Beyond Athletic Abilities

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There are volumes of information on the How To's for everything...especially in the recruiting realm for collegiate sports. I have even written some over the past few years with the goal of aiding athletes and parents on the practical ins and outs of collegiate recruiting. I scan countless websites, blogs, social media blurbs and many hours of reading books with the goal of satiating my passion for learning, being challenged, staying current and hearing about how others impact lives for the better.

Most recently, I read a book that has propelled me to be more keenly aware of how important it is for young athletes to look beyond the sport. I was deep in the task of surveying college coaches on the characteristics that they look for in athletes they recruit, primarily those innate qualities that super cede their athletic abilities. Not only was the book a recommendation but it was his answer to my question. "Read the book" he said, "and you will know what I look for in an athlete, I look for #21's!

Now, I had heard about the book and knew it had some impactful information for young athletes, was inspirational and had some practical ways to become a better teammate. What I was not ready for was the punch in the gut as I delved into the first few chapters.

I began to learn about a young man who played Lacrosse at Cornell University in 2004...a stud of an athlete...a top recruit in his class...a brilliant long-stick & short-stick mid-fielder...a student and an athlete that set new standards in the sport... but most importantly a young man that continues to impact the lives of countless of people that he will never get the chance to meet.

I want to deviate for a moment and share that over the past year, I have been more intentional in my recruiting meetings with athletes encouraging them to be 'more aware' of who they are as a person, athlete, young woman, student, daughter, teammate...more aware of the impact that they can have on others around them as a prospective collegiate athlete. I have been amazed at the personal growth some of these young women have made...transforming into better teammates, friends, and citizens. The sport gives them the platform to be influential beyond the numbers on the scoreboard, beyond earning a starting position, beyond counting wins and losses. They have allowed coaches to teach and lead them, chosen to work hard, sweat hard, beat the odds in recruiting and overcome great adversity. I have seen some of these young women begin their journey to become #21's!

DEAR PROSPECTIVE STUDENT ATHLETES, I want you to really grasp this...THE SPORT DOES NOT DEFINE YOU, IT IS WHAT YOU DO & NOT WHO YOU ARE! You are defined by your character, work ethic, compassion, drive, enthusiasm, your ability to fail, and your sheer will to succeed. If you want to 'win' at this recruiting game (as many of you call it), then you have to focus beyond your athletic abilities and put extraordinary effort into developing who you are as person. Become hungry to know more about how you can be a the type of person that lives by the motto: "Well done is better than well said" (#2 on the journey to become a #21!)

At this point, it's probably best to acknowledge the efforts of Jon Gordon, author and speaker who is passionate about developing positive leaders, organizations and teams. Jon authored the book, The Hard Hat and he is very straightforward as to how his life was greatly impacted by the remarkable life of a young collegiate athlete who left a legacy that he had no idea he was building.

This is not a sales pitch to hop online immediately and order the book (although I did), but it is a challenge to find out a little more about what it takes to become a #21.

Young athlete – be ready to look inside yourself and do the 'HARD WORK' and be willing to DO WHAT IT TAKES to earn the opportunity to carry the HARD HAT! This next club season, you will choose to invest hours of practice, shed buckets of sweat, weekends away at tournaments all with the goal of playing at the next level. If you want to be 'noticed' by college coaches, the amount of sweat you shed must also come from the commitment to grow as a person, teammate, student, friend and leader.

While it is important in the recruiting process to spend time reaching out to college coaches and sharing your video highlights and athletic achievements, it is even more crucial that you spend time working on the really 'tough' part of being a collegiate athlete: dedication, perseverance, overcoming adversity, servant leadership, compassion, selflessness. You simply must be dedicated to cultivate your character along with advancing your athletic skills.

Yes, I know it all sounds like a lot of work and it is! Great effort equals great dividends and a lifetime of rewards. If you choose to invest in 'one thing', please consider taking the time to find out more about the Cornell Lacrosse player, Mario St. 'George' Boiardi, #21.

Authors Note: As I was preparing this article and in search of the book, I uncovered that Mike Lingenfelter, Munciana 18O Samurai Head Coach gave each one of his athletes a copy of 'The Hard Hat' as a postseason gift. I asked Mike for a quote, to sum up his thoughts on the subject matter... "Being a great teammate simply requires belief and adherence to servant leadership. When you serve your teammates, you are elevating them, they are valued and motivated. The great teammate (servant leader) raises their team's value by raising their teammates first!"

Jon Gordon's book, 'The Hard Hat' is available online through & 100% of the proceeds from this book goes to the Mario St. 'George' Boiardi Foundation.

For related reading on the volleyball recruiting process click here. For more resources on the volleyball recruiting process click here.

About the Author

Patty Costlow is heading into her third year as the Recruiting Coordinator Munciana Volleyball, a long time JVA member club located in Muncie, Indiana. She has been involved in the sport of volleyball at various levels for over 30 years (club coach, program director, program development, semi-pro beach and indoor player). Utilizing her 30+ years of experience in both playing and coaching/teaching the sport of volleyball, it was a natural progression for her to transition into the recruiting arena. Patty brings her passion for developing leaders and helping young athletes pursue their life goals to all aspects of her responsibilities as the Recruiting Coordinator for one of the top clubs in the country. She developed a comprehensive program for Munciana VBC and speaks on a national level to parents/athletes in regards to collegiate recruiting. In addition, Patty consults with volleyball clubs on building their recruiting programs. Patty is a mother of four and resides in Carmel, Indiana with her husband, Chris. She is graduate of the University of Illinois.


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