In her decades of experience, College & Career Coordinator Beth Arey has helped thousands of high school student-athletes navigate the complex path to college athletics.
As a collegiate athlete and first generation college student, Beth knows firsthand how a passion for sports can fuel academic potential and achievement. She also knows that student-athletes, their families, coaches and counselors have to navigate many roadblocks along the way to play college sports.
Check out our interview with Beth below to learn more about how counselors, high school staff, student-athletes and families can make the most of their high school experience and successfully navigate a pathway to college sports.
READ BETH’S STORY
Having an opportunity to play collegiate athletics can be life changing and can open up doors to so many valuable experiences. Beth believes these opportunities help students build sought-after characteristics like confidence, resilience and commitment.
Student-athletes also have the chance to build unique team relationships that they carry with them long after their playing time is done. “What you learn from your teammates in both positive and negative ways, really contributes to the growth of young adults,” says Beth. “And that can’t really be found in other ways.”
Beth also encourages students to embrace the opportunities for travel and experiencing new places. “I still remember my very first track meet held on a college campus far away. I went to the student union during a break and I remember looking up and seeing an amazing rotunda and thinking ‘college could look like this?!’ It was beautiful!”
As in many life situations, many of the biggest mistakes student-athletes can make can be avoided by just being more aware of the issues impacting their journey. Relying on talent alone and not being aware that there are rules can impact a student-athlete’s options.
Many of the mistakes stem from not meeting course requirements because students and families might not recognize the importance of it.
Beth believes avoiding these mistakes really boils down to three things: Awareness, Access and Success. “Number one, families need to be aware,” she says. “There are rules and requirements that need to be met. And meeting those requirements provides access to opportunities. And the goal of being a stronger student is for you to be successful.”
High Schools may assume that by just relying on school graduation requirements their students can go on and be successful. “We know that it’s not even just eligibility requirements but also college admissions requirements that are more advanced than what is necessary to graduate from most high schools,” says Beth.
Schools can avoid these potential pitfalls by making sure both counseling and athletic staff are aware that there are additional requirements and have the tools and resources to access that information.
Connecting with other schools and eligibility experts, assigning a point person in the counseling office, and communicating with the athletic department can all set high schools up for success with student-athlete eligibility.
Beth suggests searching out and finding an expert to connect with when questions come up can save time and avoid errors. Counselors can “use resources and take advantage of what is already available” to maximize their time and success.
Communicating with the athletic department is really important. “There are too many times when counseling offices and athletic departments are siloed,” says Beth. “Understanding who does what and maintaining close communication is key.”
Speaking from experience, Beth also believes counselors and athletic departments should empower student-athletes to have an understanding of their own eligibility status. “I was fortunate enough to have been recruited my freshman year. If I had shared that with my counselor at the time, my academic trajectory may have been a little bit different,” she says.
“In the end I think I just kind of got lucky. But I know there are many student-athletes who don’t have the experience to be on a varsity team until junior or senior year. By then, it can often be too late depending on what courses are available or the grades that they’ve earned.”
Like many things in life it’s easier to start early and make sure you’re on the right path as early as middle school. Beth believes maintaining academic eligibility is especially important because of how difficult it is for a student who has been struggling to change gears and have to take more classes or summer classes later on. “If we don’t address and get kids on track early, they have to do all this makeup near the end of their high school experiences. You’ve already taxed a student with academic achievement with the workload that they have alongside their sport and now have to put on top of that even more,” she says.
If students don’t focus on maintaining eligibility they could miss out on opportunities. As coaches and recruiters seek out student-athletes to fill coveted spots, being ready with the data they need is key. “I hate the idea of a student-athlete being behind in eligibility and then potentially not having the opportunities that they are talented enough to be afforded.”
“From a counseling perspective, Honest Game doesn’t require the counselor to guess,” says Beth.
Honest Game relieves counselors from doing projections by hand, which is very time consuming and complex. Plus, the NCAA regulations seem to be continuously updated, and just keeping up with the changes could be a full-time job.
“When we think about what courses and what grades a student may need to have to be eligible, there is a lot of room for error. I can go in to Honest Game and know exactly what a student needs to do. Being able to share that with families is really important.”
Honest Game also helps high schools stay compliant with the NCAA. “Honest Game provides a huge value with the core course list that the NCAA requires us to maintain. It’s a lot of work for staff to know that this list exists, what is on it and how to keep it accurate.”
“Honest Game is that conduit between the school administration and curriculum instruction components and the NCAA eligibility portal. It’s an asset to the school system.”
“Having this resource becomes paramount to continuing the success of our student-athletes.”
Honest Game helps student-athletes and their families see an array of options as goals that focus on growth. “So often we get blinded by the NCAA Division I eligibility requirements. The fact that Honest Game will alert students and families to what options do exist for them, so it’s not a punitive system,” says Beth.
“Honest Game allows students access to their own information and allows them to be empowered to make a decision here or there,” says Beth. “They can see what’s available to them. They can see what they are missing and where they need to go. And then make a choice.”
“It’s less about what you haven’t done and that’s a really big deal. Giving kids hope.”