We all hear the stories about the blue-chip recruits and the endless tales about what this school did to land this kid, what that school did to land that kid. It’s big-time stuff, national, the type of material that gets a fan base just as juiced up about State U.’s football or basketball program as it does the head coach.
But, really, how many recruits are truly blue-chippers? How many are holding press conferences to announce where they’re going to play next season by a tip of the cap here or a flip of it there? How many, really, truly, have collegiate landscape as their oyster?
In the grand scheme of things, when you factor in all institutions of higher education that offer extra-curricular activities in the athletic realm, it’s not that many.
This is where Mr. Jack Renkens comes in.
Call him “The Enlightener” for high school athletes, their families, their coaches, their advisers, basically anyone who has a vested interest in someone moving on to play sports at a college, preferably with some financial support from the school.
A former coach and athletic director at Division II Assumption College, United States Sports Academy alum Renkens (MSS, Sport Coaching, 1985) has carved out a niche as a recruiting guru to those really not in the know … and thrived while doing so.
“I had no idea that so many people knew so little about the process,” Renkens said recently via cell phone while on a speaking tour in the far Northwest. “There is a lot of material out there about recruiting, but a lot of it is just (garbage). It’s usually by a dad retelling what happened with his kid, but there is so much more to it.”
In Renkens’ world, the blue-chipper we all know so well is the exception not the norm. While his words of wisdom are good for the star athletes, they really hit home for student-athletes who may not be an any-star recruit never mind a three-, four- or five-star one.
“I’d be up in Massachusetts and hearing people say, oh, my kid wants to go to Boston College or Connecticut, but we haven’t heard anything yet,” said Renkens. “Well, they’re not going to hear anything at all from those schools. Their kid isn’t that kind of player. But he may be good enough to get a great education at a Division III school and get some help financially while still playing ball.
“There are numerous opportunities for kids and their families out there. They just have to be honest with themselves and see the big picture.”
He attempts to put that into focus with speaking engagements as a well as a recruiting magazine titled “Recruiting Realities,” with an appropriate subtitle,” It’s a Game; Know the Rules.” As it states, the publication is about “educating high school counselors, coaches, student-athletes and parents in the recruiting process.”
Oddly, Renkens came across this career path almost out of the blue. From the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s, he utilized his degree from the Academy to coach at Assumption and have success directing the men’s basketball team there to four conference titles and three 20-win seasons. He also served as the school’s athletic director for some time.
“I had a great experience at the Academy,” said Renkens. “I had coached high school basketball in Arizona, then Chicago and then junior college in Kansas. I had some graduate hours completed, had the chance to go there and finish my degree. It was great.
“I should’ve went for the doctorate. But what I got certainly helped career wise.”
Indeed. With Assumption located in Worcester, Mass., an industrial town about 50 miles outside of Boston, Renkens became somewhat of a celebrity in New England, doing commercials and having radio and TV shows. He was asked to speak at some schools, started sharing information about the differences between Division I, Division II, Division III, junior college, NAIA schools, you name it, and he noticed quite a few people paid attention.
Eventually, he resigned at Assumption and jumped into the speaking game full-time. Only it was slow going at the start. Then, someone who heard him speak, called him … and that someone had an affiliation with Nike. Next thing Renkens knew he was at a national convention in Jacksonville, Fla., holding court with a lot of big-timers. He was asked to speak again.
That experience ignited his current business.
“I’m the guy who comes in, tells people the way things really are and then leaves,” he said. “I try to educate people on what they’re really facing. I train people on how to handle the wheeling and dealing. I don’t have to be politically correct. I’m not connected to any college.”
But he has mastered the art of helping student-athletes connect with colleges.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy visit www.ussa.edu.