Standing out, in a field of college-caliber competitive athletes


Most of us know a "blue chip" athlete when we walk onto a field or into a gym, as they clearly stand out as the best player. "Blue chip" athletes are typically found by college coaches in the freshmen or sophomore year and are mid-to-high Division I players. This type of player is normally recruited to play on the best club or AAU teams, and doesn't have to do a great deal to be recruited and receive scholarship offers. As always, there are exceptions. Some high-level DI athletes aren't found until after their sophomore year, as they might grow or develop their skills late.  Of course, they can be missed by college coaches — especially if they aren't playing on the right AAU/Club teams.

A"yellow chip" athlete is a player trying to make a  Division III team, up to a low-level Division I player. While some of these players can be found, like "blue chip" athletes, by being on the right AAU/Club team, typically they have to work at it much harder. Think about it, if your son or daughter attends a basketball camp with 400 kids, how many 6'0 combo guards will be in attendance? 200? What makes your son or daughter stand out among the 200 kids? Certainly their ability and grades are a good starting point. So eliminate the top 20 kids, ability and grade-wise, and now you have 180 kids they need to compete against.

To stand out they need to make sure college coaches are at the event specifically to watch your son or daughter. To hope coaches are going to find them among 180 is wishful thinking. Typically, a coach is going to see them play for five minutes and they need to impress. To ensure coaches watch your son or daughter play they need to either have an advocate, know how to market themselves, or both. They can market themselves by emailing college coaches a resume and video. Unfortunately, this method is hit or miss. Coaches receive hundreds, sometimes thousands of emails from potential recruits and don't have the time or resources to look at every one. I still would recommend you try and reach out to coaches, as there are many success stories through self-marketing.

The other avenue is having an advocate. This person needs to be someone the college coach respects and knows they understand the game. It can be a high school coach, club coach, or advisor. It all depends on their background and the available time they have to help you. When a college coach hears from someone they trust, that person validates that the student athlete has the grades and ability to play at their level. This means that instead of watching your son or daughter at camp for five minutes, they might watch for two games to do a true evaluation. At this point, the coach has to decide if the student athlete is better than the others they are evaluating for the upcoming class.

Remember the vast majority of players are "yellow chip" recruits and need to find a way to be seen by college coaches.  Besides improving your game and grades, marketing yourself and/or having an advocate are key.

Sean Casey is a former college coach and owner of Scholar Athlete Consulting, a company that guides families through the college search process. Scholar Athlete Consulting will be offering a free college recruiting workshop from 6:30-7:30 p.m., on Monday, Nov. 25, at the Portsmouth Public Library. For more information or to register go to:


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.