Many high school athletes with the potential to compete in college can sometimes struggle to find a school that fits their athletic and educational needs.
Recent poll information from the NCAA says only two percent of all high school athletes are awarded college scholarships.
Posen senior Korynn Hincka is one of those lucky few area athletes to get offers from colleges and knows all too well about the search for finding the right school.
News File Photo
Posen center Korynn Hincka, left, has been drawing interest from a variety of Division 1 and Division 2 schools for the past several years. Hincka, who will sign a Letter of Intent during the upcoming girls basketball season, said she is focused on finding a school that has her academic field of study and is in a comfortable location to go along with her athletic abilities.
Hincka been part of Posen's successful girls basketball teams the last few years and holds the school's record for career points. She has been receiving offers from a variety of Division 1 and Division 2 schools for at least two years and recruiters have regularly come to watch her play.
Sorting through the various offers she has received has been a long and tedious process. Hincka has visited several schools to get a feel for the campuses and the cities. Above all, she's looked for a school that focuses more on her field of study than athletics.
"The biggest thing for me (when it comes to choosing a college) is that it has a good program for the field I want to study, so that I can be prepared for a career after college. Location is also a big thing. I don't want any place that is too far from home or too big. I need to find a campus and town where I fit in," Hincka said.
Tips to help an athlete pick a college
- Decide what program you want to study and the college experience you desire.
- Consider the size of the city, as well as the reputation of the college.
- Find a college athletic program that suits your skill level and style of play.
- Apply for as many scholarships as possible, including athletic and academic.
- Narrow your list down to colleges that are willing to offer or accept your scholarships.
- Visit the campus of any college you're interested in attending. Visit with potential coaches, teachers and the Dean.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help from parents, family, friends, teachers or coaches in making your final decision.
Hincka has had a lot of help from her parents, Eric and Tammy as well as coach Karl Momrik.
"He's (Momrik) been pretty important. It's definitely a lot easier with everybodies help, so that I'm not making difficult decisions all on my own. But he's been a good supporter and has really helped us through the process and giving me good advice on which college I should pick," she said.
Like basketball players who are recruited, Hincka is hard working, and dedicates her summer to playing Amateur Athletic Union or AAU basketball. Players involved in AAU play upwards of 50 games per summer to hone their skills and to get noticed by potential recruiters.
"I've definitely gotten better (playing in the AAU) and there are always a lot of recruiters and scouts at the games. You see a lot of Division 1 scouts there, anywhere from 20 to 25 per game," Hincka said.
The benefits of catching the eye of a recruiter are incredibly tempting for high school athletes. Alpena boys basketball coach John Pintar often spots recruiters in the audience at basketball games and sometimes spots changes in some players.
"It can be a positive and negative thing (to have recruiters in the audience). Sometimes, a player goes out of their mind when they know there's a scout there and they get so focused that they have the game of their life. I've seen it work against us too, when a player gets distracted and actually plays worse," Pintar said.
For many area athletes, catching the eye of a recruiter and obtaining a scholarship may be the only chance they have of attending college as student loan rates remain high and the economy is still slowly recovering. Some athletes choose a lower cost education alternative, such as community college. Alpena Community College gives out scholarships to many area athletes, often giving full scholarships, due to the relatively low attendance cost.
Northeast Michigan athletes can also be hampered by the relative isolation of the area when it comes to attracting the attention of big name college recruiters.
Alcona senior Karina Cole is an AAU teammate of Hincka's and while she's been a star for the Tigers for three seasons, she may be handicapped by what Alcona coach Brad Cole has described as a bias many downstate recruiters have against Northeast Michigan players.
"Sometimes it can be really political and about who you know. I knew this recruiter downstate that said 'You're from Northeast Michigan, we don't take them (players from the area), they don't play defense.' That's really frustrating to hear, especially when Karina is winning awards for her defense," he said.
Like Hincka, Cole is trying to find the right fit when it comes to choosing a school both for her education and playing style. She and her family have put in a lot of leg work, sending letters to schools expressing interest and have visited at least one school as she goes through her search.
"It's kind of hard weeding out colleges. I'm trying to find a Christian college in Michigan, that has my major and isn't too far from home," Cole said. "Sometimes, there are teams that fit me well, but there isn't any scholarship. Or they offer a scholarship, but the team isn't right for me."
Cole has been helped out in her search by her father Brad and her mother Lucy. They understand the difficulties of attempting to get an athletic scholarship.
"It's been quite an ordeal (looking through the applications), but she (Karina) has a bit of a different opportunity. She's smart, like her mother, and she's is more interested in getting an athletic scholarship, that gives her the opportunity to play ball too," Brad said.
Like Hincka, Karina fully understands how important the AAU league and her other summer league games have been towards her collegiate pursuits.
"It's really a good way to get better and it really showcases a lot of elite girls. You get really close with them and learn how to adapt to different playing styles," she said.
Grabbing the attention of recruiters requires a lot of work and athletes have to put in countless hours outside of school to hone their skills.
Alpena senior Taylor Genschaw is just beginning her search to find an opportunity to participate in college athletics. She competes in both track and volleyball for the Wildcats and is beginning to see some interest from colleges.
"I actually just got some stuff in the mail from Saginaw Valley and Wayne State. I haven't visited many colleges yet, but I have visited Saginaw Valley's campus for volleyball camps, so I have an idea what they are like. I guess it all depends on which school has the right program for me," she said.
For hardworking senior athletes like Genschaw, a stand-out senior year can catch the eye of recruiters. This is especially true of talented athletes that come into their own later in their high school careers.
"It's a little more difficult (finding scholarships) but I've had some offers. You kind of just have to get your name out there and get noticed," she said. "If a good offer comes in, even from a small college, and the college is right for me, I'll take it."
Eric Benac can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.