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.
Teacher, Leader, Motivator, Role Model, Mentor. These are the qualities of a perfect coach. Nearly every athlete has played for at least one coach who possessed these attributes. You might have noticed that “personal college scholarship finder person” isn’t on the list. Repeat after me: It isn’t my coach’s job to find my college scholarship. That being said, a coach who is willing to help can have a tremendous impact on your chances of landing a scholarship. For that reason, you need to ask for their help and support, but keep in mind that many coaches have responsibilities other than just running practice and showing up for the games. You have to be respectful of their time and help them help you.
In this article, we will cover the need for a recommendation from your coach, what you should expect from your high school coach and what real college coaches want from your high school coach.
You need a credible recommendation
The college recruiting process is no different than the process of searching for a job. In a job search, a good reference from a previous employer or college professor can go a long way in securing employment. The same holds true in college recruiting. If your coach is willing to vouch for your character, work ethic and abilities, a college coach is much more likely to be interested in you for his or her program.
There is one potential problem to getting that great recommendation from your current coach. How can your coach give a glowing review if you’re consistently late for practice, aren’t a hard worker, or not a team player? Your coach sees your effort in practice every day, sees how you react to game situations and is the best source for a college coach to gain insight on you as a player. You better earn that recommendation!
Expect the basics, be happy if you receive more
The basic responsibilities of a high school coach are to teach the fundamentals of the game. This might include how to field a groundball, make a tackle or shoot a free throw. He or she should also teach you the rules of the game and how the game is played. These are the basics and you should expect no more.
Most high school coaches are ready and willing to do more than just the basics. They truly want to help their athletes make it to the next level. If your coach is willing to help, make sure you thank them. Also, be mindful that you’re not the only player on the team and try to make it as easy on them as possible.
It would be ideal if your current coach could take the time to help you identify appropriate colleges to pursue. That kills two birds with one stone; you know the colleges on your list are appropriate and you know your coach is comfortable contacting them on your behalf. If they don’t have time to be that involved, just be sure they agree on the level of colleges you are pursuing (DI, DII, NAIA, etc.) and then provide them the contact information for the coaches at the colleges in which you are most interested. Don’t give them 50 names, just your top 3 to 5 schools.
After that, keep them informed on how things are going and ask if you can include their contact information in any correspondence you are sending directly to college coaches. If for some reason your high school coach can’t help, then find an alternative. Use an assistant coach, a skills coach or even an opposing coach.
College coaches will listen
Here are a few quotes from our previous interviews with college coaches discussing what they would like to see from your current coach. These quotes make it obvious that your current coach can be a difference-maker in your recruiting journey.
“A great way to let us know you are interested in our program is to have your coach reach out to us, on your behalf. Have them send us an email with a link to some video highlights.”
—Lubbock Christian women’s basketball coach Steve Gomez
“Bottom line, the alpha and the omega of the list of people we trust regarding a recruit is the high school coach or high school coaches.”
—Marian University football coach Mark Henninger
“For our program specifically, I would advise a young man to have his high school coach or AAU coach reach out to our staff, on his behalf. If that recruit truly has the ability to play at this level, it is going to take a personal conversation with his coach for us to even consider taking the next step.”
—Texas A & M basketball coach Billy Kennedy
“Really we didn’t trust anyone other than our coaching staff and the player’s high school coach. Our coaching staff handled all aspects of recruiting. We didn’t rely on anyone else, but if a high school coach had any hesitation about a player, we were out!”
—Mack Brown, former football coach at University of Texas
“The opinion of the club coach is one that we typically draw on first. That is the coach that has been around the student-athlete, most recently. We also like to speak with other coaches, teachers, principals or any authority figures involved in the student-athlete’s day-to-day life.”
—Theresa Romagnola, Notre Dame women’s soccer coach
Here’s the deal
If you want to play in college don’t be afraid to ask your current coach for help and support in your recruiting journey. Just don’t expect them to do all the work for you. College coaches want to hear from you first, then from your coach and from no one else! A proactive, polite, qualified student-athlete armed with a recommendation from his or her coach is someone most college coaches will be interested in. If your current coach is unable or unwilling to help, then improvise. Having a coach involved in your recruiting efforts will make a difference.