By Dr. Anthony Policastro

One of the things that I used to see in my office was the high school athlete with poor grades. They often had the opinion that they were so good that the colleges wouldn’t care about their grades.

The first thing I used to ask them was if they were the best player on their team. Most of the time the answer was “No.” I often had trouble convincing them that for most sports only the top 10 percent of high school players receive college scholarships. If they were not in the top 10 percent of players on their team, they would not likely get a college’s attention.

The next step was to talk about academics. Colleges have academic requirements. Therefore, if you have failing grades in high school, you will not even be eligible for college athletic teams. A college coach cannot give a roster spot to someone who does not even qualify for admission.

However, it goes beyond that. College coaches do not want to waste their time with players who will be gone after a year because of failing grades.

Another aspect is that balancing academics and athletics is difficult. Someone who cannot do so with the limited demands of high school is certainly not going to be able to do so with the increased demands of college.

Many coaches see good grades as evidence that the individual is a hard worker at academics. That would suggest that the individual is also a hard worker at other things. No coach wants a player who will not properly apply themselves.

The same thing applies to expecting good grades throughout high school. Students who only get their grades up for the last two years can also appear to be doing just what they need to get by.

Good grades indicate a smart student. Coaches want smart people on their teams. It is not only about athletic ability. It is about understanding the concept of what is needed to be part of the team.

College coaches also get an effectiveness rating on the percent of their players who graduate. Taking someone on who you already know might not graduate is not a good move.

College coaches have a limited number of scholarships. For example Division 1 colleges can only give out an average of 11.7 scholarships to their baseball team. If they have a player coming who can get an academic scholarship, that frees them up to recruit someone else with an athletic scholarship.

Many of my student athlete patients had the wrong understanding of the importance of academics. College coaches like players who are good at the college experience and not just the sport.