Going to College Archive

Is the College Recruiting Process Putting Too Much Pressure on You?

Following the right college placement plan will help you enjoy the challenge.

For many junior golfers, the college recruiting process can become overwhelming and downright stressful. A variety of circumstances can cause stress during this process. Receiving little or no feedback from coaches can become discouraging. In tournament play, knowing that coaches are watching can result in added pressure; the feeling that each round could make or break college opportunities often looms. Plus, prospects without college offers may begin to wonder if they are behind in the recruiting process as they hear that their peers are making verbal commitments or signing with colleges. They may start thinking, “What about me?”

Frequently, in my work with aspiring junior players, I often hear them describe these feelings. They want to learn how to stay more relaxed as they compete and pursue college golf. My suggestions focus on three main things:

1. Target the correct schools; the correct “best-fit” list can put you at ease.
2. Don’t try to be perfect; coaches don’t expect perfection.
3. Keep an open mind during your recruiting process; many quality schools exist.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, I find these points to be some of the most difficult perspectives for young golfers (and their parents) to grasp. What do I mean? Let’s take a look.

Make sure your “best-fit” list of schools actually FITS you. Pursuing a collection of schools that is too far beyond your skill level (academically and/or athletically) can result in disappointment and stress. Why? The amount of improvement in golf and in the classroom can be unpredictable, and prospects have a limited time in the recruiting process to elevate their performance. This is why “safety” and “target” schools (i.e., more conservative school selections that closely match a junior golfer’s skills) are so important. If your credentials stay the same or only improve a little bit during the recruiting process, having enough realistic target schools on your list will increase the likelihood of getting sincere feedback from coaches and receiving offers to play college golf. Designing your list of schools with this in mind will help take the pressure off as you aim high for “reach” schools, and you’ll likely play better golf along the way.

A great resource that you can use to build (or refine) your best-fit list is the Ping American College Golf Guide. The search tools available in this online guide will allow you to find schools that match your academic abilities and junior golf scoring. Note that pinpointing reasonable targets and safety schools from a golf standpoint is not as straightforward as you may think. To do this more effectively, find schools where your average score (plus approximately two strokes), based on top-rated regional and national tournaments, falls within the top four to five players of the college rosters. This is a great rule of thumb to start you down the proper path with initial selections.

Don’t try to be “perfect” in tournament play! If you are just beginning your college search, or even if your recruiting process is well underway, it is a common tendency to think that you need to play perfect golf when coaches are watching. Obviously, it makes sense that good shots, good rounds, and solid tournament finishes are important; results mean a lot. However, remember that if you have the right school list, you don’t have to be perfect day in and day out to be an attractive recruit.

Coaches don’t expect that you will have your “A” game at all times. (Even the players on their teams aren’t perfect.) Coaches don’t mind seeing those times when you play poorly. They want to see how resilient you are and if you can maintain an upbeat attitude during the tough days. A positive, grind-it-out attitude is a quality that coaches value highly. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself when coaches are watching or when you’re having some disastrous rounds. Each shot and tournament round is an opportunity to bounce back, “score your ball,” and turn life’s lemons into lemonade.

Remember, the college landscape is vast! Bottom line, your goal in the college placement process should be to find schools and golf programs that allow you to pursue a great education and be a consistent member of the travel squad. Sometimes these schools may not necessarily be the highest-ranked programs or the most familiar schools on your list, and that’s okay. The college landscape is full of quality schools (Divisions I, II, and III) that offer great coaching, facilities, academics, and campus settings. Many fantastic pathways exist for college student-athletes to pursue their scholastic, golf, and life ambitions, and embracing this idea can be a great comfort during your journey to college.

I feel confident that the perspectives I’ve described can give you greater peace of mind during your college search. Building the right school list, staying positive during those tough days on the course, and knowing there are a lot of quality college opportunities can help provide confidence in a competitive recruiting marketplace.

nicky goetze


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