The Key to Playing at a Collegiate Level Is to Start Young

Whatever sport your child plays, starting them early is the key to developing into a competitive athlete with the opportunity to play at the college level. Beginning at an early age enables athletes to sharpen their skills so they will always be on top of their game.

For example, most soccer players begin in the diaper division. They play on small fields, on small-sided teams. The matches are five versus five, rather than the usual 11 versus 11. This allows everyone to touch the ball often and to play offense, defense and even score a goal.

The key to having younger players in sports is that it is fun. It builds self-esteem and teaches kids to play with others. Playing the game gets them up and moving.

Try to understand which sports your child likes to play as early as possible, and expose the child to the sport he or she likes the best. When you discover which sport the child wants to focus on, at around the age of 12, be sure you ask your child’s coach about training. It’s also important to expose aspiring athletes to strong competition. You want your child to play at the highest level possible.


When it comes to being recruited, I have observed that spring sports, such as lacrosse, baseball and softball, have earlier recruiting habits. In my experience, verbal commitments often are made in grades 10 and 11 and official signing of letters of intent happen as early as September in 12th grade. Being identified by college coaches as a freshman/sophomore can lead to successfully being recruited as a junior.

To ensure your child is recruited, he or she must network with college coaches. Your child needs to let the coaches know who he or she is athlet- ically and academically, as well as inform the coaches where and at what position he or she intends to compete.

A swimmer may want to make the college coach aware of his or her per- sonal best time. Whether the athlete is a golfer, runner or gymnast, he or she will want to inform the college coach of a personal best time. College coaches will definitely notice good grades, as well, so don’t be afraid to brag about those. It’s all about networking.


Often, when I meet a player and his or her parents, the parents tell me the child plays three sports and intends to play in college and perhaps win an athletic grant or scholarship. Often, I tell them it’s great to play three sports, but their child may never have played at the highest level of any one sport. It’s like being a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. Because an athlete plays on the varsity team at his or her high school does not mean the athlete is college bound for that sport or he or she will win a scholarship.

A serious athlete must make a commitment to the sport of his or her choice. It doesn’t have to be done at age five, but it needs to be done at some point.

In today’s world of specialization, playing multiple positions is not always a good thing. If your child pitches, he or she should mention to prospective coaches what type of pitches they throw.

When I speak to student soccer players, they often tell me, “I can play every position.” This is not what I want to hear. Are you a midfielder, a forward, a defender or a goalkeeper?

In summer camps I have observed what is called “position camp.” These camps are usually for older players who are trying to be a standout in their specific position. Football, lacrosse, basketball and soccer all have position camps.


It’s a great idea for parents to expose their student athlete to people who have played the game. Whether it’s tennis, golf or swimming, find a program that has instruction by a professional coach—or at least a coach or trainer who played in a competitive program or who competed at the collegiate level.

In team sports, such as soccer, lacrosse, basketball, baseball or softball, it is common for the parent to be the coach. Although he or she may hold the team together, it’s possible the coach’s own child deserves to be competing at the higher level. The child may miss an opportunity because his or her dad or mom is the coach.

Vinny Fusco, coach of the Garden City soccer team in New Jersey, brought in two trainers/coaches who played at the collegiate level. One was a college coach. Fusco knew his own limitations and what he could offer the team when they entered high school. His role changed from coach to manager. He made sure each player understood that, in addition to the weekend game, they would be attending tournaments and college show- cases, as well as training two to three times per week.

No matter what sport your child plays, it’s important for them to not get so caught up in his or her sport that it becomes secondary to their education. Academics should always come first. Athletics can open doors to college to your child, providing they have good grades and present themselves as an all-around student athlete.

Email Pat at or call (631) 988-7746 for a free consultation.

About Pat Grecco 2 Articles
Pat Grecco is founder and president of the College Bound Athletic Scholarship Service. The service is dedicated to placing student athletes in college programs for all types of sports. She is past director of the College Bound Player Program for Long Island Junior Soccer League, former scholarship committee chairperson and was elected to the Long Island Soccer Hall of Fame in 1998 and the New York Soccer Hall of Fame in 2008. Grecco has been a contributing writer to numerous print and online publications, including Soccer Long Island magazine, Big Apple Soccer, Just Live Soccer, Southern Soccer Scene and Grecco has been a member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America for more than 25 years and was nominated to receive the 2014 Charlotte Moran Volunteer of the Year Award.

1 Comment

  1. With the exception of Tennis, perhaps college bound athlete should start young. I believe, after having taught tennis over 40 years, and having started when I was 24, now nationally ranked, many start formal lessons too soon in tennis.

    Many tennis players are DIY. “Do it yourself” tennis players, copying the player they see most onTV, then decide to take lessons, and won’t change the backhand, and most instructors won’t insist.

    I’ve outlived most of my contemporaries, having started at 24, and use a one hand backhand.

    If a youngster is too young to understand that a two handed backhand tennis player run more, have a shorter reach, and play mostly defensive tennis because they don’t have a grip that permits fast exchanges at the net, then they are too young to be starting a tennis regimen.

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