Lee University, the author's workplace (Pinterest photo)
By Bernadette Little, Asst Golf Coach, Lee University (@LeeUGolf
The recruiting process is an exciting and sometimes overwhelming time for students. Asking the right questions throughout the recruiting process can be crucial to choosing the right college.
Before we jump into the questions to ask and information needed when choosing a college let’s address the perspective to have when entering the recruiting process. The mindset needs to be focused on finding the right fit not just the highest ranked school.
For example, why go to a mid-ranked DI over a top 20 DII just so you can say “I play DI golf”? Or the 15th ranked DI over the 25th if you would have a better experience at the 25th ranked school? Which school will provide the better overall experience -- that’s the real question that needs to be asked. The transfer rate for NCAA DI athletes in 2017 was 11.8%, that’s over 1 in 9 athletes who aren’t happy with their college and transfer. The three most common reasons for transferring I came across in my research are; coaching style, playing time and the school itself.
Campus Life and Academics
The first and perhaps most important point to grasp is not to focus solely on the golf program itself when visiting a school or talking to a coach. This is, of course, a large part of the decision, but not the only part. Why choose a school that has a good golf program but doesn’t have the major you want to study? Be sure to ask questions like:
• Is the major I’m interested in studying offered?
• Is it an active campus? Are there opportunities to get involved in activities outside of golf?
• Is there academic support if needed?
Golf will take up the majority of a student-athlete’s time but there are other aspects to the college experience as well. When making this decision a student should ask him/herself: “If I take golf out of the equation would I be happy at this school?”
The coach an athlete decides to play for will have a significant impact on their experience. Having a good relationship with the coach can make or break a player’s experience. Ask questions like:
• What are the typical daily requirements?
• How does qualifying work?
• What size roster do you like to have?
• How are your practices structured?
• Are practices team or individual based?
These questions will give a player a feel for the coaching style and whether or not it’s a good fit.
The amount of scheduled requirements varies from college to college. It’s important to know what is expected of players. Some specific questions to ask are:
• What does a typical week look like?
• What is your travel schedule?
• How flexible are you with the schedule?
• How often are workouts and is there a strength and conditioning staff?
Knowing the general schedule will help you know the commitment that will be required, and that will help you decide if you are willing to do that much or if it is not enough for you.
Another important aspect in the recruiting process is playing time. The best way to improve is through experience, and when looking at colleges it’s important to realistically consider where you might fall on the roster. Do you have a chance of playing right away? Getting a feel for where you stand is a big factor and something that should be inquired about when speaking with the coach. A few questions to ask are:
• What are the scoring averages of your best player and your number five player?
• What scores are typically needed to make the lineup?
• How do my current scores compare to your players?
• Do you see me playing as a freshman?
It is always more fun to travel and play in tournaments. Ask yourself, would I rather be the 7th player on the team and rarely travel or a big impact player who makes a difference?
Some colleges have facilities on campus and for others it’s a 45 minute drive. Access to the course and practice facilities may vary as well. Ask questions like:
• How far is the golf course from campus?
• Are there on-campus facilities?
• How is the team’s relationship with the course staff? Can players use facilities any time, any day?
The facilities are where players spend most of their time. Being close and having access to them at all times is important to player development.
The availability and amount of scholarship is a big part of the decision. Knowing what scholarship they have to offer and the cost of the school is important. Ask things like:
• Do you usually increase or decrease scholarships?
• What is a typical scholarship worth?
• What academic scholarship opportunities exist?
• Can academic and athletic scholarships be stacked?
Having this information laid out will help you understand where you will be financially and how that may change from year to year.
There should be no major surprises when you get to college IF you ask the right questions during the recruiting process. Remember, the coach will ask you questions and interview you, but you need to also interview them. Ask a lot of questions -- the right questions -- and find the right fit for you.