One of my biggest challenges in life has been my inability to articulate myself through words and Grammar. This has always made me hesitant to write articles and share information through the form of writing. I decided recently that I want to be able to share as much information as possible with people. I am going to do my best to overcome my obstacle and improve my writing skills.
I have been very fortunate to have experienced all three areas of college athletics and recruitment. First, I was a student athlete, secondly a college coach, and now I am a recruitment consultant. I help student athletes find the right fit of university. It will be my goal to discuss different situations I experienced in college athletics and try my best to give you my opinion and experiences from all three angles I experienced.
I hope you will enjoy the articles and learn something helpful along the way.

Mark Finnegan

Student-Athlete do not be defined by one examination

 As a former student-athlete and University coach, I reflected on my educational experience in two separate countries. Both educational systems have many positives while also facing many challenges. I hope that you can learn about the pros and cons and it might help you understand what the best pathway for your academic future is.

The leaving cert system has many positives. I look back on my final two years in Irish education as one of: discipline, structure, and sacrifice. I never considered myself book smart but when I set my mind to something, I could typically motivate myself to achieve it the best I can. Even after being accepted into American University by the time my mocks were finished, I still felt motivated to achieve the best leaving cert I could. I do feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for sitting the leaving cert.

The other side of the leaving cert is that it has not evolved enough. Defining people’s pathways academically should not come down to two weeks’ worth of examinations that people have prepped for a full two years to take. Your academic pathway and career are influenced by a CAO form that makes you commit to a course based on a points requirement. How are we expected to have people finding the right fit of a job for them personally to thrive in when sometimes a decision is made to do a degree based on supply and demand for a course. I did not feel, at the age of 17, that I was ready to define a huge part of the career pathway.

The American system opts for a continual assessment approach. A student is judged based on a four-year process that involves typically 4-5 tests per semester in each subject that adds up to an accumulative GPA. It also provides students who may not be suited to this with a standardized test to show off their academia in another way. They then use a sliding scale to understand the level of the student based on both measures.

My favorite part of the U.S college system is that you are entitled to study anything you want once admitted to the university. You are also entitled to adjust your degree at any time during your time at University. The universities also focus on a broader education and incorporate many classes that help you in real life. One of my favorite classes I look back on was Public Speaking. The class taught me how to stand up and speak effectively in front of a large audience. A tool I have used so much in my life.

The one aspect of the education that I was not impressed by was multiple choice exams. This encourages way too much binge learning. This leads to two types of students: ones who are there to get a piece of paper and tick a box and students who genuinely have the appetite to learn. I would have liked more written and oral testing during my degree.

Rarely in Ireland are academics and athletics done together at an elite level. Typically, the systems make you choose one or the other. I am not a big fan of this because many aspects of being elite academically or athletically can help you excel in both. I believe that the elite athletes and some of the brightest minds have the same mindset and apply similar techniques to be the best. America as an education system recognizes this and gives allowances and resources to the best athletes so they can excel in both.

If you are an athlete and are choosing the next phase of your academic life, I would tell you, as I have told other student athletes, you have nothing to lose by trying the American system because we are very fortunate to be able to put our university place on hold for one year in Ireland. If it’s not for you, in America, at least you will never have the regret that you did not try.




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Are we better off now or then ?

twenty years since joining the college athletic scene, the landscape looks a lot different now than it did when I first became a part of the process.

College recruitment Video now vs then

In the early 2000, the effort and process of putting together a college video and getting it to coaches was extremely challenging. It was a 3-step process. Video it, put it on a VHS tape and then convert it to fit the American VHS standard. Then mail it off and get it sent back if the coach was not interested.Now the video process is much more straight forward using the Internet to download your video and send off a link to any coach with the click of a button.

Even though it was a pain staking endeavour, the old way, the good thing was that the video that you sent off was raw footage and not edited. It also meant that the people who were serious about obtaining a scholarship went and did this process. Mailing the tape was such a long process it forced you to be very particular where you sent it to, because you might not receive it back for a couple of weeks after all.

