By Kristen Kerecman
VP, Communications & Social Impact, Honest Game

Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash.

After a tumultuous year navigating COVID, the fall return to school is a big deal for everyone, and especially student-athletes. Over the next few weeks, more than 50 million students will head back to school and up to 70 percent of them participate in organized sports.

With nearly every sport sidelined after a chaotic year, the 2021-22 school year will be a critical time for student-athletes to stay focused.

Being a student athlete is a lot to handle. Coming back to school in-person, juggling multiple classes, and getting back into workouts and practice takes time management and discipline. To make it all work, it’s important to prioritize.

If you’re a student-athlete looking forward to playing college sports, these steps can help your 2021-22 school year get off to a smooth start. Whether or not the COVID variant puts a damper on your sport in the coming months, staying organized and focused on eligibility can help keep college opportunities on track.

1. Know where your eligibility stands

If you’re looking forward to playing college sports, having a handle on academic eligibility is the most important thing to do to keep your options for college sports open.

The first step to getting off on the right foot is to meet with your school counselor. They can help you make sure you’re on track with the right classes and grades to make the cut.

Next, (with the help of your counselor and even Honest Game!) make sure you are enrolled for NCAA core classes for the upcoming year. It’s also helpful to know what your core GPA is for NCAA eligibility. It turns out college admissions and NCAA eligibility are two different sets of requirements! Admissions requirements vary by schools and programs, while the NCAA has several boxes to check, including: NCAA approval to play DI and DII sports, plus a special NCAA core GPA, the completion of 16 core courses, and qualifying SAT/ACT scores (except for graduating seniors this year and next year due to COVID).

Testing (still) matters. While the NCAA announced that test scores will not be required to obtain DI, DII, or NAIA athletic academic eligibility if you are enrolling in college in 2021-2022 or 2022-2023 it’s important to remember that your college or university may require you to take an SAT or ACT so make sure to check if those tests are required for admissions. For current Freshmen and Sophomores, it is anticipated that the SAT/ACT will be required for NCAA eligibility when you apply to college so please plan on taking those standardized tests.

This can be confusing, but Honest Game is here to help! Check out our FAQs on academic eligibility and Glossary.

Honest Game’s platform is also a great way to automatically make sure you’re on track as well. We provide student-athletes with a custom eligibility report based on your transcript. We also give you feedback, including advice and steps to achieve full academic eligibility.

2. Be aware of the Updated NCAA Rules & Recruiting

Dates It can be tough to keep on top of seemingly constant changes, especially after the chaos of COVID.

As of June 1, all sports are back to regular recruiting calendars. This means D1 coaches are able to meet face-to-face with recruits off campus and do in-person scouting. In-person recruiting restrictions have already officially been lifted for all other levels, including NCAA D2 and D3, NAIA and NJCAA programs – meaning all forms of contact are allowed as long as they follow NCAA recruiting rules.

Be aware of key dates for your sport by following the NCAA recruiting calendars here.

3. Make a plan to take care of your physical and mental health

Once that first bell rings, things will start moving really quickly. Before the practices, schedules, courseload and homework pile up make a plan to prioritize mental and physical health when times get stressful.

Try to get enough sleep, fuel your body with healthy foods, and balance hard work with fun. Know who you can go to for help, including trusted adults or programs available at school. And most importantly, don’t give up.

This list will help you stay focused but as we’ve learned this past year (and a skill that student-athletes have in particular) is to be ready for the unexpected. Stick to these priorities but also commit to training, staying organized and ready to seize the opportunity.