USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just 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 is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
College recruiting is not rocket-science. It’s just not the complicated, intimidating, difficult process many companies and people would like you to believe it is. Certainly it’s beneficial if you can calculate your NCAA Core Course GPA off the top of your head. And it might be helpful if you memorize the rules on official and unofficial visits, but those things are not necessary to have a successful recruiting journey. You actually might need some help being organized and staying on task, but you don’t need to spend the college fund on recruiting assistance.
First things first: Ask yourself the following question: “Are college coaches beating down my door and burning up my cell phone recruiting me?” If the answer to that question is ‘yes’, then your recruiting experience is going to be easy and you don’t need to worry much. In fact, you can stop reading this article and turn on SportsCenter. If the answer is ‘No’, then you need a recruiting game plan. You better keep reading. Here’s a simple three-step game plan that any “dummy” can follow to find a college scholarship.
STEP 1 –IDENTIFY THE RIGHT COLLEGES TO CONTACT
If you have a degree in history, would you apply for a job as a chemical engineer? Probably not! And if you did, do you think you’d get the job? Well, the same holds true for the college recruiting process. If you’re a 5-9, 135-pound power forward, then scratch Duke off your college list. You need to pursue colleges that fit your skill set. For that reason, an objective evaluation of your athletic and academic abilities is critical in determining the right colleges to pursue.
After the evaluation stage, put together a list of colleges where you can realistically make the team, based on that evaluation. Keep in mind that the list should include colleges where you will be happy in all regards. If you’re struggling in the classroom or unhappy with the environment then it will affect your play. Adjusting to college life is a big part of an athlete’s success. Consider the other aspects of college life that make a difference like location, school size, and tuition costs (or whatever other factors are important to you).
STEP 2 – CONTACT THE COACHES AT THOSE SCHOOLS
Again, if college coaches aren’t calling, wake up and smell the Gatorade! They aren’t going to magically find you without a little help. Send them an email, go to a camp or pick up the phone. There is no other logical choice. I know it’s a little uncomfortable to email, call or talk to someone you don’t know, but if college coaches don’t know you exist then your chances for a scholarship drop dramatically. As long as you are contacting the right schools (see Step 1 above), then you are actually doing the coaches a favor by reaching out to them. You are making their job easier!
Sending emails is the most common and easiest way to contact college coaches. Just keep in mind that they receive hundreds of emails and your email needs to stand out to get noticed. The more personal the email, the better chance you have to get a response. I’m not telling you to research their family tree, but it needs to be obvious that you know something about their program and you should let them know why you are interested in their school.
You should also provide some relevant stats, a link to your highlight video and the contact information for your current coach in your first correspondence. These items will allow a college coach to easily decide if they are interested in you. If they aren’t, don’t be offended! There are plenty of other college opportunities.
Finally, to some extent your recruiting process is a numbers game. The more appropriate colleges you contact, the better your chances are at landing a scholarship. Be consistent and persistent. One email to three coaches won’t cut it. If that’s all you’re willing to do then just realize that going forward your athletic career is going to be on the intramural fields.
STEP 3 – GET YOUR COACH INVOLVED AS A REFERENCE
Okay, let’s go back to the job search comparison. When you apply for a job, most potential employers will want a personal reference from a previous employer, teacher or professor. It’s the same for college recruiting. You really need a credible source to vouch for your abilities and character. That credible source is your current coach. If for some reason your current coach can’t or won’t help, then improvise. Ask an assistant coach, a former coach, a skills coach or even an opposing coach.
The fact of the matter is that most coaches want to help their players make it to the next level, but some coaches don’t have a lot of time or experience in the recruiting process. Make it easy for them to help and don’t expect too much. First, ask if you can include their contact information in your correspondence with college coaches and then ask if they would be willing to reach out to a few of your favorite college choices.
We’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again: It is not in your coach’s job description to find your college home. If you’re lucky enough to have a coach who is willing to help, take the time to say thank you.
Here’s the deal
If you’re not in the top 2 percent of high school athletes the college recruiting process can be frustrating, stressful and unpredictable, but it’s not as complicated as you might think. It’s really a very logical process: If you identify the right colleges to pursue, then make contact with the coaching staff and get your current coach involved your recruiting journey should be a rewarding one.