So your student athlete wants to play in college...

“There’s an opportunity for every high school athlete to continue playing in college,” Rob Chesney, associate athletic director at Montclair State University, told a group of students and parents recently. “The level you play depends on the school,” he added.   

Chesney’s April 28 presentation, called “Getting Recruited,” focused on Division III varsity athletics and recruiting. The talk is part of a series on preparing for college sponsored by Perception Education Services, LLC, creators of College Application Camp. In attendance were student athletes and parents from Montclair, as well as New Providence, Basking Ridge, Wayne, Oakland, and Chatham. The talk was held in MSU’s Panzer Athletic Center.

Three levels of play exist at most colleges and universities: intramural, club, and varsity athletics, explained Chesney, who is also assistant coach of the Red Hawks’ varsity soccer team, that team’s former head coach, and a member of MSU’s Sports Hall of Fame. Division III, or DIII, institutions are typically smaller than Division I (DI) and Division II (DII) schools, and they place a greater emphasis on the academic performance of their athletes. Unlike DI and DII programs, DIII programs do not offer athletic scholarships, but DIII coaches do have influence with their schools’ admissions offices. According to Chesney, support from a coach can greatly enhance a candidate’s prospects for admission to even the most selective colleges.

 Moreover, the skills of DIII athletes are not to be underestimated. “We’re not on ESPN, but the level of competition is very high,” Chesney said. MSU is in Division III.

Chesney focused much of his presentation on how high school athletes should approach DIII coaches with their interest. Some points Chesney made include:

  • Contact coaches by email or by phone.
  • Avoid recruiting services. Coaches would rather hear directly from athletes.
  • Do your research. Be able to provide details about the school when you correspond or speak with coaches. “A potential recruit who tells us he’s interested in becoming a teacher shows us he’s researched MSU and knows why MSU might be a good fit for him. That matters to us.” 
  • Proof read your correspondence before hitting send. “The coach at Williams does not want to read that you’re looking forward to your visit to Amherst.” 
  • Keep highlight videos short (7 to 8 minutes) and simple. “We don’t need to hear hip-hop music in the background or see lots of crazy graphics. And be sure to tell us what uniform number you wear so we know who on the field we’re supposed to be watching.”
  • Keep sports resumes to the point and focused on high-school-age sports participation, including with clubs. Provide a concise history of varsity-level play; list years you’ve started; explain injuries that may have affected your season record; include fitness marks, such as speed, strength; and list any awards you’ve received.  
  • Send thank you notes to coaches you meet. “Coaches like to get a little something back.”

Chesney noted that NCAA rules are very specific about how and when coaches may approach potential recruits. The rules are more liberal for high school athletes, however. If a student athlete has an interest in a college or university, it’s okay to contact the coach and ask for a meeting or begin an email exchange. Chesney referred attendees to the, the official website of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, for a comprehensive description of recruitment rules and regulations.

PerceptionEd’s upcoming presentations include “How Will We Pay for College? The ins and outs of Financial Aid” (Thursday, May 28) and “Addressing the Essay: Coaching your student to write a compelling application essay” (Thursday, June 11). The talks are free and open to the public. Visit the College Application Camp website to register. At College Application Camp rising high school seniors will complete their personal essay and the Common App before preseason athletics and the start of classes.

— Written by Pat Berry