NSR scouts relish finding high school athletes that even in support roles have proved that they, too, have what it takes to be college athletes.

NSR scouts relish finding high school athletes that even in support roles have proved that they, too, have what it takes to be college athletes.

The spotlight always shines on our sports stars.  This coming weekend’s Super Bowl and the hype surrounding it personifies the way Americans go about deifying those at the top.  But a closer view of the athletes in support roles at every level of athletics makes us realize that they are the ones providing the infrastructure on which stars rely.

High school sports is no different from the pros.  Headlines home in on the upper crust, the athletes that get the attention and credit for victories and winning seasons.  Yet, without the effort and dedication of mid-level athletes, where would the upper echelon find themselves?  Day after day the also-rans show up for practice, work diligently under the radar, and do their invaluable part to support those that bask in the bright lights of stardom.

At NSR, we believe it is those athletes that will never be featured in online profiles, nor see their pictures prominently placed in articles, that deserve our admiration in equal measure.  Yet, they are too often ignored and their contributions overlooked.  Take the second and third team athletes out of the equation and what remains is no foundation or podium on which the stars may stand.  These unheralded athletes give far more than they can ever expect to receive in return.  They miss as many classes, show up every day, sit in on team meetings, learn the plays, give 100 percent, take the hard licks, go home with bruises and hear all the pre-game and halftime speeches as the first-teamers.  Yet, they simply aren’t appreciated or given their due respect. It’s a sad, but true, commentary which we at NSR have worked for 34 years to correct.

You see, these athletes have dreams, too.  Many of them want to have the same opportunity to play at the next level.  And, surprisingly to some, they actually can be college athletes.  They may not have the abilities to play at the highest level, but they do have the skills, grades, character and family support which college coaches treasure.  We believe that they deserve their shot at the gold ring.  That’s why nearly 75 percent of all NSR athletes go on to compete at the NCAA DII, DIII, NAIA and JUCO levels.  And that’s the reason that when we scout high school, club or travel teams that our scouts don’t merely attend contests to admire the stars, but to find those athletes that make the stars look great.

NCAA Division I coaches are smiling today knowing that next year juniors will be fair game.

NCAA Division I coaches are smiling today knowing that next year juniors will be fair game.

NCAA members could have packed their bags last Wednesday afternoon and the Association’s national conclave would have been considered a major success after just one day of meetings.  By agreeing to permit Division I coaches in designated sports* to begin making initial contact with high school juniors on September 1, a full ten months sooner than was previously allowed, college recruiting’s gatekeeper has relented from its long-held position of shielding prep student-athletes from the recruiting fray.  But in doing so, the NCAA has come to the realization that it can no longer hide from technology, advanced communications and media criticism.

Make no mistake, there will be a serious ripple effect from this rule change which will impact hundreds of thousands of young athletes across America and around the globe.  Basically, the new contact date means that the recruiting process will be pushed up an entire year, making juniors fair game.  The old rule protected juniors to a degree from head-on collisions with DI coaches.   The NCAA’s prevailing opinion was that it wanted to have a hand in preserving the high school experience for student-athletes for as long as possible.  However, the almost universal use of social media and cell phone texting eventually painted the NCAA into a proverbial corner.  For several years, they have been looked down upon as antiquated and stubborn beyond reason in their stance.  Hardly a day passed by when they weren’t being dragged through the mud on talk radio and other sports outlets for their seemingly indifference to modern times.  But by testing the influence of an earlier contact date via Division II coaches this past year, and finding that no substantial harm resulted, Division I finally laid down their arms and surrendered.

The ripple effect will also be felt in the sophomore class.  They will now be squarely in coaches’ cross-hairs.  Division I coaches will be on them.  DII coaches will ramp up their efforts because of the additional competition.

And for juniors as this New Age of Recruiting is ushered in?  They will be inundated as has no junior class in history.  For those prepared, it will be a joy ride, but it will be a very long joy ride.  For the ill-prepared, it could be more a curse than blessing.  Either way, the next calendar year will be at the very least interesting.

