I know. It’s hard. Trust me I’ve been there. You play it cool like it doesn’t bother you and keep it mostly to yourself, but it is driving you crazy. All you’ve ever wanted was to play college basketball. Those thoughts that go through your head:
“Where are all the college coaches?”
“I think I can do it, but am I really good enough?”
“I have to play great this year, and maybe they’ll notice.”
“What should I do to get more recruitment?”
“Will I get a chance to prove what I can do?”
“I just wanna keep playing basketball.”
“If I don’t get a scholarship, I can’t afford college.”
“I don’t wanna let my parents down.”
So many thoughts just like these torture the minds of high school basketball players around the country every hour. You want to play after high school so bad, but no one seems to be noticing you and the clock is ticking down on your high school career. You have tried everything to get seen- AAU tournaments, 1-day showcases, “elite” camps, made a video package of you in action. You made a player profile and emailed it to over hundreds college coaches all over the country. Heck, you may have even personalized it by using their names and saying something nice about their program or their city. But what do you have to show for your efforts?
You may be asking yourself what you should do next. Well… I have some advice for you.
STOP TRYING TO CONTROL THE UNCONTROLLABLE
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Ability doesn’t always equal opportunity. There are just some things that are out of your control. And there are so many players out there.
According to research done by the NCAA, 3.5% of high school boys basketball players (3.9% of girls players) will play at an NCAA Division 1,2 or 3 school. Only 1% will play Division 1. It gets worse, if you want to play Division 2 or NAIA, you have to compete for scholarships with Division 1 and JUCO transfers. In the last 2 years, over 1500 Division 1 men’s basketball players transferred. Of those 1500, only 40% transferred to another D1. Where’d the rest go? D2 and NAIA have become the natural landing zone for the growing multitude of Division 1 transfers. So there aren’t as many D2 and NAIA scholarship opportunities as you think.
And if you don’t already know, D3 schools don’t give athletic scholarships and most of them are big-time academic institutions, so if you don’t have a great ACT score, a D3 school won’t even be an option. There are so many other factors in the recruiting process that are out of your control- a program’s position needs, your size, scholarships available, and many more.
STOP TORTURING YOURSELF
You may be afraid that if you don’t get a scholarship, you will miss out on the college basketball experience. Well, your fear of the future and your stress levels are taking a big piece of you away from your team. How can you be totally bought in to what’s good for your team when you are so consumed with what you think is good for you. Your mindset is individualizing a TEAM sport. The beauty of basketball at all levels is being a part of something bigger than just you- a TEAM. Don’t miss out on that.
When you are obsessed with your recruiting process and a possible college scholarship you are going to miss out on one of the greatest experiences the young life has to offer- Being a part of something bigger than just you.
STOP FOCUSING ON THE RESULT AND FOCUS ON THE PROCESS
So many players ultimate goal is to get that college scholarship. They give the result (the scholarship) their utmost attention. When this is the case, the process (the daily commitment to doing what it takes to become a collegiate player) plays second fiddle. We talk to people about how we can get more exposure, but how often do we talk to successful college players or ex-college players about the process and how we can improve.
We plan our summers around tournaments, showcases, and camps (often spending thousands of our parent’s hard-earned money) so we can get exposure, but how many of us are investing in our growth and improvement on a daily basis. Think about the events you have gone to. Did you improve? Did you learn? Did you grow? Or did you just play and get exposure? Or worse, did you play and get exposed?
Exposure in and of itself obviously won’t make you confident in your shooting, your handle, your basketball I.Q., and your motor. Getting in the gym and doing focused work to improve at a rate faster than your peers does that. When you have put in the work, you know you’ll be ready to go out there and show what you can do.
Don’t eat the icing before you bake the cake because the cake won’t be nearly as good when it’s time to eat.
Take your focus off getting a college scholarship and place it on becoming a great college player. You only do this by getting better every day. If every player changed their focus, we wouldn’t have over 40% of Division 1 signees transfer in their first two years.
If your serious about reaching your potential, make a rule for yourself about events and exposure- If it gets me better- I’m all in. If it doesn’t- I’m out.
