I'm smart, funny, motivated, borderline good looking, and I make a mean grilled cheese sandwich. Yet, for some reason I still can't attract the schools I want to attend! These are some of the thoughts our athletes share surrounding them not being recruited by the schools they believe are passing them over. Far too often athletes pass up on the school that is actually courting/showing interest to chase the school that isn't remotely interested in what they have to offer. Typically, this situation ends in some type of heartache for the students.
For many student-athletes, since they were able to talk and chant their favorite teams' name, they have envisioned themselves competing for that dream school. They kept every stat, watched every game, and even stayed up late to watch the post-game interviews of their favorite player. They pleaded with their parents to buy them that expensive jersey with the matching hat and even decorated their rooms with the school's paraphernalia. They looked around their rooms and at all of their collection with aspirations of getting that coveted phone call from the head coach of the team, being offered an athletic scholarship to continue their athletic and academic endeavors. Yet, the reality for some of our students, is they will never get that call because of their GPA and standardized test scores.
About a week ago, I posed a question on twitter to all of my South Carolina coaching buddies, "Why do you think and/or say that South Carolina kids are under-recruited?" Of course, this question stirred up a litany of responses from many coaches anxious to have this discussion. I was met with the following remarks:
"I believe not having an indoor season hurts us in the long run."
"In our neighboring states, there's way more trainers and sports complexes for athletes to train and we lack the resources."
"We need more recruiting fairs in the major areas so coaches can get more bang for their buck."
"Getting coaches, athletes, and parents better educated on recruiting and giving them networking capabilities, then we can start to curve it".
"College coaches want kids already running 'the times' - which is understandable for the power five - however, every other school especially in-state schools should be trying to rack up these in-state kids that run marks off of 1 month of training in some instances."
"SC is squeezed between a hotbed in Georgia (metro-Atlanta mostly) and another big state, North Carolina. Also, the smaller population means statistically less bang for your buck than if you go to Atlanta."
"Lack of good coaching and summer track programs; they don't produce 'the times' that bigger schools look at; and most of the time, the South Carolina kids go off to play other sports anyways."
Their answers spanned several areas that I have thought through myself. However, in my humble opinion, the main reason why our South Carolina kids might be "UNDER" recruited is because of their grades and test scores! If their grades would not get them into the institution as a non-athlete, they are most likely not going to be recruited for an athletic scholarship. It is publically known that South Carolina ranks amongst one of the lowest states when it comes to education. According to an article from "The State Paper" in 2019, our state average for the ACT was 18.2 when the national average was 20.7. Further, only 24% of our students met 3 or 4 ACT section benchmarks. In 2019, the "SC Public School Distribution" listed our state SAT average as 1021, while the national average was 1039. These vast differences show that there is a large number of kids who do not meet the enrollment requirements for many of our state colleges and universities.
Again, I believe all of the reasons given by the coaches above play a part in the reason why some of our students go unnoticed on the recruiting trail. However, none of those supersede the fact that education is at the forefront of recruitment; and as a state, we are failing our student-athletes. I admit I don't have a solution for the extremely low numbers that our education system has. Nevertheless, as parents, coaches, counselors, and athletic administrators, we can all do a better job of making sure our kids are set up to succeed in the classroom. At the end of the day, they are STUDENT-athletes. We must keep the order of those words in mind.
I know I talk a great deal about recruiting and the lack of knowledge that comes along with this process. But, it is because I want you to be totally informed on the ins and outs of it. I believe in our kids! And while I may be biased, I think we have some of the best track athletes around. They continue to perform at an elite level despite not having indoors and having a short season. I'm tired of seeing our babies fall off and lose opportunities because their grades and test scores are too low to be NCAA eligible. Athletes, I need you all to remember this, "the dream doesn't work if you don't do your part."
Charles Proctor is a South Carolina high school coach and competed at the college level of track and field.