Each month, Coach John Brooks will answer your questions regarding the college recruiting process. To submit a question, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The College Mailbag column will be posted monthly on ajga.org.
For more information on Coach Brooks please see his Web site, www.rednumbersgolf.com. Coach Brooks also authors a "Going to College" column on the Junior Golf Scoreboard and is a contributing writer for the Titleist Performance Institute Web site.
Read on below for the February installment of College Mailbag!
As a sophomore, what steps should a junior golfer make toward a future in college golf in terms of contacting coaches, etc.? Along those lines, it is said that if you are a good enough player, the coaches will find you. Do you believe in this statement, or should the player initiate their interest in the school?
The critical 18-month window for college recruiting occurs from May of your sophomore year until November of your senior year. With this in mind, it is very important that you plan these two competitive summers to include as many national (or at least regional) tournaments as possible. This will maximize your exposure among college coaches. During the fall of your junior year, correspondence with college coaches should occur. E-mailing 8-10 coaches your summer results, academic profile and interest in their school and golf program would be appropriate. Coaches can e-mail and write you at that time as well. While the top players in the nation are discovered by coaches, it never hurts for you to let coaches know you are interested in their program first. The key is to make sure the school you are contacting is a good fit for you academically, athletically, financially, geographically and socially.
I have a junior that I would like to see go to a local community college for at least one year. I would then like to see him go to a college or university that is around 5000 students or less. Wading through the numerous colleges is staggering. How do we go about finding a small college where he can hopefully play golf year round and has a better chance of getting playing time and building his game?
Junior College is an excellent option for certain student-athletes. It affords them the opportunity to continue maturing before they matriculate into a regular university. To search for a school that best fits a student’s needs after attending junior college, consider the PING American College Golf Guide, found online at www.collegegolf.com, and also included with the AJGA CBS membership package.
What are the top four or five tools that a college coach will use to find, track and evaluate talent? What are some other qualities a college coach looks for during the recruiting process?
There is no substitute for watching junior golfers play if a coach wants to evaluate talent. Most Division I coaches will attend 8-10 tournaments per year for this purpose. Additionally, coaches use the internet to find, track and evaluate talent. The AJGA, the Junior Golf Scoreboard and Golfweek have excellent Web sites to assist in this evaluation process.
How much of the recruiting is based on who you know or the coach learning about a player from someone they know?
Coaches know that the main difference between being good and being great is in the quality of the athletes they recruit. At the collegiate level, golf coaches discover great athletes several different ways throughout the recruiting process. Sometimes discovery takes place at junior tournaments where coaches see players for the first time. In other cases, talented players initiate contact with coaches through letters, phone calls or e-mails. Discovery also occurs when a third party (alumnus, golf professional, parent, etc.) recommends a prospect to a coach.
Most college coaches have extensive relationships in the golf industry. They network with other coaches, golf professionals, school alumni, golf manufacturers and various other members from the golf industry. Junior golfers who have similar contacts should exercise these relationships to help them gain exposure among coaches. Phone calls and letters of recommendations are helpful tools for coaches to rely on in order to make sound recruiting decisions. In many cases, who you know can make the difference in recruiting.
How much do college coaches rely upon Junior Golf Scoreboard?
It is a fact that most college coaches use the Junior Golf Scoreboard on a regular basis as a means to identify quality prospects for their golf programs. The Junior Golf Scoreboard, like the AJGA, offers a profile service for its members that can lead to exposure among coaches. Additionally, coaches can log onto the Scoreboard and search for results for any junior golfer they are interested in. This is an extremely helpful tool in the recruiting process. Rankings are also helpful in terms of tracking players in a particular class or geographical region.
Is strength of schedule more important than wins at weaker tournaments?
To most coaches, the ability to win matters greatly. Throughout their development, players need to learn how to win at the local, regional and national levels. Coaches pay very close attention to this on a player’s resume. Strength of schedule matters as well. Competing against the best players in a region gives coaches a more objective system to compare and contrast multiple players they are interested in. All players should strive to play against the strongest field they can and ultimately learn how to win in these settings.
How much should the player seek out coaches from schools they have interest in playing at? How proactive should a player be in the recruiting process?
Most players need to be proactive. The top players in the nation will be recruited without ever having to send information to coaches. For those prospects that make the initial contact with coaches, make sure you do your homework first. The most important thing is to contact schools that are potential good fits academically, athletically, socially, financially and geographically. Be honest with yourself (in terms of your ability) and with the coach. This will help everyone throughout the college placement process.
At what grade should a high school student start looking at different schools?
During 9th and 10th grades, high school students should begin formulating ideas as to what type of college they would someday like to attend. For junior golfers who travel to tournaments, unofficial visits should be planned with each junior golf tournament. The more campuses a prospect can visit, the better informed they will become throughout the college selection process. In 11th grade, this process becomes more intense for student-athletes. Having already seen several campuses will make the decision much easier at that time.
What is the key information and time lines on when and how to locate college scholarships for a junior in high school this year?
Each college has its own unique offerings for academic and community-service scholarships. I suggest you research the “financial aid” section for each specific school you are interested in attending to determine what is available. As far as golf scholarships are concerned, Men’s NCAA Division I coaches are allowed to award 4.5 scholarships per year while Women’s NCAA Division I programs are allowed 6.0. Division II is slightly less and Division III awards no athletic scholarships. The NAIA and the NJCAA also award limited golf scholarships. Coaches, based on their recruiting evaluations, will offer scholarships to prospects as early as their junior year in high school. Most golf scholarships are awarded, however, while the prospect is a senior in high school.
For girls, what yardage should they be playing from on their home course to get ready for college play?
Most NCAA Division I women’s competitions are played on golf courses in the 6,200-6,400 yard range. In practice, juniors should play golf courses that are at least as long and difficult as they will face in competition.