USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
The Tens Things That Require Zero Talent has made the rounds all over Facebook and you may have even seen it at your place of work, scrawled out on a dry erase board in the past year. This extremely popular meme captures great, no-nonsense advice parents and coaches alike have been doling out to their kids for years. Things like, “Be on time”, “Have a strong work ethic”, and “Make an effort.”
Toward the tail end of the list is “Be Coachable.” Now, I think this is the one that needs to be moved up to the top of the list for any student-athlete looking to get recruited and play at the college level. In fact, you could argue the other nine are really just some of the qualities of a coachable player. The important thing to know is that college coaches, can not only read body language, but they can also spot those student-athletes who are coachable and those are often the more prized recruits.
While it may be true that being a coachable athlete requires zero talent, what it does require is a focused effort to make it happen. Here’s what your child can do to become more coachable.
Don’t fear failure, new, or different
There’s nothing more comfortable than old habits. For most young athletes, like most us, it’s tough to get out of your comfort zone and to break a few bad habits. After all, they’ve been doing things a certain way and achieved a certain amount of success like making the team and even becoming a starter. Real development however, is not about what got you here, it’s about what’s going to get you to the next level. For a young quarterback, they may need to fix sloppy footwork or throwing mechanics, a softball player may get moved from infield to outfield. It’s all new and different, and you may not do it well at first, but you will in the long run if you get over the initial fear, get out of your comfort zone, trust your coach, and put in the effort.
Asked to be coached
There is not a player out there that couldn’t benefit from more coaching. And sometimes, you just have to ask for it. You may find your high school or club coach spending more time with starters or older players on the team. However, you’ll find virtually every coach appreciates those athletes who speak up and demonstrate they are there to learn and get better at their sport. It will mean, maybe for the first time, your son or daughter having to deal with real criticism and honestly start working a little harder. The benefits of course are not only growth as player, but there might be a more immediate impact like more playing time.
Listen like your life depended on it
One of the greatest skills any athlete can acquire is to be a good listener. Good listening requires eye contact not eye rolling. Again, not an easy thing for a young player talking with an adult. It also means giving your undivided attention. Being a coachable listener means keeping an open mind and considering another point of view. Good listeners also ask questions when they don’t understand what they are being told. More importantly, they don’t get defensive. The last thing coaches will want to hear is an explanation or an excuse.
Be as humble as you are grateful
The coachable athlete quickly gets comfortable with the fact there’s always room for improvement their game. They also understand they are going to need help from others and that it’s possible to be humble and yet confident at that the same time. Gratitude goes a long way when it comes to coaches and your teachers as well. Every athlete should show their gratitude to those that are pushing them to meet their full potential whether it’s in the classroom or as a competitor.
While being coachable may require zero talent, as you can see, what it does require is effort.