* Volleyball, softball, baseball, field hockey, wrestling, tennis, golf, lacrosse, water polo, rowing, women’s ice hockey and soccer.

 

NSR 2013 prospect OJ Howard verbally committed to Alabama as a junior and should have had the option to sign with the Crimson Tide during the fall of his senior year.

NSR 2013 prospect OJ Howard verbally committed to Alabama as a junior and should have had the option to sign with the Crimson Tide during the fall of his senior year.

We are three weeks away from the only football signing period the NCAA has for the class of 2014, February 5 through April 1.  With no fall early signing period permitted, Division I and II football programs are busy solidifying their verbal commitments, soothing nervous recruits and parents, fending off encroachments from other programs on those same commitments, conducting their own back-door recruiting, and all this while running scenarios of every conceivable outcome.  It is tension at its highest as the future, that is the success or failure, of every NCAA DI and DII program in the nation hangs in the balance.

That tension and win-lose proposition leads us to conclude that the NCAA should give serious consideration to adding an early signing period for college football’s top two divisions.  With recruiting now starting as early as the seventh grade, we know that the stress and pressure which gradually builds for the athletes, their families and college coaches can be alleviated to some degree with the addition of a fall signing period.  Yes, there is the risk that an athlete will be injured during the final few weeks of a high school football season, but that is the risk every coach, we think, is willing to take if they can put some of the brouhaha behind them as has been the case with basketball for years.  Granted, not all recruits will want to sign early, but those that do should be provided that option.

 

 
Jay Prosch practices with the Auburn Tigers

Auburn starting fullback, Jay Prosch

Auburn University starting fullback, Jay Prosch, will be on the field tonight as the Tigers attempt to take down the Florida State Seminoles in the BCS Championship Game.  Prosch, called by FOX Sports the “Auburn Blocker of Granite,” was an NSR enrollee with Robert and Susan Cagle.

Out of Mobile, AL, Prosch has a heart wrenching story which started after his freshman year of playing for head coach Ron Zook at the University of Illinois in the fall of 2010.  The NCAA and Illinois worked together to allow him to transfer to Auburn without penalty so that he could be nearer his mother who had been diagnosed with brain cancer.  Jay’s is a courageous and inspiring story, to say the least.  As you watch the game tonight, be proud that NSR is associated with this great young man.

Whether you will be pulling for FSU or Auburn, you still have to be rooting for Jay Prosch.

As new NCAA recruiting rules are announced, count on your area NSR scout to provide reliable information.

As new NCAA recruiting rules are announced, count on your area NSR scout to provide reliable information.

A collective deep breath is being taken across the nation as the NCAA prepares for their upcoming national meeting.  This year’s conclave takes place in San Diego, Calif., January 15-18.  All three divisions will meet to discuss and vote on new legislation, including changes to current recruiting rules.

NCAA membership convene annually in January to reaffirm some recently adopted rules while creating new ones in reaction to the needs of their respective divisions.  Naturally, most of the attention will be given to what comes out of Division I meetings, but it is not uncommon for groundbreaking legislation to emerge from Division II and III.  For instance, last year DII member institutions agreed to allow all their coaches to begin making in-person contact with high school prospects a full year earlier than was previously permitted.   They, along with DI men’s basketball coaches, are the only groups allowed to take this historic step.*

Regardless of the modifications and from which division they are brought forward, new regulations will have a profound impact on coaches, athletes, administrators and parents at nearly all levels of competition and education.  However, misinterpretation and misinformation are often problems as the news filters by word of mouth from unreliable sources through the layers of interested parties.  So, what is a family to do?

There are dependable sources, but families have to search them out.  College compliance officers are one.  High school guidance counselors are not.  College scouts, like those representing National Scouting Report (NSR), that work year round in the business of recruiting can offer up-to-date information.  Club and travel organizations (typically) do not.

But there are two certainties in all this:  First, NCAA rules changes will happen this month.  Second, parents and prospects should be prepared to learn of these changes from trusted sources.

*NCAA DI football coaches are permitted limited contact with high school juniors.