There are plenty of events that will get you some exposure that will also help you improve and give you a clearer vision of what it’s gonna take. Go to those events. When you get seen, you must be ready to be the best version of yourself.
START CLEARING YOUR HEAD
Let go of the stress and fear. Embrace the fact that you don’t have control over some things. However, there are a few things you do have control over.
- Drop off the stress – Take back the fun.
Remember why you started playing ball in the first place. It was fun. Don’t forget that. Train according to whatever aspirations you have, but never forget that it’s a game, and games are supposed to be fun.
- Embrace the overall silliness of your fear
I was there, sitting where you are. Scared to death I wouldn’t get a chance. And the more I worried about it, the worse I played. Then, someone told me, “If the worst thing that ever happens to you is you don’t get a college basketball scholarship, I’m pretty sure everyone in the world would love to be you.” That made sense to me. So I quit worrying about it. I started having fun again, and I played great.
- Understand that it’s not the events that stress you out- It’s how you view them and your reaction to them that stresses you out.
Try an exercise- the next time something you think is unfair happens to you, just say “Great! I’m glad this happened. This will make me tougher, stronger, and better.” Then take a step back to think of the best way you can respond to the situation. This is an essential skill that will take you so far in life. Start developing your ability to clear your head of emotional clutter and baggage today. YOU will be the primary beneficiary of this practice.
START TO GET OUTSIDE YOURSELF
Please don’t miss out on the high school basketball experience. You may not believe me now, but nobody is gonna care about your trophies or your scoring average when you are in your 30’s. If you’re a great teammate, I’ll tell you what they will care about- YOU!
START DOING THE THINGS THAT WILL SEPARATE YOU FROM THE CROWD
We know that 99% of high school basketball players won’t get a D1 basketball scholarship. What makes you the 1%? Players say they want to play D1, but how many really understand what it takes to play D1 and actually do it every day? What most players do is what all the other players do. That makes no sense to me. If 1% are special, why would I do what 99% are doing. I need to do what the 1% do. It ain’t sexy, and a lot of times it’s boring and repititious. Just you in a gym, soaked in sweat, working on your game. NBA trainer Drew Hanlen calls it the “unseen hours.” But it’s these hours that separate players.
It’s all about the process. The process of skill mastery. The process of adding elements to your game after you’ve mastered skills. The process of becoming a true student of the game. If your hands touch the leather of a basketball or you step between the lines, you have one mission- TO GET BETTER. That’s what collegiate players do.
The goal should not be to get a college scholarship. The goal should be to make yourself into a collegiate player who can more than hold his own against the best. And there’s only one way this happens. Become one of the 1%. You don’t become a 1%er by taking the path the crowd takes because that’s how you think you’ll get noticed. That’s what sheep do. You’re not a sheep.
You have to choose your own path based on what will help you grow as a player and as a person. A path that is solely committed to the mindset of getting better every day. A path that will take you as far as you can possibly go. Every step along this path is another step toward the best version of yourself.
Let’s say you graduate and didn’t get any offers. What used to be your biggest fear has become a reality.
You understand a lot of that was out of your control.
You dropped off your stress and had an absolute blast playing ball.
You conquered your fear by placing your focus on the team.
You threw yourself into the moment with your team with everything you had.
You had a great high school basketball experience and made life time friends because you were a great teammate.
You committed yourself to the process, to growth, to learning.
You achieved the ultimate accomplishment- You can look yourself in the mirror and honestly say- “I did all I could do. I am the best player I could possibly be.”
You built habits that will carry over into your life after basketball.
HOW IS THIS ANYTHING BUT A HUGE WIN?
And Here’s the best part. If it’s any consolation- you don’t need a scholarship offer to be a college basketball player. You only have to be truly collegiate. If you just HAVE to keep playing you can walk on somewhere and earn your keep. And if you chose the 1% path, you have put yourself in the best position possible to make your own opportunity and earn a scholarship during your career. It happens all the time. But only to those who get better every day, and you are totally in control of that.