I recently received an interesting e-mail from a concerned parent who has been reading all about college scholarships being offered to young athletes and he is wondering when he should begin marketing his son. He is afraid if he waits too long that his son will be lost in the shuffle, that college recruiters won't have time to evaluate him.
This is what he had to say:
"I read about scholarships being offered to players who will graduate in 2012 and was wondering if I should start marketing my son now, although he is in the class of 2013. It sounds crazy to think of my son possible being offered a scholarship in his freshman year of high school, which is still over a year away with him just starting eighth grade.
"But I am afraid that I might wait too long to get him in front of the right people, whoever the right people are. My son plays baseball, basketball and football. He is 6-3 at age 13, has excellent speed and very good hands. He played wide receiver last season but his being groomed as the starting quarterback.
"It is hard to predict which position he will end up at. He is still growing and projected to top out at 6-7. I really respect your opinion and any advice you could offer me would be the best information I could get on this matter."
More than a few parents are confronted by this issue. How good is my son? Should I promote him? Why are other kids being offered and not my son? Isn't he as good or better than they are? Is it too early to market my son? How do the colleges find out about a kid?
Here is my advice:
It is way too early to promote your son, when he going into eighth grade. Football is much different than basketball. It's all about muscle and speed and most of these kids don't reach their maximum size and strength and speed until their sophomore or junior year in high school.
If you push a kid too early and he isn't that good yet, colleges may not look at him later on. The key is to let him play as a freshman in high school, then send him to college camps going into his sophomore year. Then he is more physically mature and more confident and more willing to practice against older kids.
Don't jump the gun. Colleges can't offer scholarships until Sept. 1 of a kid's junior year. That is the first official time. Let your son enjoy the rest of his youth. There will be plenty of time to push him and promote him.
Today, not too many kids get missed, unless you live in Maine or Vermont or New Hampshire or Montana or Alaska. The recruiting process is too sophisticated. Colleges rely on many forms of scouting to identify blue-chip talent in nearly every area of the country.
Unfortunately, too many fathers get antsy. Even in 1979, when I started in this business, before the Internet and the rise of recruiting services, they wanted to lead their kids' lives. If your son has talent, open up every opportunity to him. But don't open it up too early and watch him get burned out. Encourage him to play different sports, at least until his sophomore year.
If you live in the Chicago area, people will know about your son. There is no risk of falling through the cracks. Start promoting him once he is successful in high school. Call me, send him to college camps, ask his high school coach to send film to colleges and ask for replies. Is he good enough? What do you think?
There is plenty of time for the class of 2013 to make a name for itself.