D3 vs PG?

Many parents and coaches, especially those at the D3 level, think a post-graduate year is a waste of time and money if the athlete still ends up at the D3 level after the PG year. On the surface, it can look that way, but only if one mistakenly uses a D1 scholarship as the only measure of success. There’s a value opportunity most parents and coaches miss. A PG year is really an investment with minimal risk. At the right price, it’s a very good risk. Here are the benefits achieved, even if a D1 scholarship is not.


Return On Investment

  1. Better education
    1. The student is likely to be accepted at D3 schools with higher academic ranking
  2. Lower college cost
    1. The family is likely to get a better financial aid package at D3 schools
      1. $8,000 per year in savings results in an average net prep school cost of $0, while getting all the other PG year benefits, including college credits
  3. Better preparation for college
    1. The child will be academically more prepared
    2. The child will be athletically more prepared
    3. The child will be emotionally more prepared and more mature
    4. A PG year gives a student a much better chance to thrive in college, not just survive
  4. A years worth of college credits?
    1. College level courses taken as a PG can translate into college credits
      1. Students can graduate sooner from college thereby saving cost
        1. The cost of prep school courses can be less than college
      2. Students can take graduate level courses in their fourth year of college
      3. More and more students are taking more than 4 years to graduate from college anyway

Investment Amount

The value is clearly there for a PG year at the right price. So, what is the right price? The rule of thumb is to spend what one year of college would cost. Spending less than that should be a no-brainer. Spending more makes it a much tougher/poorer decision.


The PG year provides all the benefits above, while keeping alive the chance for a D1 or D2 scholarship, and the four free years of education that go with it. Under the proper circumstances, this is an excellent decision.




Don’t Laugh Too Hard

While this will certainly be funny to many, it’s just one example of mistakes commonly made by families trying to navigate the recruiting process. So enjoy the laugh, but don’t think others aren’t laughing at similar things you’ve done.

Devin is a talented basketball player. He and his mother recently told me and others he was being recruited by a good mid-level D1 school. Skeptical, I asked them to define the recruitment. They showed me an email inviting them to a reception for prospective students to be held at an upcoming basketball game at that university. What they didn’t understand, as they interpreted this invitation from their subjective point of view, was that the invitation was a mass mailing sent to many prospective students by that university in a general marketing attempt to increase applications and enrollment. It had nothing at all to do with his basketball talent or any basketball recruiting. The reception just happened to be at a basketball game because it was that time of year and basketball is the high profile sport at this particular university. They didn’t know that. They thought it meant he was being recruited for basketball. Most would have instantly seen that this was a mass emailing. In Devin’s defense, he is talented enough to get some D1 basketball interest. This just goes to show recruiting is a tough thing for most families to interpret. So remember, don’t laugh too hard. This might already be you, and you just don’t know it.



You’re Proving My Point, Not Yours



We don’t need help finding a prep school. We can find a school ourselves.


If you’re making this statement, you’re asking yourself the wrong question. The question isn’t can you find a prep school without help. Many families can find a school on their own. If you don’t care where you end up, any road will get you there. The question is can you find the best one for reaching your goals, the one that will maximize the investment of time and money you are making in prep school. If you’re not asking the right question, or don’t have the right goal, why is there any reason to believe you will be successful doing it yourself?



Sacrificing Education – One Example

James, a weak student and talented athlete, had two choices at the end of his senior year at catholic high school. One, attend a “football factory” for the fall semester where the level of football and exposure would be high and he would not have to take any classes. Two, accept an offer to attend a prep school where the football level would be lower and he would receive a life-changing education he would not otherwise have had access to without leveraging his athletic talents.

Paying for either option was an overriding factor for this family, whose financial troubles were such that just finding the money for the monthly utility bill was a challenge. The football factory would cost $10,000 – $15,000 for one semester. The prep school option would cost nothing, and would include the whole year, not just a semester. Without giving it a second thought or visiting the prep school, James chose the football factory. His parents, who had initially vetoed any consideration of a football factory, relented, committing to paying the money while admitting to having no idea where they would find it.

