MAPLEWOOD, NJ --  “It’s a game. You gotta know the rules.”

This is how recruiting expert and educational speaker Jack Renkens describes the athletic recruitment process. For 18 years, Renkens has traveled around the country educating parents, coaches and student-athletes on how to navigate the process of selecting a college.

On Tuesday night, Renkens brought his message to Columbia High School.

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Renkens said that many parents have unrealistic expectations about the likelihood of their child receiving a Division I athletic scholarship. He urged parents and students to focus more on finding the right school based on quality of education, playing time and, most importantly, funding. He repeated the phrase “If they don’t pay, you don’t play” several times throughout the night. 

Renkens’ goal is to get parents to open their minds about the recruiting process, and he tries to equip them with negotiating power when it comes to recruiting. Renkens said parents should get in touch with several schools and should market their student-athlete so that they may be noticed by colleges across the country.

He is a strong advocate for purchasing recruiting services through companies such as the National Collegiate Scouting Association. He said these companies create a profile of a student-athlete, which then puts them into contact with thousands of college coaches nationwide. It creates an opportunity for prospects to attract attention from schools that might not have noticed the player otherwise.

His straightforward message and style resonated with parents in the audience.

“I thought it was nice to get a refreshing approach on a topic that can be confusing for parents and students,” South Orange resident Seth Toney said. He attended the event with his son Noah, a sophomore track and field athlete at Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison.

Other parents heeded the Renkens’ advice regarding the number of schools their child should consider. “My son has a very short list of schools that he wants to go to,” said a Columbia soccer parent who preferred not to be named. “After hearing this, I want to go home and tell him maybe he should add a few more to that list.”

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.