Every year when I do four-year plans with freshman, I ask THE question:
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
The answer then determines the classes I recommend they take in high school, the extracurricular activities to be involved in, as well as their post-secondary plans: college, military, vocational school, etc.
I do get a few "I want to play in the NBA" or "I want to be a football player" or "I want to play pro-soccer". For many, becoming a professional athlete is merely a dream. They have never played organized sports and their desire stems from their passion of the sport as a spectator.
I do have a several students who have potential.They've played organized sports since they were young. They have even started their freshman year in high school playing junior varsity or varsity sports at our school. They have medals, records, and championships to their names. Above these athletic accolades, they also have great academic records and do well in their studies.
These students who accel both academically and athletically, should register with the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Eligibility Center. For a student to be eligible, there are a set of courses, SAT/ACT scores, and GPA requirement. Details can be found here.
Registering with the NCAA ensures any athlete who wishes to play at the college level has the academic requirements to do so. For an overview of the process, click here.
The sports covered under the NCAA include:
Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Field Hockey, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Ice Hockey, Indoor Track and Field, Lacrosse, Outdoor Track and Field, Rifle, Rowing , Skiing, Soccer, Softball, Swimming and Diving, Tennis, Volleyball, Water Polo, and Wrestling
Once a student is registered with the NCAA, they become eligible to be recruited by the colleges and universities to play the above sports. High school coaches my be approached by recruiters, recruiters may attend high school games, etc. Here is some information about the recruiting process.
For an overview of the program and to start registration, students and parents can visit NCAA's Eligibility Center. Please remember, high school coaches and counselors can help with any questions you might have.
As a high school counselor, I haven't yet had a student get recruited by an NCAA college or university. I hope one day I'll be able to see one of my former students win the Super Bowl, NBA Championship, or the World Cup!