The Road to the NCAA
There are almost eight million high school athletes throughout the nation. According to ncaa.org, only 480,000 of them will go on to play for NCAA teams in college. Many high school athletes aspire to play sports at the collegiate level. Each year, Lincoln High School’s best student-athletes continue their athletic careers in college, whether it be at the Division Ⅰ, Ⅱ, or Ⅲ level. While many students commit their senior year, some have the ability to do so sooner. Though it may not seem like it, there are many more aspects to the process of becoming eligible and prepared to play NCAA sports in college then most high school athletes realize.
A common misconception that athletes in high school tend to have is that they don’t have to start making decisions about playing sports in college until they are a senior. While it is possible to start the process once you are a junior or senior, if you are serious about playing Division Ⅰ or Ⅱ, there are many things high school student-athletes need to begin doing as soon as their freshman year.
Along with the many physical requirements that college-bound athletes should strive to achieve, there are also many other areas in which students must become eligible to play on NCAA teams. Starting freshman year, aspiring college athletes must take the minimum number of required NCAA approved core courses throughout all four years of high school. According to Anne-Marie VanNieuwenhuize, the Director of Guidance at LHS, all of the classes students take at Lincoln are NCAA approved. “The process is updated yearly. Mrs. Borba is the NCAA coordinator for Lincoln High School,” Ms. VanNieuwenhuize stated. The requirements for the number of core courses needed to become eligible differ among the three divisions. The academic standards are higher for students that wish to play at a Division Ⅰ school than they are for the lower divisions.
According to the NCAA Eligibility Center 2018-19 Guide For the College-Bound Student-Athlete, students in ninth grade also need to go to eligibilitycenter.org to create a Profile Page or Certification Account. At ncaapublications.com/productdownloads, it states, “You must be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center to compete at an NCAA Division I or II school. Before you can make official visits or sign a Division I or Division II National Letter of Intent, you must have a complete Certification Account.” This account will also help provide future collegiate athletes with more information they need.
Once students are in their junior year, college coaches can begin to directly contact them. One piece of advice that Ms. VanNieuwenhuize offers to student-athletes is to be involved in the sport they wish to play in college outside of just your high school team. “If you participate in tournaments, invite the college coaches to come out and see you,” she suggested. Students that play for club and travel teams in addition to their high school teams have more experience and more opportunities to be seen by college coaches.
As well as completing the academic requirements needed to play sports in college, there are also physical and mental preparations and that athletes need to consider. According to Mr. O’Connor, LHS Athletic Director, some of the most common mistakes made by students are in this area. “Proper nutrition, exercise regimen, and proper rest and recovery,” are some of the most important issues to consider, Mr. O’Connor stated. Time management can be difficult, so it is also important for students to realize the extensive commitment that they will be making to their college teams during their season.
There are many Lincoln High School students that have decided to play sports in college over the years. There have already been LHS athletes this year that have either committed or are in the process of committing to college teams. “Currently, two students have committed to play at the Division I or II level, but we have several others who are finalizing their commitments to Division III schools,” said Mr. O’Connor.
Being able to play NCAA sports in college requires a great amount of preparation. It is important for students in high school to be well informed as to what steps they should take in order to be eligible for collegiate athletics. Rather than wait until the last minute, high school athletes should prepare ahead of time to ensure they are able to pursue their athletic careers in college. Doing so will help collegiate athletes have the ability to reach their full potential athletically and academically.