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. Jason is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason 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.
For any high schooler, impressing a college coach can be intimidating, and a few blunders are bound to happen. Maybe your student-athlete emailed the wrong college program. Or maybe they just didn’t play well in a tournament. No matter what happened, it’s not the end of their recruiting journey.
Our team of former college coaches can attest that they’ve seen their share of hiccups—some more memorable than others. From a student-athlete going missing on campus to another visiting the concession stand during a game, here are five unforgettable rookie recruit moves.
The snack attack
I decided to attend a local high school football game to gauge a recruit after watching his film. He was a starter and a good player. It ended up being a blow out—by the second quarter, his team was winning by 40 points.
At some point during the third quarter, he took off his helmet on the sideline and started goofing around. That’s when I saw him hop the fence, walk over to the concession stand and buy a hot dog. I couldn’t believe it! None of his teammates or coaches noticed, but I saw him bring it back to the bench and eat it during the game.”
—Joe Leccesi, former NAIA college coach
The thrill is gone
I was at a large baseball showcase in Illinois where about eight different high school conferences were represented. Several coaches and scouts attended the event. I was standing along the fence watching a recruit when his dad started scorning him from the sideline. In response, the recruit turned around and—in front of 100 college coaches—replied, ‘Dad, I don’t even like baseball!’
—Ray Napientek, former Division I college coach
What U are You?
We were interested in a student-athlete and brought her in for an official visit. I knew she was looking at our program and one other college nearby, too. It became very clear during dinner that she thought she was on an official visit with the other college the whole time. She asked one of my players why there was so much red everywhere, when she thought our colors were black and gold.
—Pete Kowall, former Division I college coach
The disappearing recruit
When I was at Rose-Hulman, we were recruiting a football student-athlete from California. We brought him in for an overnight visit and picked him up at the airport. When he arrived at the school, he talked to our staff for a while, but never mentioned his interest in playing basketball.
After the overnight visit program started, the athlete went missing and we couldn’t find him. We called and searched all over! We later found out he spent the rest of the weekend visiting as a basketball recruit. Apparently they had arranged a visit for him that same weekend, too.
—Dominique Ware, former Division I and Division III college coach
Not all mishaps cause college coaches to think twice about a recruit. In fact, one of our coaches was so impressed by a student-athlete’s bizarre behavior, it actually landed him a scholarship. Here’s the story.
‘I Got This’
We had a Saturday game late in the season—it was a big game and an emotional time. I had all the defensive guys in front of the white board, and I started going over the last series when I noticed something happening to my right … a high school recruit—in the locker room—coaching my defensive backs.
Here’s a 17-year-old telling college seniors what they need to do. And they were listening! One of the seniors told me, ‘You’ve got to recruit him. He just gave me some pretty good insight.’ You never expect someone to jump in and do that, especially a high school student-athlete. I ended up offering him a scholarship and he became a 4-year starter for us, Team Captain, and All-American.
—Ron Anzevino, former Division I college coach
If your student-athlete doesn’t have the most seamless recruiting journey, there’s no need to panic. Mistakes happen. And when they do, it’s not the end of the world (sometimes they even work out in your favor!). Just remember, coaches have seen it all.