Women's Basketball Scholarship: The Ultimate Guide
If you are new to the recruitment process, you may be thinking:
“Where do I start?”
Although the college recruiting process can be daunting, it doesn’t have to be.
This guide will help ease your concerns and teach you everything you need to know about the recruiting process. With these tips, you will learn how to increase your chances of scoring a women’s basketball scholarship.
Here, you will find:
- How to stand out amongst your competitors
- How to pick a school and program that is right for you
- How to become academically eligible
- How to improve your odds of landing a women’s basketball scholarship, and
- How to get seen
Collegiate athletic recruiting is a highly competitive process. Before you begin reaching out to schools and college coaches, you want to make sure you are in the right position to do so. Let’s start by talking about you:
How to Stand Out Amongst Your Competitors
There is no doubt that the better you are as a player, the better your chances are of making it to the next level.
How to get good:
Begin with the basics.
Basketball is a fast-paced game and ultimately your athleticism and performance starts with mastering the fundamentals.
For example, make sure you are able to finish around the basket with both hands.
No right handed layups on the left side of the goal.
You also want to know how to...
...dribble well with both hands and have a solid free throw percentage.
Improving these skills comes with practice.
You can make the most out of your practice time by:
Practicing by yourself,
Playing 1 on 1 with a teammate,
And playing full games, even if it’s just pick up.
A combination of the three -- practicing, playing 1 on 1, and full games -- will yield the greatest benefits and results.
All in all:
It’s important to balance practicing the fundamentals.
For example, instead of only playing pickup, you should add a routine of taking a certain number of shots every day. 500 is a good place to start.
By mastering the fundamental skills, you will have an advantage over your competition and prove to coaches that you have what it takes to play women’s basketball in college.
Camps and clinics:
Camps and clinics are great opportunities to improve your technique and skills.
Research women’s basketball clinics being held by the schools you are interested in.
Not only will these clinics help improve your strength and skills,
Clinics can give you advice for on and off the court.
This is the easiest way to get in contact with coaches face-to-face.
Your attendance also demonstrates your initiative and work ethic as an athlete, as well as your interest in a specific program.
Through practice and clinics, you will make yourself not only a more valuable asset to your own team, but also a more competitive athlete in the recruiting process...
Focusing on your own skills is important, but finding a program that you would like to contribute those skills to is also important.
This leads us to our next topic of discussion:
How to Pick a School and Program that is Right for You
The earlier you start researching, the better off you will be.
First, start by defining your own goals and aspirations.
What do you want out of a collegiate athletic experience?
Do you want college to help put you in a position to play for the WNBA? Or does that not appeal to you?
How important is your academic career to you?
Do you want basketball to consume your time? Or would you like to be able to join clubs and extracurriculars?
These questions are a good start to help guide you towards a program that matches with your own values.
But what’s the point of starting early?
Because women’s basketball is a team sport, you will find that recruiting typically takes place earlier than individual sports.
By defining your own goals and knowing about the programs that appeal to you, you develop more concrete goals to work towards.
Each school has their own requirements and expectations.
Do the research and know what you are working towards in order to accomplish your goals.
If you know the GPA requirements early on, you can start working on your grades at the beginning of your freshman year.
The Differences between NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA
This next section will distinguish the differences between each of the leagues in collegiate athletics to help you determine where you fit in.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA, is the most competitive league for student-athletes interested in playing in college. Constituted by three divisions, the NCAA includes 1,117 colleges and universities.
What’s the difference between divisions?
The divisions differ based on how schools fund and dedicate resources towards their athletics programs.
Division I: About 350 schools in Division I offer women’s basketball programs. These universities devote the most amount of funding towards their athletic programs and generate the largest fanbase as compared to Division II and III.
What does this mean for you?
Because Division I athletic events are the most highly showcased, your chances of landing it on an ESPN highlight reel are greatly increased.
In 2018, the Women’s NCAA Tournament generated 352,000 viewers per window on ESPN and ESPN2 during just the first two rounds.
So you can only guess the number of viewers during the final match.
Athletic recruiting at the Division I level is extremely competitive. Many Division I athletes have aspirations of playing professionally in the WNBA or overseas.
So, what does this mean for your scholarship opportunities?
Because Division I schools dedicate the largest amount of resources towards their athletic programs, they are able to give away the most generous number of full-ride scholarships. A little over 5,000 scholarships are available for Division I women’s basketball.
Partial scholarships do not exist at the Division I level.
It is important to know that some colleges do not always give away their maximum number of scholarships.
And despite their abilities, some colleges choose not to offer athletic scholarships in their entirety. For example, Ivy League schools do not offer these types of scholarships by choice.
