Enlisting some help on the recruiting trail

On High Schools

High Schools

December 17, 2004|By MILTON KENT

WHILE SITTING AT a high school football game three years ago, Greg Peel overheard a group of parents bemoaning that they didn't know where their kids, all athletes, would be going to college or how they could get them athletic scholarships.

The proverbial light bulb lit, and Peel and his friend Andre Baldwin set about, with the parents' permission, putting together a marketing strategy to get seven kids scholarships. They had success with five of the seven, and another bulb went on in Peel's head, telling him they could make a living helping parents market their kids to colleges.

Peel and Baldwin left the corporate rat race and founded The Athletic Group (TAG), a Columbia-based firm that takes a lot of the mystery, as well as the legwork, out of the recruiting process for parents.

"You cannot believe the number of parents that don't know what to do," said Peel, who ran track and played football at Laurel before going to Bowie State. "`What do we do? How do we do it?' Those are questions from an educational perspective that we provide answers for."

For a fee, Peel and Baldwin, who played football at Wilde Lake, offer a variety of services, from advising and counseling to editing highlight and game tapes to filming games for all sports except baseball.

For a separate fee, the two men provide access to a college sports connector, a Web site, located through www.theathleticgroup.com, where kids and their parents can research schools by division, conference or state, as well as check the rosters of schools that interest them, to see if those schools are overstocked at a position the student plays.

"We're trying to help people perfect their research and marketing," said Peel. "It's almost like a job. Are you going to apply for a job where they already have four or five folks at your position?"

The college recruiting process is as much a mystery to many parents as the Mona Lisa's smile, but it doesn't have to be, the two men say, provided that kids and their parents are realistic.

For instance, most big-time Division I schools like Maryland have generally identified most of the kids they want to offer scholarships by the time those kids are juniors.

But with more than 1,000 colleges and universities on the Division I, II and III levels, not to mention the NAIA and junior colleges, there are plenty of outlets.

"It's sad to see the kids here get locked into [the local schools]," said Baldwin, who played guard at Virginia Union. "There's nothing wrong with those schools, but those are the only ones they know, and there are schools in all the other 49 states that are looking for good student-athletes."

The two men say they find that most parents and students have no real idea of how colleges recruit. Most parents, they say, think, for instance, college coaches routinely show up at high school games, not realizing that with millions of athletes spread across the country, that it's humanly impossible for coaches to see all but the blue-chippers.

"Our whole premise in life is we want to make this easy for everybody, the college recruiter, the high school coach, the student-athlete and parents," said Peel. "We want to make it easy."

That's where the highlight film comes in handy. A well-packaged, well-edited film can be a boon to a recruiter. The problem is, in many cases, the team's game film is of poor quality and doesn't serve an individual kid's needs.

Meanwhile, most parents who carry camcorders to games get too emotionally involved, don't zero in on their kids and don't shoot the games well.

"You're now looking for high-impact plays that the recruiters can see," said Peel. "How can you provide that to that college coach, when [your kid] is popping in and out of the screen, or not even in the screen?`

Peel and Baldwin say they feel the most important help they give is the two-headed piece of advice for parents to get involved in the process early and for the athletes to maintain good grades.

They say parents shouldn't wait until their kids are seniors to look for colleges. Likewise, the athletes should aim for grade point averages of at least 3.0 and SAT scores of at least 1,000. Kids should also take the SAT as early as possible, with repeats if the scores are unsatisfactory.

"I always say that you don't know what you don't know," said Peel, "That's my coined phrase. In this business, you don't know. Call it an innocent ignorance. Parents need to really understand what recruiting is and what the elements of recruiting are."

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