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. Joe is a former college-athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe 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.
When I was a junior in high school, Northwestern University invited me to participate in a gameday visit—but I had no clue. My high school coach, who originally received the invitation, didn’t tell me about it.
Kind of shocking, right? It’s actually much more common than you think.
“Your high school coach can make a difference in your recruiting process,” says Jim Vert, a high school football coach of more than 30 years. “We often have conversations with college coaches about a student-athlete’s character—the intangibles they can’t see on film, like character and leadership.”
This is especially true when college coaches can’t contact student-athletes directly because of NCAA regulations. Instead, they email or call their high school coach to learn more about the recruit and coordinate a time to talk (remember, student-athletes can email and call coaches at any time, but college coaches are restricted in their communications.)
So, if your athlete’s high school coach receives information from college coaches, why would they withhold anything? Here are a few scenarios:
Your child isn’t getting ‘real’ interest
Colleges send general recruiting questionnaires and camp invites to high school coaches without genuine interest in the athlete. When Northwestern sent a gameday visit to my coach, for example, I was already a junior. Most Division I programs have full rosters by this time, and sure enough, they did. Your high school coach may wait to pass along information until they’re certain the athletic program is actively recruiting your child. That way no one feels disappointed.
Insider tip: If there are certain schools your family is interested in, you can always visit the college’s website and proactively fill out a recruiting questionnaire. Then materials can be sent to your home address. Your athlete can also email or call college coaches directly.
Learn more about communicating with coaches: Four ways to make coach communications easier and more effective
Your child isn’t the right fit
Your athlete needs to be a great match for a program athletically and academically. And in some cases, they just aren’t. If their GPA or athleticism is far from what’s required, your high school coach may hold onto interest letters so that your family can focus on schools where you have a better chance of getting recruited. No one wants your athlete to feel rejected because they’re GPA isn’t high enough or their stats don’t fall in line with the other players’.
The high school coach is swamped
Think about a high school coach’s schedule for a minute: they may teach class until 3:30 p.m. and have practice until 6:30 p.m. On top of that, they watch game video and grade papers. It’s very possible they accidentally overlooked a letter, email or call. With all that they have going on, you’ll want to make sure to involve your athlete’s high school coach early on and stay in touch during your recruiting process.
Here are some ways high school coaches can be most helpful in your athlete’s recruiting
Sharing video. They can advocate for your athlete by sharing highlight video with college coaches and emphasizing your athlete’s strong points.
Coordinating conversations. After your athlete emails a college coach, their high school coach can also reach out to the college coach and facilitate a meeting. Then your athlete can call the college coach at that time and learn more about the program. This is the best way for college coaches to talk to recruits without breaking any NCAA rules.
Being a reference. Like Coach Vert mentioned earlier, high school coaches are the best character witnesses. They can speak to your athlete’s personality and leadership qualities, which college coaches find invaluable. They can also talk about your athlete’s training regimen and the coaching styles they respond to best.
In-person meetings. Your high school coach is a great buffer when it comes to meeting college coaches in person. If a college coach is evaluating your athlete at a game, your high school coach can help your family talk with the coach afterward to learn more about the school.
Setting expectations. Bottom line: your athlete’s high school coach wants to help your family find the right college fit. And, like everything in life, the road getting there might have a few ups and downs. It’s completely normal for student-athletes to reach out to 50 or more athletic programs, which means that it’s completely normal for feelings of rejection to occur. Ask your high school coach to be candid about where your athlete can play, and know that they can help your family deal with rejection and stay positive.
One way or another, your child’s high school coach is going to be a part of the recruiting process. Talk to them early on, keep them in the loop, and use their expertise and connections to help maximize your family’s college options.