 
NSR athletes are carefully selected by area scouts and then effectively promoted to coaches across America.

NSR athletes are carefully selected by area scouts and then effectively promoted to coaches across America.

When high school prospects and their parents go in search of assistance with recruiting, there are today a plethora of options.  But we assert that no option matches the needs of families like National Scouting Report, or more widely known as NSR.  But, why is that true?

Families typically want two assurances.  First, that they will work with a person that personally knows them and especially their athlete.  Second, they want effectiveness.  NSR offers both, without reservation.

At NSR, our scouts are real scouts.  We constantly train them on the fundamentals of scouting, how to help our student-athlete-client families succeed in recruiting, which recruiting rules and developments in the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA have the most impact on our clients, and how to best identify the client-families which meet our high standards.  This is not an easy process which we undertake.  If that were so, every so-called scouting organization would be doing it.  Instead, it takes focus and a high degree of analysis, education and implementation.  Examine other companies closely and you will uncover that they do not take the tough road to your success.  In fishing, you have heard of the catch-and-release method?  Simplified, that is what far too many scouting companies do.

A quick glance at the NSR athlete roster proves this.  We do not accept everyone.  Our personally selected athletes must rise to a higher level of skill, academic competence, character and family support than the average high-school athlete.  They must first be capable of playing at some level of college competition.  They must have a keen desire to play in college.  They must demonstrate an uncommon dedication to maintaining solid grades and test scores.  And, we must see a history of emotional and financial support from their families.

Why are these criteria so important?  Because 34 years of working with college coaches clearly tells us that those are the qualities a large majority of coaches search for when recruiting athletes for their programs.  That means that the odds are heavily stacked in the favor of every NSR prospect when it comes to being evaluated and recruited.

At NSR, it is our belief that only through personal contact between an athlete, family and scout can these objectives be met.  And by personal, we do not mean via the telephone.  It would be generous to even refer to that method as remote scouting.  Plainly, we are not an open-enrollment company that will take the hard-earned money of just any willing family and post their info online with promises of getting recruited.  Nor are we a telemarketing juggernaut with rooms full of “scouts” whose prime purpose is to lure (there’s that fishing reference, again) potential clients with recruiting promises without ever having personally scouted the athlete or, for that matter, having met them, watched them on film or worse yet verified their profile info.

That said, at NSR we are human, not automated minions, so we are not perfect.  We do our best, but like any human-related endeavor, we will occasionally trip.  However, it is our full and sincere intention to offer each of our prospects one-on-one service from a personal scout, extraordinary marketing, and exceptional results.  Our collective goal?  To raise our client-athletes above the fray, which is what the modern recruiting process has become, through methods which are time-honored and respected by college coaches.  We know what works for both the aspiring athlete and the coaches wanting to discover them.  We know because we have more experience in the field than any other scouting organization in America, or around the globe, in fact.  We know because we could not have excelled in the business of recruiting if our methods and our hearts were not in the right place.

 

Look around closely enough and you will notice that loads of high school senior athletes and their parents are beginning to panic, the worry visible on their expressions, because their recruiting Plan A isn’t working.  It’s a natural, if not altogether pitiful, sight that we see every year at this time.  Six months to go and not just no offers, but no significant connections with college coaches.  Juniors need not repeat this painful experience.  By following a few simple directions, you can avoid this historically slippery slope.

For high school juniors, now is the time to find the missing piece in the recruiting puzzle.

For high school juniors, now is the time to find the missing piece in the recruiting puzzle.

The first thing that should be apparent is that you have to find a way to really be in the recruiting mix, not just on the periphery by being on a club team or making All-Conference.  You have to stand out like a bright light in the dark.  If there is no light on you, then college coaches don’t know about you and they cannot conceivably recruit you.  Job One?  Find a viable way for as many college coaches as possible to learn about you and your unique qualifications.  Taking this step is essential and without it, your hopes and dreams will disappear.  It’s really as simple as that.Second, realize that you do not have to be an accomplished, high-profile athlete for college coaches to recruit you.  Solid athletic performance over time, good to excellent grades, a keen desire to play at the next level and a supportive family are the ingredients every coach wants in a potential recruit.  With those in hand, there is a place for you in college athletics.

