” said Coach Hill, who said every player he recruits receives a full scholarship. “I can’t make that investment on a student who’s going to be deemed academically ineligible to compete.”

According to Coaches Farrell, Rutgers requires a minimum SAT score of 1250 and a GPA of 3.5 and above for admission.

Recruiting Forum“Though Rutgers is definitely selective, I’ve found that academic and athletic achievement often go hand-in-hand and athletes at this elite level tend to have a strong work ethic in everything they do,” he said.

Once an athlete is determined to possess the talent, grades and character to warrant further attention, then the focus turns to fit whether the player is the right fit for the team and the college or university is the right fit for the student and whether the roster can accommodate each athlete’s unique skillset.

“Fit is incredibly important,” said Coach Hill. “I see a lot of athletes trying to go to the biggest, most well-known school and that’s a mistake. They need to consider whether they’re going to get the best education because there are no guarantees. Last year, 800 kids transferred out of Division 1 colleges; I look at that as 800 mistakes. You need to consider what’s the best fit and where you’re going to have the best experience. And that’s not always going to be Division 1.

“Personally, I went Division 3 because I wanted to play in college and because it was the best fit,” he said citing his experience attending Montclair State.

Coaches Farrell and Goodale both emphasized the value of diversity in athletes, encouraging students to play multiple sports.

“I want athletes I can develop,” said Coach Farrell. “An athlete that plays on multiple teams for multiple coaches shows flexibility and a willingness to be taught.”

The coaches also discussed the reality of athletic scholarships, clarifying some common misconceptions.

“With college costs spiraling out of control and parents looking for relief from the exorbitant tuition prices, more and more families are looking to athletic scholarships to partially or completely offset tuition costs, which is, unfortunately, statistically unlikely,” said Coach Ferrone. “Full scholarships are only offered in the sports football, basketball and volleyball and even then, they’re not guaranteed. Coaches are allocated a certain number of scholarships, which they then split up and distribute among players at their discretion.”
 
As a basketball coach, Coach Hill is able to offer full scholarships to every player he signs to his program; however, Coach Goodale divvies up the equivalent of 10 total scholarships among his 30-person roster while Coach Farrell gets 12.6 to split among 50 total team members.

“Every kid gets a different number with each earning the amount they get,” said Coach Goodale.

“Part of the reason it’s so important to diversify – especially in Track & Field – is that an athlete that can compete in multiple events can contribute more to the team and can therefore earn a more generous scholarship,” added Coach Farrell.

According to recent NCAA statistics, the average athletic scholarship for the 2016-2017 school year is about $10,400, which against the average cost of college tuition and fees for the current school year - $33,480 for private and $24,930 for state – falls far short.

“To put it in perspective, consider that there roughly 1 million high school football players in this country who are competing for about 19,500 scholarships,” Mr. Ferrone said. “Just over two percent of those students will commit to Division I schools and the amount of any scholarship they receive could be negligible. There are no guarantees and even if a student does receive an athletic scholarship, there is always the possibility it may not be renewed after the first year.” Recruiting Forum

The coaches concluded the presentation with some advice for current and prospective student athletes, encouraging them to be proactive and to market themselves to coaches with personalized letters of introduction. They stressed the importance of making as many unofficial college visits as possible to determine if the relationships with the coaches, teammates and school are the right fit and cautioned against using fee-based recruiting services and camps or academies that make exaggerated claims and promises in exchange for high retainers.

“I receive between 50-75 emails from recruiting services a day,” said Coach Hill. “I delete every single one without opening.”

“I never look at them,” Coach Goodale said of recruiting emails. “Work on making connections with coaches on your own. You don’t need to pay a service or go to an expensive academy, in fact, I think it’s more impressive to succeed in your home school than one of those specialized academies, it shows more initiative and drive.”

Coach Farrell urged students to keep a constant dialogue with their coaches and the guidance department, he said, “Your coaches and guidance counselors are key. Your counselors can make sure you’re where you need to be academically and that you’ve taken the right classes to be on target; and your coaches are one of the most valuable resources. They can communicate things I can’t learn from a profile.”

“The Point Pleasant Borough School District’s Athletic Program has historically been very successful in garnering the attention of leading college athletic programs,” said Superintendent Vincent S. Smith. “Among this year’s group of students to sign National Letters of Intent are an impressive eight members of Point Pleasant Borough High School’s Class of 2017! This is an incredible achievement that demonstrates the integral role sports can play in a student’s life; however, these achievements have only been possible due to the combination of our students’ passion, dedication and hard work along with the support of their coaches, teachers and parents.

Though we encourage our students to pursue every post-secondary opportunity, including college sports, we as a district must ensure they have the most relevant and accurate information,” he said. “We hope this forum helped shed some light on the process and, going forward, it will help our families make the most informed decisions for themselves and their children.”