How To Kick In College Part I: The Single Most Important Question Nobody Is Asking
Plus →Why you should immediately start asking it and how it will put you ahead of other families drowning in the college process.
This is Part I of “How To Kick In College” which is a compilation of proven ideas and action steps that have helped hundreds of families and players just like you successfully navigate the warped and whacky college recruiting world of kickers.
Instead of an ebook, this is going to be released as a paid long form, highly actionable newsletter subscription once a week on Saturday mornings.
The ideas and action steps this will provide you have helped families and players play at or receive offers from some of the world’s most selective and elite schools such as: Princeton University, Harvard University, Cornell University, Columbia University, Vanderbilt University, Notre Dame University, Boston College, Tufts University, Amherst College, Wesleyan University, Bowdoin College, Bates College, Middlebury College, Carnegie Mellon University and more.
There could not be a harder pathway to college than attempting to get recruited to kick on a college football team.
Even for families with parents who played major division one sports or siblings who got recruited at other football positions, the process for getting recruited to kick is grueling and something almost no one feels like they successfully navigated.
Yes, this includes too all those bright and shiny FBS Power 5 offer-kickers who have the glitzy graphics on Twitter too.
Trust me, their recruiting is probably a mess just like yours too.
This book, published as a newsletter, has three goals:
How does recruiting work for kickers?
What are problems with this process?
How can families and players make better decisions in light of questions one and two?
“College is the god of the American childhood.” - David Perrell
It is also a series of paradoxes few appreciate or full comprehend.
It is families’ last real chance they will get to feel like they set their child up for success.
It is also a young person’s first major decision they are getting a chance to make with significant financial consequences.
At the very moment a young person is supposed to assert their independence from their parents they are simultaneously entering into massive financial interdependency with their parents. Ironic.
Parents are stuck between a rock and a hard place: they usually want college to be their child’s decision who wants to be treated like an “adult”, but also know that while their child looks like they’re 25, and is actually age 18, they still have the emotional control center of a 15 year old.
K-12 education does not, also, set up young people with the capacity to make major decisions like this.
Young people are shepherded along a well-intentioned but misguided pathway where most of their major life decisions are made for them - that is up until college when, magically, their decision making super powers were to have some how appeared out of thin air.
Add all this to the already occurring parent-child power struggles and drama of just being a teenager or being the parent of one, it is no wonder why college is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
And so, for both parents and players, recruiting needs to be seen first and foremost as one gigantic exercise in decision making, not football.
A New Relationship With Potential
Potential is the essence of the American Dream.
Fulfilling it in the lives of young people is the core drive that schools and parenting run off of.
K-12 education orbits around the idea that you can do anything and be anything you’d like to be. Children should know no boundaries in this life.
While it is a noble thing to raise students with growth mindsets believing in themselves, this cult of potential worship leave parents and players unable to handle situations where they are told they are not good enough to do something, because they are physically not talented enough, not academically strong enough and so on.
K-12 education is filled with well meaning adults who are paid by the state and required by law to be optimists for children. Teachers seek out students for lost work, nobly see the potential in even their hardest case students and will fight harder for their students’ futures than sometimes their students will.
Coaches in high school sports are optimists too. They round up on their players’ potential, will play players who probably aren’t as talented as they’d like them to be and will generally try to give everyone a chance. After all, their paycheck doesn’t depend on winning, usually.
Yet, college and college football do not share the rosy relationship with potential that you and your child have become acquainted with.
Instead of rounding up on your potential, college coaches have more skin in the game on your performance, so they will typically round down, often coldly.
Instead of rounding up on your academic potential, a college admissions officer at an elite university will have no problem denying you for an 89 in AP Physics when you could and should have gotten a 90.
Of course things like the hard work matter in college football, but no amount of work is going to turn a 5’11 offensive tackle into a 6’7 300lb behemoth.
At some point, the unlimited potential you’ve been told by all the adults in your life you possess is going to run head first into the hard math of college football:
not everyone can kick off 80 yards through the uprights
not everyone can kick 60 yard field goals with no wind
not everyone can punt a routine 5.5 second hang time punt
This is a tired statistic that is repeated often, but this is because no one thinks it applies to them. Parents and players prefer to believe they are special and the exception to the mathematics of college recruiting but here it is:
Only 7% of all high school football players go on to play any form of college football.
