BY P.K. DANIEL — San Diego Union Tribne
MONDAY, JANUARY 31, 2011 AT 10:55 P.M.
What: SportsForce is a one-stop destination for high school student-athletes to create an online sports résumé, a highlight video and a recruitment game plan.
How: SportsForce provides the tools and education for athletes to market themselves.
When: Colleges generally start recruiting students in their sophomore year, but the athletes need to start preparing by eighth grade.
Cost: SportsForce prices range from a no-cost online profile to a $500 highlight video package.
Contact: (858) 350-5889; sportsforceonline.com
Lacrosse player Mike Riis began his quest for a college scholarship as a sophomore at La Costa Canyon High. He attended a spiel by a national recruiting service, but the high-pressure, hard-sell approach was a turnoff.
“It was a mill where you put down $3,000 with promises,” said Tim Riis, Mike’s father. “We didn’t like the process. It was very impersonal.”
With the recruiting game now involving younger students from an ever-expanding pool of athletes, a variety of companies have popped up to offer tools and services for anyone trying to land a scholarship.
Tim Riis turned to San Diego-based SportsForce, which doesn’t call itself a college recruiting service. SportsForce says it doesn’t market athletes to colleges but provides the tools and education for student-athletes to market themselves.
Tim said SportsForce enabled a two-way conversation between his son and the college coach.
“You need to get seen. This gets you in front of coaches. This opens up the dialogue,” Tim said. “It was a very smooth process.”
One that resulted in Mike signing a national letter of intent in November to play lacrosse at the University of Denver.
“It was a very personalized approach,” Tim said.
Mike Riis signed during the early period, but thousands of high school students will be signing letters of intent Wednesday on National Signing Day. Many will have used a professional service to get their name out there.
Aside from enabling athletes to e-mail their link to coaches, SportsForce serves as a one-stop site for coaches to access an athlete’s profile, including grades, stats and highlight videos.
San Diego State, USD, UCLA and USC are among universities utilizing SportsForce’s site.
“We let the families feel empowered and understand how to take action around a proven game plan,” said Andrew Beinbrink, SportsForce founder and CEO. “The education has to come first before the athlete is ready to get recruited.”
Athletes most likely to benefit from a company like SportsForce are those just under the radar, often participating in what colleges call nonrevenue-generating sports — baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer or gymnastics.
Yet even blue-chip athletes in football or basketball who already are being heavily recruited might benefit from learning how to make the best selection among offers they’ve received.
Brennan Bailes is a Division I gymnastics prospect. She and mother Tana Bailes have been traversing the college recruiting landscape without any spotters, without any mats. Brennan, who is home-schooled, will be attending Scripps Ranch next fall for her senior year.
Despite spending 20 hours a week researching schools in the early part of the process and making unofficial visits to a handful of Division I schools, Brennan has not secured an offer. Mother and daughter have narrowed their search to 28 schools.
“I’m panicking thinking, ‘What am I not doing?’ ” Tana said. “I get frustrated and just overwhelmed from time to time.”
Working with a professional might be the next step.
“(A service) would help you know what to do,” Brennan said.
Beinbrink, who graduated in 1995 after a three-sport high school career at Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch, landed a baseball scholarship to Arizona State. Since last spring he has conducted free college night seminars at 15 high schools in the San Diego area.
SportsForce held a College Sports Night at Hilltop that led to Alysha Isaacson securing a softball scholarship at Dayton, where she’s a freshman.
“The ones who did attend had an eye-opening experience on what they have to do as far as scholarships and getting their names out there,” Hilltop Athletic Director Nancy Acerrio said.
The one negative Acerrio sees in using these type of services is the expense.
“It’s the cost — how much they want to do, how much they want to spend,” she said.
The price for SportsForce ranges from a no-cost online profile to a $500 highlight video package.
SportsForce also has canvassed showcase events and large tournaments. It was at one of these tournaments that Beinbrink met Ron Parker.
The Monte Vista softball coach had been through the recruiting process with his older daughter Alyssa, who played softball at Dartmouth. But when it was time to help his younger daughter Alanna navigate the system, he sought help.
Parker had SportsForce shoot and produce lacrosse video of Alanna with input from the family. The Monte Vista grad landed at Davidson College in North Carolina, where she is a sophomore.
“It confirms that getting a skills video done is a vital component of the whole recruiting process,” Ron said.
Nick Sloan, a senior kicker/punter for Scripps Ranch, is headed to the Naval Academy.
“The SportsForce team put together an absolutely terrific tape of Nick and we e-mailed it to several college coaches,” said Darryl Sloan, Nick’s father. “There is little doubt that the quality of the product helped to influence (the decision).
“It helped get my son in the U.S. Naval Academy.”