Division II: There are more than 300 Division II women’s basketball programs, but you may be wondering:
What sets them apart from Division I?
Division II universities are typically smaller and do not place as much of an emphasis on funding their athletic programs.
So, what does this mean for your scholarship opportunities?
Very few Division II schools offer full-ride scholarships. The majority are partial scholarships.
But don’t worry:
Although Division II colleges and universities do not offer as much athletic funding, many student-athletes in Division II receive a combination of aid through academic scholarships, need-based grants, and/or employment earnings.
Ok, but why is Division II so great?
Division II programs offer the collegiate athletic experience without the added pressure of thousands of fans watching you.
The competition is a little less intense, allowing you to focus more of your energy towards academics and school-based experiences outside of basketball.
Division III: As opposed to the other divisions in the NCAA, Division III consists of the largest number of schools out of all three divisions. But, these universities do not offer athletic scholarships.
In this division, there is more of an emphasis placed on academics over athletics.
They can offer other types of financial aid, such as academic scholarships.
What does this mean for you?
If you still want the experience of playing women’s basketball at the collegiate level, Division III will still offer you that experience.
You will have the opportunity to focus more on your schoolwork and other school-based experiences (i.e. study abroad, school clubs, etc.).
Shorter practice times and playing seasons will reduce the amount of time you are away from school, and games will be more regionally-focused.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, NAIA, includes over 250 colleges that are divided into two divisions: Division I and Division II.
What’s the difference between the NCAA and the NAIA?
Schools in the NAIA are generally smaller and the level of competition resembles that of NCAA Division II schools.
Are the scholarship opportunities different?
Similar to NCAA Division II, full-ride scholarships exist but are not as common. In the NAIA, you are more likely to receive a partial scholarship.
The National Junior College Athletic Association, NJCAA, is composed of 525 2-year colleges and is divided into three divisions.
After you complete two years, it is possible to transfer to a four year university, where you can also earn a scholarship.
Do they offer athletic scholarships?
Yes, the NJCAA offers full ride and partial scholarships.
So, why choose a school in the NJCAA?
Junior colleges help athletes get noticed by college coaches at four year universities and are typically for student-athletes with weak academic records.
Now that you have an understanding of the different programs available to you, let’s talk about how to become eligible to play collegiate sports.
How to become academically eligible
If you’re interested in playing in Division I or Division II women’s basketball, you need to cover a couple of bases first…
You need to become eligible.
Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center (NCAA Clearinghouse).
The NCAA Eligibility Center will verify that you meet the academic requirements to play in college.
You must have a minimum 2.3 high school GPA after completion of all your core courses.
You must score a minimum SAT or ACT score based on your GPA. These standards are explained by the NCAA sliding scale.
What’s the sliding scale?
The sliding scale explains that if you have a lower GPA, you can meet the eligibility requirements with a higher SAT or ACT test score.
And vice versa.
If your GPA falls below 2.3, can you still meet the academic eligibility requirements to become eligible?
If you graduate with a GPA lower than 2.3, you will not be able to compete during your first year of women’s basketball.
But, you do have the option to qualify as an academic redshirt.
Yes, an academic redshirt has the ability to practice during their first year and also has the ability to receive an athletic scholarship.
If you want to qualify, however, your GPA must be at least 2.0 by the time you graduate.
Changing your GPA is harder to do later in high school, so keep in mind that scoring well on the SAT or ACT is your best bet at passing the NCAA eligibility requirements.
But, if your GPA falls below 2.0, you will not be deemed at all eligible to play women’s collegiate basketball.
NCAA Division III also requires you to uphold certain academic eligibility requirements, but these standards are based on the university that you are planning to attend.
For Division III athletics, it is not required that you register for the NCAA Eligibility Center.
It is recommended.
Do prospective NAIA and NJCAA student-athletes also have to worry about upholding academic standards?
Yes, the NAIA also has an Eligibility Center that prospective NAIA athletes are required to register with.
For the NJCAA…
...you are expected to uphold the academic standards of the institution which you are interested in.
Colleges and universities prefer prospective student-athletes with a strong academic records.
Strong academics suggest you will be more prepared for college-level work requirements.
Less-likely to end up on academic probation.
Make good grades early on in your high school career.
Your GPA is harder to change the older you get.
Once you meet the eligibility requirements to play women’s basketball in college,
You are on your way to playing a college sport.
Let’s talk about how to increase your odds of getting recruited.
How to Improve Your Odds of Landing a Women’s Basketball Scholarship
With thousands of athletes across the nation who are in the same position as you, it’s important to stand out amongst the competition.
