Congratulations! You just signed a national letter of intent declaring your commitment to a university, and you will be awarded an athletic scholarship.
But be advised: you're far from done. It would be a mistake to think you hit a home run—the commonly misconstrued "full ride." Think of that one-year scholarship as a single, a base hit, and frame each academic year as a chance to advance—and ultimately score—a college degree for free.
The decision to renew an athlete's scholarship each year is coach's, not yours. True, non-renewal of scholarships is uncommon. Still, you can be proactive, both as a recruit and as a college student-athlete, to make sure you're in the best position to turn that one-year scholarship into a full ride.
Investigate the Coach
A coaching change can create a situation where a scholarship may not be renewed. A new coach may want to bring in players who fit his scheme, or to rebuild through recruiting. In either case, players who were recruited by the previous coach could be at risk of losing their scholarships.
Visit websites of the schools you're interested in and research the coaches. Have they stuck with the same program for a number of years, or do they have a history of changing schools? If the coach at your top school has moved around a lot, chances are he won't be staying for long. A coaching carousel could mean a ticket out the door through non-renewal of a scholarship.
Stay Away From Gray
Research recruiting classes for the schools you're interested in to find out the number of players the program signs each year [Learn more about how scholarships are divided per sport].
Many schools, particularly in football, oversign with the aim of "grayshirting" certain recruits. The grayshirt designates an athlete who delays enrolling. Football recruits who enroll in the spring are considered grayshirt athletes, and they are not included in the program's recruiting numbers.
A program that oversigns players on a consistent basis will eventually face a numbers crunch and be forced to juggle its roster. One simple way is to non-renew a few scholarships.
Keep Your Nose in the Books
Athletic scholarships are merit-based, meaning student-athletes must meet certain expectations to retain them: remaining academically eligible and abiding by the code of conduct established by the team and/or university. Missing team meetings, film reviews, study sessions and workouts could jeopardize your standing as a scholarship athlete.
Of course, running afoul of the law could be grounds for scholarship revocation.
Hit the Weights
Injuries can occur at any time. Injury-prone athletes could be at risk of losing their scholarships, especially if they face off-season surgery and could miss the coming season.
One way to combat injury is to follow a structured training program, both off-season and in-season. A top priority of off-season training is injury prevention.
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