As president and founder of College Sports Quest, Jennifer Noonan seems like just the right person to create marketing plans for student athletes in the world of college recruiting.
Noonan, a former standout athlete at Corona del Mar High (class of 1986), can speak from experience. And she also uses her competitive spirit, which earned her seven varsity letters at CdM in volleyball, soccer, track and field, swimming and softball. She must use the competitiveness to get the best for her clients and to also battle against other recruiting services.
It's a much a different game from when she began in 1999.
"The biggest obstacle I encounter today is how much the industry has changed as a whole," says Noonan, who began with College Bound Student Alliance, one of three major national college recruiting services at the time. "Nowadays there are so many recruiting services. You Google, 'college recruiting services' and so many come up. But I want to do my best to educate the student-athletes about recruiting."
Noonan went through a unique experience after finishing up at CdM, where she won a state championship as a setter on the girls' volleyball team in 1984. Only she competed in swimming at Arizona State, where she was among the elite. She ended up a lifeguard at the student pool and then headed back to Golden State College, where she won a state title in 1988 and then it was off to UC Santa Barbara for volleyball.
"When people ask me what I do and find out they say 'I'm not surprised,'" Noonan said. "I went through the whole recruiting process."
Noonan started College Sports Quest in 2001 with big dreams and lofty aspirations. She wanted to make it a very large company. But she said her plans changed when her father, Jim, a popular soccer coach, died in 2005.
She scaled back and kept College Sports Quest small. She kept it a one-person show, as she wears many hats for her own company. Because of that, mostly every local coach and several sports families know Noonan.
She also regularly promotes her business with presentations. But the presentations are not just about College Sports Quest. It's also about the college recruiting game.
Any one can produce a highlight-reel video, or fill a coach's email inbox with an athlete's resume, she says. There's more to it than that. There must be more of a marketing plan.
"You cannot afford to make critical errors in this process," she says. "It's been a great run so far with [College Sports Quest]. To me it's about relationships. They have tools for life. They have life skills, sales and marketing skills."
Noonan, who lives on Balboa Island, says she enjoys her wonderful life. She still finds time to spend with her three young nieces.
She also coaches a youth soccer team her niece is on.
She knows plenty about sports, and after 15 years in college recruiting she also knows a great deal about planning for student athletes. In the era of specialization and the importance of club sports, Noonan knows that the planning, or even the interest can start before high school.
Yet, she also has programs/plans for freshmen, sophomore, juniors and seniors.
The stereotype is most parents believe their son or daughter can become the next great athlete or at least deserve a full-ride scholarship. Noonan has seen all types of parents and she says she simply wants to educate them and prepare them.
"I'm not going to tell what you want to hear," Noonan says. "I'm going to tell you what you need to know."