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FINAL College Effort.
By Anne Marie Goslak

 

With all the NCAA regulations, college coaches are not allowed much interaction with high school students until the 11th grade. The challenge is, most Division One coaches have narrowed their list of potential players down to only a small handful of kids by the 9th or 10th grade. They make their final decision about who gets a spot on their team well before the kid finishes his junior year.

So, with thousands of kids vying for only a handful of scholarships, how can a player make the short list of candidates? What are coaches looking for? What kinds of things help or hurt a kid's chances of getting a scholarship? Who promotes the player if the player is not allowed much interaction?

In the case of my students, I'm usually the one who does the behind the scenes work. There are so many golfers to watch, it's hard for the coaches to keep track. It's my job to remind a coach that my kid just shot 65-66 in a tournament. The timing is also important. Often times, I will wait until a coach is coming off a rough week with their current team. Bragging about my kid's 13 under par total looks even better if a coach has just spent the weekend watching his team shoot a bunch of 73's.

Casually mentioning that I was invited to a National Honor Society Induction Ceremony of one of my kids, who has a 4.7 GPA, is highly effective, especially if I know that coach is recruiting a player who is struggling academically. I'm not fooling anyone. The coach is wise to my game, but the message is received none the less.

Coaches not only want to see low golf scores and high grades, they need to know about character. Coaches will ask me questions like, "How does he handle defeat? How coachable is he? How high maintenance are his parents going to be?" This coach is going to spend four years of his life with this player and their family. Personality does matter. Social media posts are very telling, too.

Coaches are looking for discipline. A number of years ago, a top ranked school was watching one of my students play. On a particularly challenging hole, the caddie, who clearly had more experience than the player, recommended laying up short of bunkers. The kid ignored the caddie and ripped a driver down the middle. The kid expected the coaches to be impressed with his bold decision.

The next day, the college coach said to me, "Your kid just showed me that he lacks respect for the expert in the room. His caddie knew that driver off that tee was a bad move. We all did. The fact that he did not have the discipline to hit 3 wood and he would not listen to his caddie shows us all we need to know about that kid. We don't have time for him to mature."

And just like that, the scholarship conversation was over. By the end of that day, three more coaches called to notify me that my kid was off their list. Word traveled fast in the small coaching community.

Some coaches are looking for a positive role model. I once had a kid who shot 84 in a qualifier. He was obviously upset and disappointed. But after the event, he walked into the pro shop, took off his hat and shook the hand of the tournament organizer, thanking him for the opportunity to play. My phone started ringing before I even got to the parking lot. The coach saw this exchange. He valued character over score and he wanted to set up a meeting with that kid ASAP.

For every one of my 46 kids who have ever played in college, I have invested anywhere from 2-175 hours of time, talking to coaches and giving advice to the parents and kids. It can be confusing and overwhelming for them. It can be emotional and taxing for me. But in the end, when you see a kid signing for a golf scholarship, or you get invited to the celebration dinner, it's worth it.

Less than 2% of all high school players receive golf scholarships. If a kid wants to play college golf, he needs to score well in the class room, and on the golf course. He needs to be the kind of person you'd want to spend time with. He needs to be coachable and open to learning. And he needs someone in his corner, bragging, pushing and praying for the best college deal possible.

-Anne Marie Goslak