The 40-yard dash is one of many tests that scouts look at to determin a players athletic abilities. Photo by Jason Lewis
The 5-10-5 shuttle drill shows how well an ahtlete can move his hips, and how quickly he can start, stop, and start again. Photo by Jason Lewis
The vertical jump test is not just about how high an athlete can jump, it is shows explosive power. Athletes who hit the weight room and do squats, deadlifts, power cleans, and other explosive movements usually do well in this test. Photo by Jason Lewis
Nike Sparq combine evaluates high school football players and NCSA provides vital information to be recruited to college.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
The recruiting game is drastically different from what it was years ago, and the athletes who know that have an advantage over those who do not. Athletes in all sports can make a name for themselves during the offseason and catch the eye of college recruiters by attending camps and clinics, and by taking advantage of the internet.
That is where Nike and the NCSA comes into play. This past Saturday at Cerritos College, Nike held one of their many Nike Sparq combines, where they tested athletes in the 40-yard dash, agility shuttle, and vertical jump. The numbers from those tests alone do not mean that an athlete can play football at a high level, but it is a good indication of who has the best shot of playing at a high level.
These tests tell the athletes where they are now, how they compare to other athletes who are also trying to obtain college scholarships, and which areas that they need to work on to make themselves more appealing to college scouts.
"We've been doing these deals for 17 years, so have a lot of data on a lot of really great athletes," said Jay Matthews, who is with Nike. "We can tell them what percentiles that their overall scores fall in. Using those percentiles they can identify their strengths and what we call opportunities to improve their ratings."
In football, the faster and more explosive athletes usually have an advantage. At the Nike Sparq combine, the players can see where their strengths and weaknesses are, and they can adjust their training accordingly.
Matthews pointed out that the data compiled is just one piece of football, and that a player's greatest chance of obtaining a scholarship will be by playing great on Friday nights during the fall and winter. But using the Nike Sparq combine is a barometer, and it is one thing that the college scouts use. That is one way that Randy Taylor, Director of Recruiting at the NCSA, sees it.
"It's an opportunity for these athletes to put measurable, the 40, the shuttle, and the vertical, online so college coaches have an opportunity to evaluate those numbers in line with the height and weight, and see if those athletes fit those specific numbers that they want," Taylor said. "It's the first step in the recruiting process."
The NCSA is one of the premier athletic recruitment websites, where high school athletes can create a profile and it makes it easier for college scouts to keep track of players from around the nation.
At the Nike Sparq combine, Taylor spoke to the parents and gave them a lot of valuable advice.
"It starts early," Taylor said. "There are already two 8th graders that have been offered football scholarships. That's the class of 2017. The recruiting process starts early. Ninth grade English is just as important as 12th grade English. The college coaches are always evaluating athletes. If you know that the coaches are starting early, then you have to start being a better prospect early."
In the past it was the high school football coaches who made the call for athletes to get recruited, but things are different today.
"It's not that you can't rely on your high school coach, it's that you shouldn't rely on your high school coach," Taylor said. "It's not their job. It's your job as the high school athlete to get yourself recruited. The high school coach will help as much as they can, as much as their budget allows. Do they have video editing, all the things that you have to have to help a young athlete, male of female, get recruited? Sometimes those coaches don't have that. Maybe they're old school and they do things a certain way. That may not be what's needed these days for recruiting. Or they have many other athletes, and they teach a class, and they have their own families."
Taylor recommends that players get evaluated by a third party service, such as Nike or the NCSA, and that they obtain as much video as possible. At the Nike Sparq combine, college recruiters can easily obtain those numbers, and the recruiters will trust the source. As for video, Taylor believes that is of great importance for any athlete trying to get to the next level.
"They have to understand how important video is," Taylor said. "We say video is king, because you cannot be recruited without a great highlight video. The highlight video will get a coach to watch game video, so a video is like a calling card. It's your first impression, and it is a lasting impression."
Taylor does give one warning. When going to a combine or any type of event that includes testing, be prepared. Bad times or results can hurt an aspiring athlete, so athletes need to train hard before they are tested.
High school athletes that want to enhance their chances of being recruited need to work hard, do well in school, and promote themselves.