Mario Mathis was Thomasville High School’s top linebacker. During his junior year, Mathis was recruited by a handful of prestigious colleges before decidedly signing with Ole Miss in May of 2013. It was also during his junior year that Mathis suffered a serious ACL tear. Though Ole Miss was aware of the injury, they ended up revoking their promised scholarship at the end of July due to concern of Mathis’s recovery (1). Because of his commitment to Ole Miss, he’d stopped all communication with other schools and, in the end, was left to start at square one with the recruiting process.
We hear this story all too often – an all-star high school athlete experiences a career-threatening injury during the college recruitment process and are forced to reevaluate their options. During your time as a high school (and colligate athlete) there are two important steps you should take to help prevent injury in the first place:
- Listen to your body. Sore, tight muscles and a stiff, achy body are common for all athletes, especially in the first stages of training and practicing. Ability Rehabilitation Specialist, Wendy Benwell suggests that tightness, soreness, and stiffness should diminish after 10 minutes of warm-up exercises. If sharp pain continues after warming up, you could be experiencing a serious injury and should seek medical attention from a trainer or Doctor immediately (2). Listening to your body is imperative when it comes to preventing overuse injuries, which leads to the second important tip…
- Avoid overuse. Though pushing yourself during exercise is necessary for improvement, make sure you are not over working your body to the point of injury. It’s suggested to use the “10 percent Rule” when working to prevent overuse injuries. To allow your body time (at least 1 day a week) to adjust, respond and recover, do not increase your activity more than 10 percent per week (3). Also, take advantage of breaks during practice and conditioning. Taking sufficient rest periods during exercise reduces the risk of injury and also provides crucial time to stretch, adjust equipment and, most importantly, hydrate.
Unfortunately, injury can still occur even when taking the necessary prevention steps. In the event of an injury during the college recruitment process, refer to this simple checklist of DO’s and DON’T’s to set you up for the best possible outcome:
DON’T assume your career is suddenly over. As you’ll soon read, there are lots of positive steps you can take to stay in the recruitment game.
DO make a full-game video. While many people suggest making a highlight video to send out to coaches, RSN recommends making a video displaying your talents throughout an entire game. Highlight videos make every athlete look like a pro and to be quite honest, coaches don’t recruit based on strictly highlights. Unlike other recruitment networks, RSN has the capability and allows you the ability to upload full game video. Let coaches see your skills HERE.
DON’T slack on academics. Working hard to excel in the classroom not only proves commitment and determination, it reflects well on your ability to succeed and increases your prospective college options. After all, being a student-athlete means academics always come first.
DO know every detail of your injury. Know the projected time it will take for a full recovery as well as the date your doctor believes you to be ready to begin practicing. It’s also helpful to know the extent and type of rehabilitation training you’ll be doing. All of this information will be valuable when talking to prospective coaches.
DO perform your rehab program diligently. Doing so helps ensure your recovery and gives you better odds of getting back to full strength.
DON’T hide your injury or stop communicating with coaches. Be open and honest about your recovery plan and remain a strong, participating member of your team. Use your time off to study your sport- watch practices, be involved and learn everything you can from the sideline.
DO consider other options and backup plans. Sometimes recovery doesn’t go exactly as planned, so it’s a good idea to have multiple options. For example, consider attending a Junior College or Prep School. If your injury hasn’t healed in time to commit to a four-year school, attending either is a great alternative. It provides you the chance to participate in the sport you love while also gaining experience that will be valuable when transferring to another program.
It is essential to keep yourself healthy and make a conscious effort to prevent yourself from injury. If an injury happens to occur, it’s important that follow these important steps while on the road to recovery. Don’t throw in the towel and give up on your goal of playing at the next level. Go the extra yard and show the coaches what you’re made of – with or without an injury. While your options may be initially limited, other attractive ones may present themselves and enable you to realize your dream.