Disclaimer: Basketball Specific
As a 17 year old, there were a lot of things that I did not think of while I was choosing which school I wanted to spend the next four years of my life. I am extremely proud to tell people that I am Vanderbilt alum. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in this world, and I bleed black and gold until the day I die. However, I do believe if I would have paid closer attention to certain details that seemed so arbitrary 5 years ago, I would have had a better fit. As we move into a quiet period after two weekends of evaluation and exposure, I felt as if this was a perfect time to discuss factors that kids don’t think about. Below is a consolidated list of intellectual tidbits that my friends and I hope lend a helping hand to those looking to make a decision soon.
- What is the coach’s philosophy and does this philosophy fit your natural playing style?
Throughout travel and high school basketball, there was one thing that was very consistent; the playing style. As a point guard, my game was predicated on breaking down defenses in transition and creating off-the-dribble. I was undeniably fruitful in both settings because my coaches relished in uptempo games. There were ample opportunities for four-low isolations, random screen-and-rolls, as well as impromptu clear-outs whenever there was a mismatch. When I first arrived at Vanderbilt, my coach and I experienced a few tiffs simply because I felt that I was being put in a box. It took me a while to realize that the offense was meticulously designed to work for the players. No one needed to create anything because if the offense was ran effectively, it would create all that we needed. Before I learned how to actually run and conduct such a complex offense, I was unhappy. I was not able to play the way that was most comfortable for me, but after research and a few conversations, I learned that the offense and philosophy that I felt was extraneous had been perfected to a tee and was successful, years before I even arrived. So in order for me to succeed, I would have to adjust accordingly.
2. Work, work, work, work, work
Every player needs to sit and seriously ask themselves: What am I willing to sacrifice? What am I willing to give to my future teammates and program?
It is no secret that there are different levels for different skill-sets. However, what isn’t discussed much is that there are also different levels for different work ethics. Motivational speaker, Eric Thomas, says, Don’t let your talent take you somewhere your character can’t keep you. This rings true for college athletics. Coming out of high school, I would say that I was an average player and athlete with exceptional leadership/communication skills and work ethic. It also helped that I was ultra competitive. Everyday I woke up, I was determined to get better at something, no matter how minute it seemed to outsiders. Because of my blue collar approach, I was fortunate enough to play for four years in one of the best conferences in women’s basketball.
Yes, college basketball can be fun, but never forget that it is a business first. You, the player, can determine what type of food your coaches are eating at the end of the day. Without performance and production, your coaches lose money and opportunities, so what makes you feel as if they are willing to accept mediocrity in any dimension of college basketball? Too many times, talented players are left behind and buried in the bench because they are not willing to work and improve certain aspects of their game that will benefit the team the most. Those same talented players make amends by transferring to schools that do not take college women’s basketball serious. Need I mention that they are wildly successful at those levels? Save yourself the trouble of transferring by being honest with YOU. Talent can only get you so far. Work ethic keeps you there.
3. Seeking Approval
Approval has become paramount in modern-day society. From our Instagram posts to the newest pair of shoes we own, we are constantly seeking approval from our family and “friends”. For example, how many tweets and IG posts did everyone see, within the last week, of the Views and Lemonade albums? Spoiler alert: about 97% of the population that tweeted just want to show their friends that they are up-to-date with the newest, hottest music.
Relating this back to basketball, most athletes commit to a school just because their reputation is popular, or because their mother or father graduated from there. They want their friends to say, “Oh! Look at Jane Doe! She’s going to So-and-So University! I wish I could go there too”! Truth be told, only a select few can actually perform and succeed at the universities that everyone reads about in the papers or see on television. Do not choose a school based on its popularity, because that is one sure-fire way to bamboozle yourself into a whirlpool of unhappiness.
4. Majors are Major!
You have a hoop dream, too? Good for you, but what other ways are you going to contribute to society? What do you have a passion for?
I am not the one to kill anyone’s athletic dreams. Whoever you are, I am in your corner 3,844%, but I have to give you the facts. Below is an excerpt from the article, What Are Your Odds of Making the Pros? (http://www.norwichcsd.org/Downloads/ProSportsOdds.doc):
— High school senior players who go on to play NCAA men`s basketball: Less than one in 35, or 2.9 percent.
— NCAA senior players drafted by an NBA team: Less than one in 75, or 1.3 percent.
— High school senior players who go on to play NCAA women’s basketball: About three in 100, or 3.1 percent.
— NCAA senior players drafted by a WNBA team: About one in 100, or 1.0 percent.
— High school senior players eventually drafted by a WNBA team: About one in 5,000, or 0.02 percent.
With percentages so low, I would strongly advise you all to truly consider what you are passionate about and what that could look like in terms of a major. Then ask yourself, does So-and-So University have this major? You do not want to go to a university for their athletic program, knowingly neglecting your education and passions, end up studying something you hate that could eventually lead to a job that you hate even more.
5. Teammates Matter
Do you and your future teammates share some of the same beliefs and values? Do you see yourself enjoying time with them outside of basketball? What players are returning and what positions are they playing? Coming out of high school, I did not pay attention to who was returning to Vanderbilt from the years before. You can imagine my surprise when I realized that it did not matter what my ranking was on ESPN Hoopgurlz because I was playing behind two WNBA draft picks in Jasmine Lister (Seattle Storm Training Camp, 2014 and LA Sparks, 2015-16) and Christina Foggie (Minnesota Lynx Training Camp, 2014). It took me awhile to adjust my mindset and begin learning from the players that were ahead of me.
By the same token, it is vital to consider the personalities of the team. Contrary to popular belief, success in college basketball, for women especially, is highly determined by the chemistry the team has, both on and off the court. I was lucky enough to get paired with some teammates who have turned into my best friends.
This is not to be misunderstood, though. You will not always get along/agree with your teammates and you do not always need to be best friends. There are just some people and personalities that will not mesh. This fact is fine as long as you are able to respect one another and do what is in the team’s best interest.
I do not claim to know everything there is to know about choosing a school. Everyone’s recruiting process is unique, and so reality and perceptions differ. All in all, accept nothing at face value and refuse to settle.
Make this week unforgettable.
Check back next week for College Athletics: Staying There…