As it turned out, at the end of the season at the football factory James was no closer to a D1 scholarship than he had been a year earlier. He had no D1 offers. Instead, he had now been out of the classroom for a semester (it would become a year as he went home for the second semester and essentially did nothing) and his family was now significantly in debt. Had they prioritized education first, at least James would have received a top-shelf education while making friends and connections that would stay with him for life. They sacrificed an education James sorely needed and spent money they didn’t have, and ended up with essentially nothing to show for it.

Ironically, there’s a solid argument to be made that what kept James from receiving a scholarship is exactly what was missing at the football factory and abundant at the prep school. Physical talent was never James’ problem. Maturity, responsibility, discipline, hard work and personal growth were. By definition, those characteristics are all in short supply at sports factories. At the prep school he would have been immersed in them 24 hours a day in the form of his classmates, school faculty and coaches. How ironic that what he needed most to reach his goals was at the place the family didn’t choose, and would have come with the education of a lifetime.



The Patriot League / Ivy League Misconception

The Patriot League and Ivy League have been linked together in many minds since the inception of the Patriot League about 25 years ago. There are three good reasons for this. One, the Patriot League was conceived, in part, to provide another league similar to the Ivy. Two, they are perceived as the two best academic D1 leagues in the country. Three, for a while they were the only two leagues in Division 1 that didn’t offer athletic scholarships. Ivy’s have never offered athletic scholarships. The Patriot League started out as a non-scholarship league, but that changed some time ago.

For some reason people, even those who should know better, still talk about Patriot and Ivy League schools as competing at the lowest level of D1 sports. They mention them as possible options for athletes who don’t have scholarship offers or are perceived to be marginal D1 athletes. This is particularly true in the revenue producing sports of football and basketball. Statements such as “well, he/she might be good enough to play at a Patriot or an Ivy” are still heard regularly. It’s an old perception that hasn’t been accurate for quite a while.

Here are two of the erroneous assumptions that lead to the misconception, followed by the reasons they are false.

  1. Schools can’t attract scholarship level athletes without scholarships
    1. Ivy League teams regularly get players who have scholarship offers. That’s right. Ivy schools beat scholarship schools for players every year.
      1. Extraordinary financial aid combined with the best educational opportunities makes the difference. Lots of schools offer scholarships. There are only a handful of Patriot and Ivy League schools.
        1. Families with a household income under $100,000 can expect to pay little or nothing for an Ivy League education.
      2. Their track record of success is so good they attract very talented athletes
    2. In the case of the non-revenue sports, these schools very often give more aid than scholarship schools. Think about how ironic that is. Why do you think they win titles in sports like lacrosse and hockey, and produce more than their share of Olympic athletes?
  2. The smartest kids generally aren’t the best athletes
    1. These schools are exceptional enough, and selective enough, that they attract student-athletes who excel in both categories

Here is just some of the evidence that Patriots and Ivys are anything but the lowest level D1 leagues.

  • The Princeton women’s basketball team is currently ranked 16th in the country
  • Both leagues are ranked comfortably in the middle of D1.
    • In basketball there are currently 15 leagues ranked lower than either the Ivy or Patriot. Those leagues include many perceived to be “better” such as the MAAC, Colonial, Conference USA, Northeast and Ohio Valley.
  • Both leagues have won more NCAA basketball tournament games than many of the leagues perceived to be at a higher level.
    • In recent years Cornell has played in the Sweet 16, while Bucknell, Lehigh and Harvard have had multiple wins as well
  • NCAA D1 basketball tournament seedings for Patriot and Ivy reflect their true level of play and talent. The leagues are getting a 12 or 13 seed, sometimes higher. That means there are about 10 – 15 leagues getting less respect from the committee.
  • Ivy and Patriot leagues have produced more professional draft picks and players over the last two decades than many of the leagues people perceive to play at a higher level.
    • In 2013 alone the Patriot League had a 1st and 2nd round NBA pick
      • Previous years produced lottery picks such 13 year NBA veteran Adonal Foyle
  • After the 2014 season two all-Ivy players transferred to other leagues. (They were out of Ivy eligibility). Both had multiple offers from big time conferences. One accepted a scholarship to Pitt (ACC), the other to UConn (AAC).

