It’s the time of year when high school senior athletes begin dreaming about taking their talents to the next level.
Payson High School sports stars are not immune to those imaginings — some seniors are now exploring their options and wondering what it takes to earn a scholarship.
Parents are also showing concern because most also dream of their child earning a major college athletic scholarship.
But, receiving a college scholarship or even nailing down partial financial aid can be a trying experience that tests the patience of coaches, parents and high school students.
There is, however, help available for those frustrated by the process.
Great advice is doled out almost daily by Recruiting Realities founder Jack Renkens in a series of books and CDs he has released. Renkens also travels the country presenting seminars to help educate parents and athletes about the recruiting process.
In 2006, one of Renkens’ protégés, former Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Bob Chmiel, led a presentation at Payson High in which he addressed solutions to most of the problems parents and athletes face in recruiting.
At the time, Chmiel said the goal of Recruiting Realities was to educate and motivate coaches, counselors, parents and student athletes in the collegiate recruiting process.
In Renkens CDs, books and during his presentations he stresses the value of academics in recruiting, what avenues are available for student athletes who are not being recruited, and unheard of opportunities available to high school athletes.
He also writes about the importance of NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA recruiting standards and how college programs obtain athletes’ names and addresses for their initial recruiting.
Renkens also provides a four-year high school step-by-step process and information on how to research schools that meet an athlete’s academic and athletic interests and how to get into their recruiting pools.
Suggestions are also offered on how students can be funded by schools that do not offer athletic-related aid.
He provides hints on which camps and clinics to attend to help athletes gain more all-important exposure and how to schedule home visits from recruiters.
Of course, reality tells us there are not many Division I scholarship opportunities available for student athletes from small-town Arizona high schools.
In fact, PHS has never had an athlete receive a full ride Division I athletic scholarship.
In 2000, PHS baseball star Bryan Zumbro received a $300,000-plus scholarship to the U.S. Air Force Academy, but it was as a cadet, not specifically as an athlete.
In 2006, PHS produced one of its finest football players ever in running back Luke Apfel.
The elusive speedster set a school record for rushing, was named all-region, all-state and voted the most valuable player in the Arizona Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game.
As good as he was, Mesa Community College only lightly recruited Apfel.
Apfel eventually enrolled at Northern Arizona University where he walked-on to the football team. A year later, he gave up on the sport to concentrate on academics.
There are hundreds of other stories about former PHS athletes who had big dreams of being recruited and receiving a scholarship only to see those aspirations washed away when recruiters showed no or little interest.
The reality for PHS student athletes is that the best scholarship most Class 3A athletes can hope to receive is some type of financial aid in the form of a tuition waiver or books.
Former PHS athletic directors Barry Smith and Dave Bradley were strong advocates of Renkens, encouraging parents and students to attend a seminar whenever possible.
It was Bradley who brought Chimel to PHS and in 1999 Smith sent several Longhorn coaches and players to Prescott to hear Renkens.