Today if you type in google “college athletics video”, you will get 1000’s of college videos coming up with some amazing videography. As a former college coach, most of the the video’s coaches receive are not done the right way, they give the coach a very unrealistic view of what to expect from the athlete. The angles are wrong and the structure tends to be overcomplicated. You typically get the attention of a coach for a few minutes so its vital these minutes count.

What the majority of recruits & recruitment agencies are doing is copying what they see others do online which the majority of the times leads to a competition on who can produce the fanciest video with the most impressive videography techniques, not a video that helps the athletes and coaches get a better understanding of the level, strengths, and weaknesses. 

Rating system vs no rating system

Twenty years ago, a national ranking or a world ranking were the two biggest measuring tools to evaluate an athlete’s results. It was very fair because it gave the athletes the chance to compare apples to apples. Coaches relied on relationships and former players to get evaluations of players on and off the competition field. The lucky coaches got to travel, and they used vacation time as an opportunity to create recruiting networks. There was less information out there, but the information was controlled and typically more accurate.

These days everything a student-athlete has done competitively or socially is visible. A player can easily get judged the wrong way for a loss or situation that was out of their control. It can sometimes lead to a coach or player overthinking a situation and creating doubt in a decision. Trust is harder to create.

I think the rating systems have been created for the right reasons and if used by everyone in a responsible manner and not taken advantage of or used for a coach to be lazy with recruitment then it is a huge advantage. The problem right now with the rating systems is not every country and athlete are judged the same on them compared to college ratings. Some countries are over-inflated, and some are underinflated. Some use the rating system and others do not. This means you cannot compare apples to apples except if two players play the same schedule and have similar pathways of competing. Too many times I have heard a coach say,“ well I need this rating.” I feel instead of saying this they could say, “I need this personality and these qualities in a player”, and I can help them reach this rating once in the system. I understand every program needs a certain level to begin with to develop and if that coach is willing to look a little deeper than typing a name in a rating system then they are doing their job correctly.

 As a coach I always trusted my gut instinct when recruiting. Once a player has competed enough in his country you can typically get an idea of the level based on what other players from the same country with similar results and rankings have done once a part of the college system.

Athletes & coaches need to use these rating systems not to cheat or be lazy but to use them as a small percentage of the evaluation and development process.


Big Budget vs small budget schools

As a college coach, I was at three different universities. One had a large operating budget, another just enough to operate efficiently, and the other was under-funded.

In the early 2000’s at my first university as an athlete, we were given one pair of shoes and recycled shirts from the previous year. I was over the moon because it was not the shirt that mattered; it was the logo and pride I felt for being a part of the team. You did not dare lose it because it would not be replaced. In my last year as a college coach, we had a closet that had an endless supply of shoe grips, shirts, shorts, and so on. I get that it is nice to have nice clothes, but I have seen in recent years that it has become a competition amongst programs to show off the excessive amounts of equipment and gear that you get if you come to the school. I personally know that the coaches hate doing this because it preaches the wrong message but if they do not flaunt it then they do not feel they are keeping up with the competition. This then leads to it being very hard to control ungratefulness from the student athlete.

Larger budgets have made it possible for coaches to treat student-athletes like professional athletes. Student athletes are now traveling, training, rehabbing like pro athletes but it has also led to this money being wasteful and not used productively. I think it is a university’s job to steward this money from donors and student fees in a way where people can benefit from things that are essential, not unessential. Coaches spend this money because if they do not then it will most likely not be given to the budget the following year.

Larger budgets have also made it more stressful for coaches. Because they have the money to recruit year-round, they tend to be keeping up with each other and showing athletes and other coaches that they are constantly recruiting. This leads to them working longer hours and prioritizing the offseason for recruiting and not getting refreshed for the new season.

Smaller budgets are an obstacle for most university sports teams. At a smaller budget university, I remember being at the national championships for 11 days because of a successful run we were on. I slept on the floor for 8 out of the 11 nights to make sure that the money we spent on that trip did not mean we had to make sacrifices later. That same tournament a hurricane hit my hometown which meant all our flight change fees were waived which was a saviour when it came to the use of resources. Small budgets can force coaches to cut corners and make tough decisions. Smaller budgets also put coaches in the situation to sometimes not treat the walk or the star player the same. If you carry a large roster the coach will have to make difficult decisions on who gets the opportunities and who does not.