“But I’m different!”
Are you though? Are you really that much better than everyone else? Do you realize you are trying to play at a level of sport that barely 1% of the entire HSFB landscape even has a shot at playing?
To recover sanity in the college process parents and players need to disassociate the fulfillment of potential with the realization of their self-worth.
Some parents on Twitter bath in their child’s college football offers, basking in the glow of their child’s athletic success as if it were their own, preening at every opportunity to pat their child on the back, and in so doing, pat themselves as well.
But, most are not like that. Most are probably just like you just trying wrap their head around this warped recruiting reality.
And so, the first step to finding it is asking yourself one simple, but difficult to answer question:
What does success look like for us?
NYTimes best-selling author Ron Lieber’s The Price You Pay For College is probably the best book ever written on helping families make better college decisions, cites this question as the one in his research the families who successfully navigate the college process ask.
But it’s not easy.
Parents often have very different ideas what they’d like their child’s college experience to be than their kids. Usually each parent’s idea is going to be different from the other’s as well.
Lieber cites three driving forces in defining success for families: economics, social life and learning experiences.
College is usually viewed as buying future money and security economically so, while most parents aren’t OK with paying $70,000 to attend a small unknown liberal arts school they are more than glad to pay $80,000, full tilt, for Yale or Harvard knowing the economic return those schools have on graduates.
Socially, some families view the social scene and networking opportunities available to their children as paramount to the college decision. It’s more important for some players to want to be at bigger schools, with the pageantry and greek life than others.
There is also the “having your mind blown apart” by world renown faculty, professors and staff that can drive some decisions to look at particular schools. MIT, John’s Hopkins or Stanford are just some of the schools with this mind-blown learning experience reputation.
But, for our readership, there is a fourth driving force: sport.
NCAA studies are clear, when a freshmen is linked into a sports team their GPA’s, social health and college outcomes are better than non-student-athletes’ are. And, for most families, they understand that sports, at best, are a great dress rehearsal for learning life lessons, staying regimented and making friends in college.
Yet, here is where some problems start to emerge for our players: What if they want a big school feel and want to play college football but are only talented enough to play Division III? What if they want the high academic reputation degree at an Ivy League but will only get interest from a smaller NESCAC Division III program? Or, what if that big Division I school comes calling, but it is in the middle of a corn field hours away, and your grandmother’s health is failing? How about a Division II program offering you a full ride for four years in an unglamorous New England rust belt town but your dream is a marquee Division I FBS school only willing to take you at full tuition price?
At some point you, your family and your player’s college dreams will inevitably collide the dirt of college reality.
There is what you want, and then there is what the college recruiting market will give you.
While you cannot force any school to give you a spot on their team, the single most important but overlooked advantage a family has at their disposal is knowing what success looks like for them.
If you do that, you will be ahead of 98% of the rest of the families and players out there in the recruiting process.
As a note, it is never too late to have this conversation.
Some families and players feel like they didn’t get college right the first time around and now their child or they are wallowing around as transfer student-athletes waiting around in the NCAA transfer portal. There can be hard feelings, resentment and mistrust between children and parents on this.
But even then, asking the question “What does success look like?” later is preferable to never asking it at all.
Parents, players and any other stakeholders in the college process need to sit down individually and reflect on the question: What does success look like for me, for us, for our family and why?
Come together for a family “board of directors” meeting with your player and parents to discuss this.
Parents keep in mind at first pass, what your child is going to come up with might sound pretty unrealistic.
Players keep in mind parents feel an immense weight and pressure on them to finance any dream you concoct and they may feel insecure about their ability to afford your goals.
In either case, a little grace towards each other goes a long way.
The value of this question, “What does success look like for us?” is not in answering it, but in just asking it. The beauty of questions is that you’ll find a different answer each time you ask it. Think of this question instead as your college process home base that can all parties are tethered to and can be reeled back into from time to time.
All families will experience college headaches, but you can make them more manageably by having a formal or informal weekly gut check on college where this question is revisited.
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