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.
It’s always great to hear from families where one (or both) parents or guardians are former collegiate athletes, and they are now looking forward to helping their child compete at the college level. They know firsthand the highs and lows, the twists and turns a recruiting journey can take. Plus, they have a good basic understanding of the process and timelines involved.
While it may seem like only yesterday when they were going on college visits, a lot has changed in the recruiting world. As a parent, whether you competed in college or not, it’s good to be aware of some the more significant changes and how recruiting has evolved and continues to transform.
The Internet literally opens the doors to finding more colleges and universities
Never before has there been so much information about colleges and universities and their sports teams readily available online. In that respect, researching schools and exploring more and different options has never been easier. Your athlete can take a virtual tour of Harvard’s campus, find new majors being offered at Bowling Green, watch a current college player document their life on YouTube, or delve into team rosters to see how they stack up. And on the flip side, online recruiting profiles and the emergence of highlight video sites like Hudl help give your student-athlete nationwide exposure to coaches looking to fill their rosters.
The bottom line for today’s recruits is that there’s still homework to be done but a lot more of the legwork is going to happen online. The Internet is now that intersection where student-athletes discover schools and schools discover student-athletes. That means taking advantage of the information that’s available and maintaining a positive, visible presence online.
Social media and text messaging offer more ways to communicate with coaches
As we often hear or read, social media is the place where some students-athletes saw offers and scholarships disappear due to their less-than-stellar posts. However, it’s also quickly becoming a popular communication channel with college coaches.
Where their parents may have been communicating with coaches through email and phone calls, today’s recruits have another way to get on a coach’s radar–and in a good way. Well-managed social media accounts can offer coaches a glimpse at an athlete’s personality and character and also open up another platform for recruiting conversations. Student-athletes, of course, will have the added task of monitoring these accounts for messages and replying in a timely manner, in addition to using the regular channels like phone calls and emails.
Read more: How to write DMs that open coaches’ doors
College coaches are no different than the rest of us when it comes to smartphones. Once the NCAA ban was lifted, coaches began texting student-athletes because it’s a fast, convenient, and easy way to stay in touch with recruits. Like social media, it gives student-athletes another way to reach out to coaches, but responses still require a lot of care and consideration.
Read more: Send the right message to college coaches
Today’s student-athletes will face more international competition
The number of international athletes is on the rise. For example, 39 percent of The University of Alaska Anchorage student-athletes are not from the U.S. and the most recent data shows that 5.6 percent of DI college athletes are international students. While the overall percentage seems low, it does have a significant impact on specific sports like tennis and ice hockey. For athletes in those sports, keep in mind that you are not only competing against some of the best athletes in your area or state but also against international players.
The recruiting process is starting earlier
All the talk of freshmen verbal offers and commits and early signing periods certainly can add to the anxiety for many parents but especially those who recall not having any real conversations with a college coach until half way through their senior year. The competition for student-athletes is high, and college coaches want to lock down as many athletes as they can as early as possible. This is especially true for women’s team sports where, DI softball coaches for example, will start evaluating 8th and 9th grade players.
While it’s true some especially gifted athletes may get verbal offers at an early age, the majority of student-athletes will follow a more traditional recruiting timeline. Every athlete is different and this article can help you decide when to start the recruiting process and when to wait.
Your athlete’s head coach may not be around when they graduate
The era of coaching dynasties may be behind us. It’s one thing families often don’t consider but the reality is the coach who recruits your athlete as a freshman may not be there to see them graduate. This of course can impact everything from playing time to scholarship dollars so it’s important to seriously consider: “Would I want to be at this school if my coach leaves?”
Some things that will never change
While the athletic recruiting process continues to evolve there are several things all college coaches agree will remain:
- Grades matter. Your academic game is just as important as your athletic prowess.
- Current coaches matter. Talk to them. They can do a lot when they know your plans.
- Character matters. College coaches want athletes who will be an asset to their program and to their school.