Parents and players are the ones losing out due to this lack of awareness. Too many dismiss these schools without even considering them, when choosing them should be an easy decision. When the facts are known, it’s shocking how many people pass up these educational opportunities without giving it a second thought.




How Do I Make A Good Recruiting Video?

If you’re making a video for coaches to see, you want to make it as user-friendly as possible – for the coaches, not for you. You laugh, but too many videos are just an exercise in ego for the maker. You don’t want a coach to stop watching because of video issues before even evaluating your game. Believe me, it happens. Coaches do not have unlimited time. A very poor quality video causes the coach to hit the stop button and you get either no response to your video or a blow-off.

This doesn’t mean you need to pay a service to have it done. The only possible reason to pay to have it done is if you simply can’t be bothered or don’t want to spend the time. Anyone with a smartphone and a  YouTube account can make a good video.

Here are a few rules to make the process work better and improve your chances.

  1. Identify your team, jersey number and color. Coaches don’t know you. They don’t know your hair color, your size, your body language, your position, your team. Don’t make them guess. This is not as important for highlight videos as it is for game video, but you should do it for both.
  2. Game video is preferable to highlight video.
    1. Highlights have a place in the process, but 90% of the players/ parents making highlight videos don’t do it right, leaving coaches frustrated and shaking their heads as they watch. A highlight video should not be longer than one to two minutes, and should showcase abilities that immediately set you apart. This includes things like size, speed, athleticism or special skill.
    2. Game video is where the coach gets to see how you play the game. Are you smart? Are you a team player? What level is your team playing at? Do you do the little things? Do you make those around you better? Make sure you pick a good one. If a coach watches for 20 minutes and is wondering when he’s going to see something good, you’ve picked the wrong video. If you think this is common sense, you haven’t seen all the bad game video out there.
  3. Do not use slow motion. This is an absolute no-no. Coaches can see what they want to see without the benefit of slow motion. Using it makes the athlete look like a prima donna and wastes a coaches time.
  4. Do not tell the world how good you are. This means no over-the-top notes or text introducing or ending the video. Don’t scream at the viewer by using lots of capital letters, or use multiple exclamation points etc. Let the video stand on its own. Let others decide how good you are. That other stuff will only make recruiters think you’ve got a big ego or are likely to be a problem. This goes for the parents as much, or more, as the athletes.

Video is a key part of today’s recruiting process. In today’s world anyone with a smartphone and YouTube can have a good video. There’s not excuse for not having one. Coaches are already picking your game apart looking for problems. Don’t give them any unnecessary reasons to add to that list by providing a poor video or none at all. If you’re lucky enough to get them to watch, don’t blow your opportunity.



Overwhelmed by the Recruiting Process? Focus on Education First

I returned recently from a major east coast summer basketball camp where I had a lengthy discussion about the recruiting process with the mother of a talented junior. Her son is a good student who already holds offers from D1 schools, none of them big-time. A single mom with two kids who never went to college and never played sports, she told me she has little awareness of colleges or basketball programs. Working two jobs (they are a low income family) leaves her precious little time to deal with the recruiting process. I told her I’d had a conversation at the camp with a coach who said she was not returning his calls. She acknowledged that was a problem and said she feels overwhelmed by all the attention. “There are so many schools”, she said, “how do I handle this”?

The answer is simple, although a surprisingly large number of families never figure it out. Start with the schools offering the most highly rated educations. (See separate blog showing list). This quickly shrinks the list while having the added benefit of keeping priorities straight, often next to impossible in this process, even for those who are good at it. Focusing on the top-rated academic schools cuts the number of possible schools from approximately 265 (outside the big-time basketball conferences) to about 45, while maintaining priorities. For most, only about half of those 45 will actually show recruiting interest. Now the list is manageable and efficient, goals are intact and focus is tight. The chance of success has increased greatly.