USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com delivers online college planning for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.
You’ve been selected First Team All-District, you’re the captain of your team and your parents are telling you a college scholarship is inevitable.
The problem is, you haven’t heard from very many colleges, and you aren’t really interested in the ones that have contacted you. You sit in class every day wondering why college coaches aren’t calling you, texting you or coming to watch your games. You have been assured time and again that the college coaches will find you, but you are getting a little impatient.
Here is the reality… Only 1% of high school athletes are “highly recruited.” It is not uncommon for an athlete with exceptional skills and stats to go unnoticed, especially by NCAA Division II, Division III or NAIA schools that have limited recruiting budgets. There are many reasons why you might not be highly recruited, but let’s talk about the five most common ones.
- You believe someone else is taking care of recruiting for you
Here is a comment we heard from a parent just last week. “Oh, we don’t need to worry about contacting colleges; Emily plays for the Shockers and her coach is taking care of it.” Most coaches want to see their players make it to the next level, but don’t ever assume they will find you a college scholarship.
Earning a college scholarship can be a life-changing event. Why leave something so important in the hands of someone else? The recruiting process is your responsibility. High school and select coaches can help, but they may not have the time or even know-how to help.
High school coaches are an important contributor in your development as an athlete; they can vouch for your character and can give college coaches an honest evaluation of your abilities. The rest is on you.
- You don’t completely understand the process
The first time a high school athlete goes through recruiting is the last time he or she will go through recruiting. Therefore, it is understandable that you don’t understand the process.
You need to know that if you aren’t being highly recruited, you have to figure out how to get noticed. It’s not that hard, and you don’t have to invest a lot of time.
The more you understand the recruiting process, the better chance you have to land a scholarship. Here are some helpful tips:
- Understand how college coaches evaluate talent in your sport.
- Start the process as early as your freshman year in high school.
- Read the rules on communication with college coaches.
- Understand why grades are important.
- Don’t be bashful about reaching out to coaches.
- Familiarize yourself with the terms (contact period, quiet period, dead period, official and unofficial visits, etc.).
- Review the NCAA guide regarding academic preparation.
- You aren’t really being proactive
The definition of proactive is “creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.” Being proactive in recruiting does not mean sending out a few emails to college coaches and waiting for the scholarship offers to roll in the door.
If you aren’t being highly recruited yet, then to some extent your recruiting process is a numbers game. The more appropriate colleges you reach out to, the better your chance of finding a scholarship. You might find that perfect fit with your first email, or it might not happen until you contact your twentieth college.
- You haven’t asked your coach to be involved
Your current coach can make a difference in your recruiting experience. He or she is a credible source for a college coach with respect to your athletic abilities and your character. If your coach can be available if and when a college coach calls or emails, that is a big help. If you are lucky and your coach wants to be involved, accept the help.
Either way, you need to have a credible reference for college coaches to contact. If your current coach doesn’t have the time, then use a summer coach, a skills coach or even an opposing coach who has seen you play. Most coaches want to help their players. Don’t be afraid to ask them.
- You aren’t being realistic
Being realistic about who you are as an athlete and a student is probably the hardest part of the recruiting process. Unfortunately, it is also the most important part.
If you aren’t pursuing appropriate colleges, you are wasting your time.
First, make sure that you academically qualify for the colleges you are pursuing. Sure, there might be a little academic “room” for an athlete, but if you are an average student with average test scores, scratch Stanford off your list.
Second, make sure the schools on your list of colleges are a match athletically. If you don’t have any other way to determine which schools to pursue, ask your current coach for an honest evaluation and be prepared for an honest answer. Most athletes already know how they stack up, so your coach’s answer shouldn’t be a surprise. It is okay to have “stretch” schools on your list, but you need to focus on the ones where you have the best chance of earning a scholarship.
College recruiting isn’t rocket science. A lot of it is common sense. If you are currently being “under-recruited,” then spend some time researching the process, be realistic about your abilities and be persistent in the process.