Third, high school and club coaches are limited in the scope of their reach and few have the time or expertise to promote you properly to college coaches.  Year after year that has proved to be true.  In the end, you have two choices:  do it yourself or enlist a service with a history of success in marketing and placing high school athletes.  The first is difficult at best.  Putting together a profile package for coaches which will attract their interest is typically problematic because most parents are unaware of what coaches need to see.  And then, of course, there’s the issue of coaches receiving info from parents.  Most of these mailings end up in a corner pile in their office or computer, never to be read or taken seriously.  Moreover, like with high school and club coaches, a family’s reach is severely limited and the time required to get your info in the hands of a multitude of coaches also has its high hurdles.  Few families succeed.

Fourth, services are the most efficient and productive path, that is if the service possesses two key features:  a broad and targeted promotional strategy in place, and a scout that knows you well and has the ability and knowhow to represent you to college coaches.  Few organizations offer both benefits.  Most today are online companies which post info on a Web site and conduct cursory and sporadic promo efforts, if any at all.  Look for a scouting service that covers the complete gamut of marketing and personalized service.

Once you choose a service that bets fits your needs, then you have a reasonable chance to work the recruiting system to your advantage.  With a complete marketing plan and scout by your side, you can begin to do the things which can make a genuinel difference in your future such as taking unofficial visits, communicating regularly with coaches, attending their camps, and most importantly, developing solid relationships with coaches so that in the end you will have choices of colleges to attend.

Choose a program that matches what you really want in a coach and that has teammates you can meld with from Day One.

Choose a program that matches what you really want in a coach and that has teammates you can meld with from Day One.  If not, you will not fit in.

The recruiting process goes two ways – the coach wooing the athlete and the athlete choosing a coach.  But everything is not what it always seems during the recruiting process.  Time and time again, we see the same story repeated.

How do you know, then, what a coach is really like when he or she is recruiting you?  Hmmm.  Well, you can ask other coaches and administrators, of course, but does that spill all the beans?  Probably not.  Coaches and school officials are selling candy when they are recruiting athletes.  They know what athletes need to hear, so many times they put the same sugar on the table as everyone else and hope that the packaging will seal the deal.  Yet, if what they were told during the initial recruiting process changes once the athlete is on campus, why do so many recruits transfer after their freshman or sophomore years of college?  It’s because the athlete didn’t ask themselves some simple, but tough questions:

  • Taking away all the fluff and glamor, the hype and the attaboys or attagirls, that is, when I watch this person coach at practice and during games, can I really play for him or her?  Can I work that hard, or work that little?  Can I take that kind of intensity or lack of it?  Can I deal with being treated like everybody else instead of the star?
  • When I talk to the players, do they share my idea and values of what college athletics should be about?  Are they focused or careless?  Are they going through the motions or putting their hearts into it?  When the coach isn’t around, are they respectful or disrespectful?

Why those questions?  A coach surrounds himself or herself with the type of people they believe will make them successful and with whom they are most comfortable.  That goes for the staff they hire and the players they recruit.  If they hire upstanding citizens as coaches that work hard and follow the rules, that’s who that coach is.  If their assistants are disorganized and short on offering players support, that’s who you will be playing for.  If they recruit players that party at all hours, talk trash about the coaches and don’t go to class, then that’s who that coach is.  If a coach has a lousy graduation rate with his former players, that’s who that coach is.  If assistants drop off a coach’s staff year after year, that’s the coach.

Look closely.  Go where you fit.  Choose coaches and teams that you will meld with easily.   Don’t make college athletics hard on yourself.  It’s there to have fun, to get an education and to compete with people that you love playing alongside and for coaches that you want to work hard for every day.

 

 
Opportunities and time for seniors wanting to be college athletes are dwindling as each day passes.

Opportunities and time for seniors wanting to be college athletes are dwindling as each day passes.

