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This is the final part of the three-part series entitled “Scholarships and College Funding for the Student-Athlete.” If you haven’t read the first two posts in the series, find them here: 

Part 1: College Athletic Scholarship Basics
Part 2: How to Get Noticed and Increase Your Athletic Scholarship Potential

To round out our series on “Scholarships and College Funding for the Student-Athlete,” we turn our attention off the field and out of the classroom to focus inward.

While you may be thinking of trust falls and team-building exercises, consider the mental side of becoming a healthy, recruit-worthy student-athlete: confidence and self-awareness are crucial.

You have the stats from our first post, and you think you’re in the lucky 6% to compete in college. We’ve heard from an experienced college guidance counselor on the process, and we’ve received great tips from a Division 1 coach on how to get noticed while you’re in high school.

But what if your performance in the classroom negatively impacts your on-field performance? What if your home/personal struggles are preventing positive performance in any area? And for scholarship athletes, how do you keep your scholarship for all four years?

Mental Health Issues Among College Athletes

In an article published by the NCAA, “anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric problems in student-athletes.” Following closely behind are mood disorders (depression/substance abuse), among others.

With the heightened attention and visibility of student-athletes in the age of social media, unsolicited and vocal criticism is too easily distributed to young student-athletes still developing their minds through classrooms and competitions.

So how do you play “mental defense” to perform well in high school and prepare for a college athletic career?

Building Mental Strength

We had the privilege of interviewing Adam Tannehill, Founder of The Athletic Advisor, who for the past 9 years has worked one-on-one with all levels of athletes on mental strength training to get them ready for the next level of competition.

As a Certified Life and Mental Performance Coach that struggled with mental strength in his own collegiate golf career, Adam knows the importance of self-confidence as it relates to sports performance and college recruitment.

“The main things missing from a high school athlete’s mind are understanding their true ability and being proactive with coaches. Confidence is a huge piece of that,” Tannehill says, which echoes the last two parts of this series where we suggest making a “preferred & realistic” list of colleges, as well as reaching out to coaches via email, social media, and sports camps.

So how do you connect the mental and personal areas of your life with athletics and recruitment?

Tannehill says, “When you identify your Core Values and Goals, it ties together sports and life. It provides a roadmap of where you want to go, enhancing self-awareness and personal identity, which will make it easier to compete on the court and even post to social media.”

Not to mention it may keep an athlete from jumping on the Transfer Portal, which may allow their school to withdraw their scholarship.

Your success formula might look like this:

Identify Values/Goals -> Develop Mental Strength -> Gain Self-Confidence -> Enhance Performance -> Recruitment -> College Athletic Career -> Scholarship $$$

The Mental Health Playbook

Starting with students as early as 7th grade, Tannehill’s program utilizes a playbook that provides a weekly “mental workout” program that identifies triggers holding you back and how to overcome them, analyzes your body language, and has regular check-ins to evaluate your progress.

The benefits of self-awareness and confidence also allow an athlete to realize their true potential, which can help save mental energy on seeking recruitment to schools or leagues outside of their ability.

The stigma around competing at a Division 1 school may hold a student-athlete back from a better-fit college. After all, only 1 in 57 high school athletes will compete in NCAA Division 1.

Take for example Bryan Clay, who competed at an NAIA school and became a decathlon Olympic multi-medalist; or Tyreek Hill, one of the top receivers in the NFL, whose journey went from Junior College to Division 1 then finally graduating from Division 2.

Be aware of your abilities. Keep your options open. And we almost forgot: keep your scholarship all four years.

Retaining Your Scholarship

“WHAT?? What do you mean, College Funding Coach? Patrick Mahomes just signed a 10-year contract with the Chiefs so why can’t I sign a 4-year contract with a college?”

Unfortunately, the NCAA states that athletic financial aid “cannot be awarded in excess of one academic year.” The good news is, if they awarded you aid for the academic year, they can’t reduce or cancel it based on performance or injury. But it may impact future years.

You may not always be able to control your performance on the court or prevent yourself from injury, but there are some things that you absolutely can control that will have a big impact on your ability to keep your scholarship (summarized from The Recruiting Code):

  1. GPA & Academics: You can almost hear Coach Carter (played by Samuel L. Jackson) saying, “These are student-athletes. STUDENT comes first.” And the reality is that coaches need your GPA to be high enough to justify a scholarship. Our previous blog suggested 3.0 or higher. And there are plenty of on-campus resources to help you accomplish this.


  1. Injuries outside practice: Coaches abhor intramural sports and snow skiing. Putting together a flag football team of college athletes to whoop up on high school has-beens is not only kind of ridiculous, but also adds the risk of injury that could jeopardize your scholarship.



  1. Quitting: This seems obvious. But in a brief fit of frustration with your coach, quitting may be financially damaging not only immediately, but well into the future. Rarely will a coach offer you more money to stay because you cursed them out.


  1. Attitude: This is what we’ve been talking about. By building your mental strength and self-confidence through programs like The Athletic Advisor, you’ll be able to overcome common obstacles like injuries, bad performance, or personal struggles. Such resilience will allow you to persevere through four years of post-secondary athletics while maintaining your scholarship.

There you have it. Our three-part series is now complete. We’ve covered the following:

  • The odds of competing at the next level
  • What you need to do in high school to help prepare you for college athletics
  • How to get noticed by coaches and programs
  • The mental development required to accomplish your dream of a collegiate athletic career that can provide enrichment and scholarship money to help you afford college—this is what The College Funding Coach is all about

Make it a great day!

Athlete or not, the cost of higher education is a daunting proposition. The College Funding Coach has got you covered! To learn more about saving and paying for college, register for one of our free educational webinars below or schedule a free consultation with one of our coaches!


Cooper Hanning, MBA










Related Reading:

College Athletic Scholarship Basics

How to Get Noticed and Increase Your Athletic Scholarship Potential

How to Qualify for More Financial Aid During COVID-19

6 Major Changes to the FAFSA

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