The truth is:
A resume and online presence is essential to the recruiting process.
Coaches use social media to connect and discover student athletes,
A resume will prove how you are qualified and why you are a good fit for collegiate athletics.
Social media is great platform…
For socializing and also for marketing yourselves to coaches.
Think of yourself as a brand.
What you share on social media is a direct reflection of who you are and what you are doing.
Coaches will either leave with a positive impression of you…
Or a negative one.
Coaches use social media to get a better understanding of who you are as a person
And whether you are good fit for their program.
85% of coaches turned to social media for these reasons in 2014-15.
So, share content that will highlight you in positive ways.
This also goes for the content that gets shared to your profiles.
Monitor the posts that friends share to your profiles to avoid the risk of putting your image or scholarship in harm’s way.
Did you know:
19% of scholarship offers were rescinded in 2014-2015 after content on social media revealed athletes in a negative light.
Positive Digital Identity:
Use social media to create a positive student-athlete brand.
Post photos of your extracurriculars.
For example, photos of charity work and volunteering will show coaches more about your character off the court
Be professional and humbly highlight your accomplishments
Use your RecruitRef profile to share these elements and make it easy for coaches to discover you.
A RecruitRef profile will make it easy for coaches to find all the information they are looking for in a streamlined, professional manner.
A quick search will yield results that will make it easier for them to find you and your profile.
By sharing your profile with coaches, they will also have the ability to re-find all the information about you at a later time.
A highlight video is the easiest way for a college coach to see your skills and abilities and is essential to building your profile.
Be sure to have multiple videos…
With at least one video of you playing against man-to-man and zone defense.
Limit yourself to one single “highlight video”. While it may be hard to resist showing off all of your best plays, coaches want to see how you contribute to the flow of the game.
Include clear footage and visibly identify yourself.
Research the programs you are interested in and analyze their playing styles.
Include their playing tactics in your video.
For example, if you know the team loves to use a ¾ court 1-3-1 press…
...film yourself playing that defense.
And don’t forget:
Share this video on your RecruitRef profile…
All the information coaches are looking for turn up on your easily-discoverable profile.
It’s time to discuss how you can take the initiative to market yourself even more.
How to get Coaches to Notice You
Reach out to coaches:
Market yourself by sending emails to the coaches of programs you are interested in.
The truth is:
Coaches aren’t likely to find you by themselves.
Only 2% of college athletes were discovered by their coach.
Find a coach’s contact information and tell them why you are interested in their program and how you would be a good fit.
And don’t forget:
Link your RecruitRef profile in your email, which…
Gives them access to all of your statistics, skills videos, and accomplishments in one place.
This method is user-friendly,
Coaches can search your profile at any time and re-analyze your videos, stats, and even off-court activities.
But be aware:
Do NOT send out a generic email to a mass list of coaches. They will lose interest and will not respond.
Personalize your email.
Here’s a good “personalized” template:
Coach [insert coach’s last name],
My name is [insert name]. I am a [insert year in school] on the girls basketball team at [insert school name] and I am [insert height]. I am a dedicated, hard working student-athlete interested in playing basketball at [insert college name]. Based on my consistent outstanding performance on and off the court, I was recognized as [insert award or milestone (i.e. First Team All-State)] this past season. In addition, I have lead my team to [insert accomplishment (i.e. two state titles)].
It is because of my love for this game that I would like to play for your team and program. [insert college name] is so appealing to me because of it’s long-standing emphasis not only on the sport, but also on character-building. I would love the opportunity to support [insert mascot name], not only as a student, but as a student-athlete.
Attached you will find my highlight video and statistics.
I look forward to hearing back,
[insert your name]
Your email should contain a brief description of who you are as a student-athlete.
Noticed I said student-athlete.
Coaches care just as much about your academic performance as they do your athletic abilities.
Be honest with coaches.
This leads us to our next point of discussion:
Be open, confident, and persistent.
By sharing your RecruitRef profile with links to other social media…
It shows that you have nothing to hide and gives them insight into your character.
Be confident about yourself.
If college coaches respond to your emails, or reach out to you, always respond
But what if a college who is reaching out to you doesn’t interest you?
Even if you are not completely interested in the school, it is good to keep your options open until you are 100% sure that you are not interested.
You never know where you might end up until you actually commit to a school.
The coaching world is small.
There are times when coaches discover student-athletes, but find they are not exactly the right fit for their program.
A coach can share that student-athlete with another coach. It happens all the time.
Demonstrate character in all your interactions with coaches, which could increase your chances of falling into an opportunity you didn’t know existed.