In college athletic recruiting, everything depends on first being recognized and evaluated by college coaches.  Nothing else truly matters to an aspiring high school athlete if these first two critical steps have not happened.

Signing periods are looming.  The NCAA early signing period is only two months away.  Not all seniors will sign, or can sign, during the ESP.  History tells us that between 30 and 40 percent of those allowed to sign national letters of intent during the ESP will do so.  That leaves between 60 and 70 percent who will not have a legally binding agreement with colleges going into the final semester of the school year.

This all means that there is still time for seniors to get noticed and evaluated, but there are things working against unknown seniors.  First, most college coaches already have their 2014 recruiting lists formed and it would take special athlete to supplant the ones the coaches have already spent time recruiting and with whom they have developed relationships.  Second, because most NCAA Division I programs have their ’14 classes set leaving the only viable options in division II and III along with NAIA and junior colleges.  Third, breaking through to a coach at this stage takes a concentrated effort which must include getting the athlete’s profile, transcript and video in the hands of a large number of coaches because of the dwindling roster openings.

Seniors and their parents should take things into their own hands.  It’s high time to get aggressive and not wait on their high school or club coaches to make connections with college coaches.   In truth, these well-meaning coaches are limited in their reach and now that school has started the time they can reasonably expect to spend promoting their seniors to college coaches is minimal at best.

This occurs every year as thousands of high school seniors are taken aback by the circumstances they find themselves.  It’s a shame, really, but for the legitimate college prospects one unacceptable option is to wait a moment longer in their quest to earn a college scholarship or roster position.  The opportunity to play be a college athlete only comes once a lifetime.  Go for it now or be left behind.

 
Jordan Bickett

NSR volleyball prospect Jordan Bickett demonstrates why we as fans love to see fall athletics come around once again.

Across America high school athletes have been sweating their hearts out.  For weeks now, they have been humping it in pre-season conditioning workouts, drills, practices and scrimmages in anticipation of what historically is the most exciting time for prep athletics – fall sports.  With last year’s seniors graduated, as fans our spirits are renewed by the upcoming group.  We want to see if they have improved, gotten bigger, faster, quicker and stronger.  The two-month layoff from school-to-school competition, finally ended, brings a fresh perspective and enthusiasm not just to the schools, athletes and parents, but to local team followers itching to pay their five bucks to see what coaches have done with this promising crop. But, why does this time of year hold such a special place in our hearts?

Maybe part of it is the subtle changes we wish for in outdoor temperatures from the dog days to cooler breezes, from short sleeves to sweatshirts.  Who doesn’t love donning a sweater before heading  out to a Friday night high school football game?  We may not be there yet, but if hoping helps, leaves will start turning yellow and red and falling to the ground sooner than later.

Maybe it’s that we simply miss seeing our kids playing with other kids in our communities.  You know, the ones they grew up with, instead of their being dragged around the countryside wrapped up in the trappings of club or travel sports where every at-bat, serve, basket or great play holds more significance than it probably should.  In the fall, it’s more of a game than a career choice and everybody from town shop owners to school cafeteria workers sit side-by-side cheering on their young heroes.

Maybe we see a new school year as a nostalgic reflection of ourselves and what we experienced during those heady high school days.  We smile as the little ones run around with boundless energy.  First-year high schoolers gather at the end of the bleachers avoiding their parents yet wondering where they fit in.  Former athletes gather in pockets spouting off about how this year’s team will perform and how much they miss the game.  The athletes themselves bound out of the locker room sneaking a glance up in the stands to see their parents standing, clapping and glowing with pride.  And the coaches nervously pace back and forth because no amount of practicing can really predict how their team will actually perform until it really matters.

When we look around us and see that we aren’t alone in our joy and full-throttled exuberance, we finally get it, don’t we?  These kids in front of us, the athletes in uniform, have worked their butts off just to make the team, much less play every minute, and we appreciate what they have sacrificed to be there.  We are excited for them and this is our way of honoring them for reaching a milestone in their lives.   They’ve made it and we love and admire them for it.  Few things could mean more.  It’s a time-honored cultural thing.  And the fall once again gives us hope for another generation.