Make Your Mark - Selecting a College
by Anthony B. Lanzillo

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Tone Lanzillo is a mental prep coach to athletes who want to be mentally prepared to play their best game. He has worked with student-athletes, from middle school through high school and into college, in such sports as basketball, football, soccer and lacrosse. Over the past several years, he has written for a number of sports blogs and websites, including FirstDown Playbook, Coaches Training Room, Ultimate Hockey Source, and Lax Playbook.

Contact: Anthony B. Lanzillo

For many high school student-athletes, including basketball players, the college recruiting game can be very frustrating and stressful. There are athletes who are so worried about getting a college coach to notice them and may end up making a decision that is not in their best interest. Also, athletes are contacting everyone without thinking about who they're reaching out to or what they are presenting.

First, I would tell the high school student-athlete to take a deep breath and simply remember that there are many opportunities to play college sports. And, then I would also remind the athlete that Division 1 is not the only place to play sports. If the high school student-athlete really wants to become a college student-athlete, and is willing to put the work in - athletically and academically - then he or she can probably find the right place for one's studies and sports.

Before even thinking about talking to any college coach, I would encourage high school student-athletes to step back and consider taking what I would call a "marketing approach" to finding the best college for them. Think about this. When individuals start new companies, they don't sell or market a product or service before they have identified why the company was started, what the company has to offer and what are the needs or interests of their potential customers.

college campus

So, here is where you begin. Start with what you want to study or major in, and what you could possibly contribute to the academic department you will be studying with. Then think about what kind of college campus you feel you would be most comfortable with. Do you prefer a smaller campus or large campus? Do you want a college campus in a rural area or in the middle of a major city? How important is the religious affiliation of the college? What kind of interests or hobbies do you have, and what could you contribute to any clubs and organizations on a college campus? Even before you think about sports, you want to make sure that you have figured out what kind of college environment would be the right fit for you. Remember, your studies and finding the campus that best reflects your academic and professional goals comes before sports.

college student

Next, you can start thinking about your options for playing college sports. You have to really think about the commitment level you want to make at the collegiate level. Many athletes are not clear about the commitment they have to make - with training, practices, scrimmages and scheduled games - and are often overwhelmed with the various demands and responsibilities of being a college student-athlete. So, you have to ask yourself how important it is to play sports at the Division 1 or 2 levels, or maybe consider playing at the Division 3 or club levels.

The players need to know how important their frame of reference is to how they play the game. If they play with the wrong perspective, like worrying about what they can't control or focusing on their weaknesses, then their mental game will break down. Therefore, at every practice, you want to continuously teach your players how to play with a positive, productive and proactive mindset. Playing with the right perspective means that the player focuses on his strengths, remembers what he is grateful for, and takes any negative experience and puts it into a positive frame of reference.

Then you want to think about not only your stats and performances but also what you can contribute on and off the court to support and help the team. In fact, what many college coaches are looking for are three important qualities - attitude, character and toughness. So, you want to ask yourself - "Do I have my ACT together?" Do you have the right attitude, mature character and mental toughness to play in college?

Once you have decided on your major, the type of college campus you want and thought about the commitment level you want to make to college sports, then you have actually reduced the number of colleges out there that you have to look at or consider. For example, if I want to play college lacrosse and not spend all of my time and energy talking to everyone in the country, I can go back to my "priorities". I want to major in sports management, prefer a small to medium-sized college campus in the Southeast, and am interested in Division 2 or 3 where I may have an opportunity to play during my first year. By making these decisions, I have actually made it easier on myself with regards to college recruiting.

college basketball players

When you begin checking out different teams and sports programs, there are several things you want to look at. What is the background and coaching philosophy of the coaching staff? What are the needs of the team and what kinds of players does the team need over the next few years? What are your personal strengths and how could you use those strengths to help a particular team?

To make your mark, you are identifying your interests, strengths and goals as a college student-athlete. Then you are defining your "college market" and what you have to offer as a college student-athlete; not only to a team or sports program but to the whole campus. In essence, you are positioning yourself to find the right college for your studies and sports, and the college that wants what you have to offer to the whole campus.

Copyright 2017, Anthony B. Lanzillo

Anthony B. Lanzillo serves as a mental skills coach to athletes and writes about the mental game for various sports websites.

Related pages: