How to Optimize the Re-Class Year and Get the Return on Your Reclassification Investment

Reclassifying or “reclassing,”in the youth sports world is nothing new.  The phenomena has been widespread throughout many sports since as early as 1970’s. Internationally as well as in other sports domestically, reclassify is a normal phenomenon. 

reclassify for basketball
Michelle is the co-founder of Student Athlete Academy and has worked with very successful middle school students on reclassification for years.

Reclassification, or reclassing, means to change an athletes graduation year (in most cases to change it back).  For example a child is born 2006 and his high school graduation year is 2024. He is ‘class of 2024’. If the child gets reclassed his graduation year would now be 2025, or ‘class of 2025.’ He has ‘been assigned to a different class’ or reclassed.

The past decade the numbers of reclassified basketball players have steadily increased. In some instances it can be considered necessary for an athlete to reclass in order to compete on the highest level. As parents we always try to put our children in the best possible position in all aspects of life. A reclassification can be just that, putting your child in the best possible position. It is taking advantage of an opportunity that is available.

Even after 50 years of reclassifications, there is still a lot of controversy surrounding  the choice and it often carries a stigma. The stigma and the controversy stems from people not fully understanding what it really means and the benefits.  Contrary to popular beliefs there are rules and regulations governing over exactly how much older a child can potentially be than their peers. When starting to look into the possibility a family should make sure they know the age rules specific to their sport and state. If a child for example started school a year later than he or she was slated, reclassing might not be a possibility. 

Much of the stigma associated with reclassification comes from the idea that a child is ‘being left back.’ However, today it doesn’t mean the athlete is being left back or is repeating a grade.  Well renowned former St Anthony’s Head Coach:

The reasons behind reclassing can vary and the individual reasons really don’t matter. What matters, in the big picture, is that the family has understood and agreed on the idea, made the decision together, and set goals for the reclassing year. The difference between a successful and  unsuccessful reclass year, is what the athlete does with that ‘extra’ time. For the athlete to continue to do what he/she did the year before is not going to give the Return on the Investment (ROI) the family is looking to achieve. 

ROI can be massive and the athlete’s stock can skyrocket – if the time is used wisely and treated as such. 

A year of reclassing  often means a monetary investment from the parents and for the athlete a 365 days investment into their life and future. 

You might have seen some reclassed athletes where it seems like it has not fully benefited them. Chances are they didn’t take advantage of the year but merely just stayed stagnant and felt that was ok because they seem better now when being a grade below.  So how do you optimize your reclass year?

The Buy-In

Regardless of if the idea comes from the athlete, parents or even a coach, the ultimate decision has to be made by everyone involved. Both the parents and child have to be on the same page. Other family members and friends might not understand your choice and teammates, classmates and others can sometimes be anything but supportive of the decision. So to have your nuclear family’s support will be key. 

When the decision to reclass is made – that’s when the work starts! You have decided to make the investment. Now it is time to make it grow!

Have a clear vision & set goals 

In optimizing a reclass year, an important component is to devise a well thought out plan and goals. In order for the ‘extra year,’ investment to be optimized, the family needs to have a clear vision of the end goal. Maybe the goal is to get better. Maybe the goal is to get into a high level high school the following  school year. Maybe the goal is to get a spot on the Varsity team as a freshman and have a chance to impact the school team for all four years. Perhaps the goal is for the athlete to get a chance to mature physically and emotionally.  In some cases the goal may just be for the student to get stronger academically. In business & personal life we often talk about ‘finding the why.’ The athlete needs to identify the why and set clear goals to get there.

As with all goals a person should have milestones and hold themselves accountable for the goals they have set. A great way of doing that is to have the goals not only written down but also shared with others. Jack Canfield, world-renowned transformational-speaker says, ‘Sharing your goal with a friend or family member makes the goal more real and no longer just a note in a journal. Now, others can hold you accountable by asking you about the progress you’ve made towards reaching your goal.’ A cliche maybe, but a vision board is a great tool! A clear vision of where the athlete sees him/herself at the end of this year will make the goals more real.

Hard Work Pays Off 

When a family decides that they want their child to reclass chances are they have seen something in him or her, they feel that the athlete loves the sport and already works hard on their craft. The athlete reclasses, and  all of a sudden he/she may be the best player on the team, or even in their school or region. Well, that was easy! Not so fast!  The most successful reclassed athletes probably worked harder the year they reclassed than ever before. It’s essential to put that extra work in for ultimate optimization. An athlete can basically (depending on their birth date) gain two years competitive advantage over their peers in that one year. Imagine what an advantage that would be for any young athlete? The ROI can reach tremendous heights if the athlete doesn’t just work but actually decides to put in extra work during this investment year.  

Seek out the right place

As public schools usually don’t allow reclassing many families search for an alternative where the athlete can be reclassed. Many pick to do their reclass year at a ‘basketball school.’ The outcome of the year can highly differ depending on where the athlete does the reclass year.  In Northern NJ many families have opted to invest their money in basketball academies. Student Athlete Academy Co-Founder and Athletic Director, Tarik Robinson has helped many of the young NY/NJ basketball players. “Reclassing at a place like Student Athlete Academy allows student athletes the opportunity to optimize their time during  the reclass year as they can work on getting stronger and more explosive with elite level performance training , improving and enhancing their overall skill set and IQ in their particular sport while working with elite trainers and coaches who teach the game on a high level. They can also accelerate their academics in contrast to what naysayers believe when they think that you only repeat an academic grade. That is not true for the students who are on target and or advanced . Overall if the goal is to play sports in college by earning a scholarship this is ultimately the fast track to it as we prepare our student athletes to be academically and athletically successful as freshmen. Obviously this is not what every school does, that’s why it is important to seek out the right place for your child for the reclass year.”

Stay Playing your original grade

When the goal for reclassing is to go ‘kill’ the grade below, it very seldom works out. As the goals for reclassing should be something like ‘making varsity on a good high school team’ or even ‘improving the chances for a college scholarship’ it is not conducive to the process to play lower grade competition just to succeed or get ranked higher. In fact, the best success is seen when an athlete continues to play on their age team or older as that will help them develop their game against kids who they ultimately will compete against in high school. Playing on an 8th grade team during the 8th grade reclass year might give an athlete a false sense of their level and make the adjustment to high school harder. 

Reclass in 8th grade

Many parents reclass their children for instant gratification, meaning they reclass them to be better than the kids in that lower grade. If you reclass your child too young chances are that they don’t understand what that year can do and thereby the year will not be fully optimized. To reclass in 8th grade ensures that the athlete is old enough to understand his/her part in this decision, and is able to understand the importance of his/her hard work and dedication for this investment to be maximized. Additionally, reclassing before the start of high school ensures that the athlete’s NCAA eligibility is not in the risk zone. 

Progress Academically 

As mentioned, in 2020 reclassing doesn’t necessarily mean that the athlete is being held back or is repeating a grade. If a student reclasses in 7th or 8th grade, he or she, if they choose and are academically strong, can start taking high school classes. This is good for academic progression, as repeating material a student has already mastered is not productive and often makes the student bored and unfocused. If taking high school courses in 7th and 8th grade the athlete can potentially carry those high school credits with them to high school. In some cases they will even be allowed to be used as NCAA eligible core courses and toward the 7/10. As in basketball and physical training, any student with the ability could use this ‘free’ year to advance academically as well. It is important to understand that not all schools will let a reclassed student academically move with their original graduating class. Families should do their research when looking for a school for the “extra” year. It should also be noted that not all high schools will transfer in credits from 7th or 8th grade even if they are high school credits. 

The investment in a reclass year can mean the difference of a spot on a high school varsity team and a starting spot on the same team. It can mean the difference between Div 2 and Division 1. It can mean a difference in passing all 9th grade classes, having a solid GPA, and being on the way to a college scholarship versus struggling when going into high school.  The opportunities are there for the athlete, it is a whole year for him/her to get better, stronger, taller, more mature etc. but only if that one year invested by parents and the player is maximized and optimized.

The athlete’s success will not be ‘free‘ or just come because she/he reclassed, it will come if the support is there, goals are set, there is understanding, and maybe most importantly, if the work is put in. In addition, it is an  extra  year for any athlete to utilize and to take advantage of athletically and academically.  When done right, a reclass year can really propel the athlete and open many doors that were never opened before. For many this has proven to be one of the best investments an athlete and their family ever made and the return on investment has been more than expected.

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