We now are in a situation where the pandemic will put in jeopardy a lot of college programs because schools have budgets and coaches’ salaries that have gotten out of control. Since college sports are amateur and the NCAA is heavily regulated, what if we restricted max budgets for each sport and restricted coaches’ salaries for each sport based on the average profit provided by each sport annually?

That way, if we have another recession or pandemic, we will not have to cut teams and sports because some universities cannot afford it. The college athletic system and all of its sports are incredibly valuable because it provides our student-athletes with a focus and purpose to keep competing and striving for the reward of a scholarship and experience. We need to create a system the perseveres this for many years to come.



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the perspective of the Student Athlete

I think this is one of the most under communicated aspects of youth sports, not just college recruitment. My “WHY” of going to compete in College athletics was based mainly off seeing my peers going to the USA.  All the older athletes would return home during the summers from America and I would constantly engage them in conversation about what it was like to compete in college athletics in America. The majority had great experiences to share with me and it quickly became my dream to further my tennis and become the best version of myself in the USA. I was convinced that all the obstacles and challenges of tennis in Ireland would go away once I got on campus over there. This was true when it came to logistics, resources, and competition; but it also opened the door for new challenges and different obstacles, which I soon discovered are continual in life. These obstacles challenged me in personal growth and taught me the priceless life-lessons of: perseverance, determination, and time-management, just to name a few. I made it a personal goal to always take the positive from each lesson learned along the way.

So many student athletes do not understand the “WHY” or they might be focusing on the wrong “WHY”. Some focus on their “WHY” being the financial, academic, or tennis component. There is nothing wrong with these being your “WHY” but, in my opinion, the more the student athlete focuses on the “WHY” being about learning and growing as a person the more they will take from the experience. If your “WHY” is more about the daily, less result orientated, aspects the more joy you will take from each individual day.

the perspective of the coach

Early in my college coaching career my work ethic, desire to succeed and be proud of myself came from proving to others that I could be a great coach. The more experienced I became as a coach the more I realized that this was irrelevant and lead to nothing fulfilling. I have always gotten great fulfilment in life from helping people and being a positive impact on their lives. I have made many great decisions and also many decisions that I regret. The further along I was in my coaching career the more I realised that a good or bad decision was not based off winning or losing the more my “WHY” adjusted. Most individuals who are in the college coaching business are in it to impact and help people. The challenge, in this, is making sure that you put the team first with every decision you make. With success comes admiration from others and managing your ego is key. Generally, this will not mean you will experience success all the time when it comes to results and what others view as successful, but you will have an impactful relationship with your players for generations after graduation. I also learned that you cannot make everyone happy as well as not being able to change people who don’t wish to change. You can only be there for the student athlete unconditionally and accept them for who they are, while guiding them to make informed decisions. Make sure you ask your coach “WHY” they are a college coach and what their vision is for themselves and their program they are coaching. You will learn a great deal from their response.


It was clear to me when I decided to take a break from college coaching what my new “WHY” would be. I wanted to be able to continue to have an impact on people while helping to create opportunity for student athletes. I also craved returning to my home country of Ireland in which I had not permanently lived in for 15 years. The basis for my “WHY” and founding All Sports Recruitment was to challenge myself to look at how my upbringing and experience as a student athlete could have been a smoother one and more productive. I learned so much from America and my college experience and wanted to share this advice with anyone who was interested. My goal is trying to help people see what university fits their needs best for them, personally. I am hoping that by finding the perfect fit people will be able to have great experiences and challenge themselves the way America did for me. I have already seen some great success stories of what the recruitment process can do for a student athlete if they understand “WHY” they are doing it.

After reading all of this, you will hopefully be asking yourself, what is my “WHY”? Why do I want to continue my education & sport in the college system? Why is it worth the sacrifices that come with competing at a high level while continuing to study hard. If you know your “WHY” it will give you a better sense of purpose and meaning to why you do what you do every day. Yes, you will obtain a degree, compete at a high level in your chosen sport, create friendships, and build a world network…but all of this will not fulfil you. What will provide you with the greatest satisfaction are the little things that you will experience every day, along the way, that match up with “WHY” you chose this pathway for your future.



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