National Signing Day is always an exciting time for high school athletes eager to continue their athletic careers by putting pen to paper in front of family, teammates, and friends and seal their commitment to their school of choice. These types of life-changing decisions are not made overnight. To help their student-athletes who aspire to reach the next level of competition, schools like Naperville Central host a yearly NCAA eligibility night, to give students a better understanding on how the college eligibility process works if they want to continue playing the sport they love at the next level. This Feature Story is sponsored by Edward-Elmhurst Health.
“One of the things we try to do every year is reflecting on practices and look at are there things that are community needs and wants from us that don’t currently exist; it’s just a need driven,” said Naperville Central Counseling Department Chair Jeff Plackett.
“Regardless of the sport you play, in a lot of the way the process is similar for everyone regardless of the sport or level they intend to pursue and that’s just to connect with the eligibility center. So I like the equalizer nature of what we developed as a program,” said Plackett.
With the presentation, each student from the different sports got to learn all the steps to become eligible for the NCAA. It’s not just about being good at the sport you compete in, it’s also about filling out the recruiting questionnaires, making your own profile page with the NCAA, maintaining a strong GPA, taking the right classes, talking with your coach about what you want to do after high school, the differences between Divisions I, II and III and getting college visits set depending on the sport and University you are interested in pursuing. The details that are often overlooked when kids think about taking part in collegiate athletics.
“We ask them to evaluate schools based on three different elements of fit. They are academic and financial and feel fit to the campus experience, and we’re introducing them to the fourth fit, which is the athletic fit. So we’re looking at all three of those first fit criteria but is this a place where I can participate at a level I’m interested in,” said Plackett.
Better understanding of recruiting
With the third annual NCAA Eligibility Night in the books, the underclassmen athletes feel more confident towards entering recruiting process and the steps they need to take if they want to keep their athletic career going.
“I feel more informed than I did before and more confident knowing things about your GPA, how that counts towards your eligibility and how the division level differs in the recruiting process,” said Naperville Central girls cross country and track field runner Lola Satre-Morales.
“Since I have plenty of time it will help me and be easier because if something doesn’t work out, then I will have more time to figure something out,” said Naperville Central girls volleyball player Caroline Impey.
Getting the process started early
Even if those athletes are still unsure on their plans after high school there’s nothing wrong with getting your name out there and taking the first steps towards the next level if that is the path they choose.
“Why not create that profile page with the NCAA. When you go and make the free account you’re not making a commitment to doing anything but you are starting the process of making yourself more accessible to college programs by starting to engage with them,” said Plackett.
By becoming more familiar with what the requirements are, the future generations of Redhawk athletes will be much more prepared for the journey that leads to the joyful experience of their own signing day.
For more prep sports stories, visit the Naperville Sports Weekly page!