Want to be a college athlete? Then listen up

Prospective student athletes who have verbally committed to playing sports for a specific college or university will start officially signing their letters of intent as early as tomorrow.

However, according to Amanda Paterson, the compliance coordinator for the University of Hawai‘i, other athletes may have the desire to play college sports, but don’t know how to go through the process of becoming eligible by NCAA’s standards.

She said the most common problems the coordinators run into is the athletes themselves don’t know exactly what to do.

“They don’t register,” she said. “They’re not getting the right advice and they don’t know what courses they have to take.”

Several athletes interviewed by The Garden Island thought that if they were merely good at sports, coaches would come to them. This is not the case.

All athletes must register with the official eligibility center and meet with a counselor to make sure they are taking the precise classes in order to fulfill the 16 core-course rule required of those wishing to play in Division I.

“And that’s just to play sports. That’s not just for scholarships,” Paterson said. “That’s another misperception some of the students have. They think they have to fulfill the requirements just for scholarships. But it’s not just that. It’s if they want to play at all.”

Paterson spoke at the Lihu‘e Neighborhood Center on Saturday to address some of the questions parents and students had about becoming a college athlete. She also brought with her guidelines to follow and information on becoming a college athlete.

“Knowing the right information is going to help you out,” she told the crowd. “You need to start now.”

The first step, she explained, is to be registered with the eligibility center. At the beginning of their junior year, all prospective college athletes should register and complete the amateurism questionnaire, verifying that he/she is not a professional athlete, nor has he/she played with any.

The next step is to register and take the required assessment tests — the ACTs and SAT — and have those scores sent directly to the eligibility center. The scores must be sent directly to the center or they will not be looked at, even if they are already noted on high school transcripts. They must be sent separately.

Paterson then reiterated the importance of taking all the required classes and passing them. One of the keys to staying on track is double-checking with the counselor to make sure  the requirements are being met.

“No senioritis,” Paterson said. “Keep your grades up all the way through high school and graduate on time.”

Athletes short a credit may take summer school to make it up.

Once all the requirements are met, the athletes receive a “qualified” status, meaning they are eligible to play and receive scholarships to play at the Division I level.

A “non-qualified” status means that the athletes may not practice, run or do anything with the team and the athletes will have to sit out a year.

Paterson lastly emphasized the importance of responsibility.

“It’s up to you,” she said. “Everything you do, you’ve got to be the one who does it.”

To bring home the points on taking the NCAA seriously, two parents of successful locally raised athletes, who have gone through the collegiate process and have gone on to be professionals, were guests speakers at the event.

Janna Yates, mother of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Yates, and Darla Higa, mother of Detroit Lions linebacker Jordon Dizon, offered their advice of getting through it all.

Yates has gone through this process three times. First with Tyler, then with her second son Spencer and finally with her third son Kirby. All were successful baseball players from Kaua‘i High School.

“It was horrendous at the time,” Yates said as she described having to keep her sons on the right NCAA track.

Yates also made sure to keep things positive as she urged the athletes in attendance to keep at their sport and continue to study in class.

“If you have talent, practice hard,” she said. “And have a backup. Your backup is your grades. At any time, anything can happen. When you go to college, keep up with your grades. It can’t hurt. If something happens and you can’t play sports, then you have your education. The most wonderful thing is that (the college) has paid for your education.”

Higa told the crowd that they should be proud to be from Kaua‘i because it’s a simple place.

“Be humble. The bling, bling isn’t going to get you anywhere,” she said. “Look at these two boys (Jordon and Tyler). They made it to the pros and they’re nice and they’re humble. Any of you kids now, you can make it.”

Dizon, a 2004 Waimea High School graduate, went on to play football at the University of Colorado.

Higa wanted to stress the idea of going to any of the colleges that come calling.

“Some kids have this dream to go to big, fancy schools. That’s nice, but go where it’s free. It’s a good opportunity and great start in life. Get an education,” she said.

“My favorite saying is ‘No one can promise me tomorrow.’ Do it now. There might not be a tomorrow. If someone is giving you this opportunity, it’s there. Do it. And anyone who goes to the Mainland, stick it out. It’s hard, but you have to stick it out.”

Student athletes Trent Allianic, Jessica Iwata and Skye Shimabukuro won’t be going too far geographically. All three Kaua‘i High School seniors have verbally committed to the University of Hawai‘i.

Allianic, an all-state and Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation all-star, may be signing as early as tomorrow. He said his process of being recruited to play baseball was easy because he started his junior year and received a lot of help from coaches.

“The baseball coaches all helped me a lot in making sure I did everything right,” Allianic said. “You have to meet all the language and English requirements. I sent my transcripts to UH and they told me I was eligible.”

Iwata, an all-state and KIF all-star for softball, was recruited to play shortstop.

“It was kind of stressful, trying to keep up with everything, but basically the coach told me what to do and I had to do it if I wanted to play,” Iwata said.

Shimabukuro verbally committed but will sign with Hawai‘i to play soccer later in the school year. Allianic and Iwata started prepping for the NCAA their junior years. Shimabukuro started earlier with the help of her O‘ahu soccer club, Real.

“They really pushed (all the girls) to start getting ready our sophomore year,” Shimabukuro said.

“But because the NCAA doesn’t start taking anything before junior year, I made sure I did everything I was supposed to and I printed out all the forms and filled them out early so that when the time came, I was ready. I knew how to prepare for this.”

Waimea senior football player Saui Matagiese is still in the process of being recruited and will most likely sign with a school before the end of this season. Colorado coach Brian Cabral is said to be one of the coaches coming to town within the next couple weeks to speak with a player.

As of press time, there were no Kapa‘a High School athletes known to TGI who will be signing with a college this week.

For more information regarding the rules of the NCAA, visit www.ncaa.org and click on “Academics and Athletes,” then “Eligibility and Recruiting.”

More information can also be found on www.ncaaclearinghouse.net

• Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com

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