Sign here: College recruiting raises, crushes dreams

I admit I didn’t watch the entire Women’s World Cup. Packing up a toddler for vacation doesn’t leave a momma much time to watch television: my mind was occupied with Elmo rather than Abby Wambach. But I did catch Alex Morgan’s goal and Coach Pia Sundhage singing “Feelin’ Groovy”– with an alarming amount of feeling and tremolo. It was very disturbing.

The real sports news this time of year is that there is no news. There’s baseball, golf, some NASCAR– admittedly, there’s never a dull moment with Kyle Busch– but mostly sports fans are waiting for football to start. It’s true: when a Frenchman’s stage win at an Armstrong-free Tour de France makes’s top headlines, there really isn’t anything going on– for most of us, anyway.

But there are a select few folks biting their nails instead of twiddling their thumbs. It’s recruitment time, and for America’s elite young athletes, the dream machine is running in overdrive. Most of us will never get a call from a college recruiter, much less sit at a table with three caps in front of us, but to those for whom such a thing is an actual possibility, this time of year isn’t boring; it’s a living hell.

The call for which America’s juniors and seniors are waiting doesn’t come out of the blue. That call (which most likely won’t come) is the culmination of years of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication off the field. Hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations do nothing but help high school athletes get noticed by college recruiters. For anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars a year, companies with names like “High School Exposure,” “Recruit Me Now,” and “Elite Exposure Inc.” promise to put athletes’ profiles, videos, and any other pertinent information in front of coaches “24 hours a day.”

Evidently 24-hours-a-day exposure is what an athlete needs if he or she wants to get a call during the dog days of summer. These companies don’t shy away from fatalism: “Every year, thousands of high school athletes sit by their phones waiting for college coaches to call. Some will get called, but thousands of talented athletes will not. Do not wait. Take action before it’s too late."

“If [athletes] just wait to be discovered, they’re almost certain to end up passed over– unrecruited– no matter how good they are.”

According to recruitment services, high school athletes have zero chance without a professional website complete with stats, videos, biographical information, academic credentials, photos, news coverage and press releases. But even with all that, an athlete has a snowball’s chance if he waits too long.

The NCAA severely curtails the ability of a college to recruit before an athlete’s junior year (the NCAA recently shelved a plan that would have allowed one telephone call per month to prospects or their families on or after June 15 of the prospect's sophomore year in high school, through July 31 after the junior year). But there are no restrictions on how or when a high school, middle school, or even elementary school athlete can contact a coach. And the recommendation is to start as early as possible and then make a nuisance of oneself loud and often.

The next time you pick up the sports page and search vainly for something interesting, rouse yourself from your boredom and spare a moment and some sympathy for the recruiting news. Those kids (and their parents) have likely spent untold energy and money only to suffer gut-wrenching hours by the phone.

And all for you to say, “What was Coach thinking? I’ve never heard of that kid.” And that’s if they’re lucky.
Juanita lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son and many dogs.