Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Five habits of highly-recruited athletes

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 Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. 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.

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Think about how you would describe yourself for a minute. Honestly, what comes to mind? Would you consider yourself a hard worker or would you label yourself as lazy? Do you pay attention to details or would you rather cut corners? Are you reliable and trustworthy, or are you the person that is consistently inconsistent? What kind of a student are you? What kind of an athlete are you? Who are you? Regardless of how you answer those questions, you are who you are because of what you do. In other words, you are the sum of your habits, good or bad. Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Couldn’t say it any better than that!

When it comes to seeing yourself as a college recruit, who are you? I think you would be surprised to learn that the majority highly-recruited athletes, physical talent aside, share many of the same qualities. And those similar qualities are often shaped though their similar habits. So let’s take a closer look at the five habits of highly recruited athletes.

Self-awareness

Understanding who you are as a student, who you are as an athlete and understanding where you fit in at the next level. That’s self-awareness. If you genuinely want to play your sport in college, this is a habit that you must practice on a regular basis. Not every basketball player can play at North Carolina and not every student will be accepted into Princeton. Having a clear picture of what you are capable of doing will give you the best chance of landing a roster spot at the perfect school. And the perfect school for you may not be the perfect school for another recruit. That’s the beautiful thing about the college recruiting process. It can be as unique as you want it to be, as long as you can be aware of who you are.

Define your destination

Let’s assume that you are practicing self-awareness and you have a clear picture of the type of student-athlete you are. Based on that picture, you need to ask yourself what it is you really want out of a college career. What is going to make you happy from an academic standpoint and an athletic standpoint, and what overall college experience are you looking for? Your answers here will define your destination. In other words, you know your point A, and, by defining your destination, you are establishing your point B. By forming opinions and creating realistic expectations of what you want to accomplish, you have as much control of the outcome as you can possibly have. Set goals for yourself. You can’t get there if you don’t know where there is!

Take action

Ask any highly-recruited athlete what their plan is to achieve a specific goal and they will answer with a specific task. Highly-recruited athletes don’t just talk the talk, they also walk the walk. Practicing the habits of self-awareness and defining your destination are 100 percent pointless without practicing the habit of taking action. It’s really where the rubber meets the road and what separates the best from the rest. For example, let’s say you know you need an ACT score of 30 to get into your dream school, and you score a 27 on your first try. Well, are you going to put in the extra preparation and study time to get to that 30, or are you going to just accept the 27? Or let’s say you’re a defensive back that runs a 4.6 40 and you recently found out you needed to run a 4.5 to be offered that scholarship you were hoping for. Would you be willing to sacrifice your Saturday night social time for Saturday night practice time? Taking action is the habit of implementing and executing specific tasks to achieve specific goals. It’s the habit of not just knowing, but doing.

Attitude of gratitude, see everything as an opportunity

Do you give the same effort in the classroom that you do on the field? Do you value practices as much as you value games? Do you genuinely appreciate every letter, email, or text you get from any college coach? Are you thankful to even be considered as a candidate for the next level? Highly-recruited athletes would answer each one of those questions with an emphatic ‘yes.’ Here’s the bottom line: everything should be seen as an opportunity to create better for yourself. Getting good grades creates better opportunities for yourself. Always working hard in practice creates better opportunities for yourself. Being thankful to the coaches that recruit you, regardless of the level, creates better opportunities for yourself. Listen, you will likely go through the recruiting process one time in your life. Practice the habit of having an attitude of gratitude and never taking anything or anyone for granted. It will make the recruiting process so much more enjoyable for not only you, but everyone else that is supporting you!

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Focus on fit, not level

If your answer to where you want to go to college is that you want to go D-I, you aren’t focused on the things that matter. In fact, based on my knowledge of recruiting, that answer usually indicates that a student-athlete really has no clue what he or she wants. Imagine someone walking into a car dealership looking for a new car. That dealer would go through a natural progression of questions. Car? Truck? Do you have a family? How much money are you wanting to spend? What color do you want? So on and so forth. Imagine the look on the dealer’s face if that person just responded to those questions saying they wanted something shiny and new. Well, when it comes to college recruiting, saying you want to go D-I is basically saying you want something shiny and new! Seems pretty ridiculous, right? Here’s my point, highly-recruited athletes make it a habit to focus on the whole picture, not just surface value things. Sure, going D-I indicates a high level of athletic ability. But what it doesn’t indicate is how satisfied with your college experience you will be. Try to get past the paint job when deciding which college makes the most sense for you!