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. Kyle Winters was a standout high school pitcher who tossed seven scoreless innings in a major tournament during his senior year. That performance against some heavy-hitting future MLB draft picks helped Kyle earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of New Mexico. However, Kyle opted to play professional baseball and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fifth round and played seven seasons for various minor league teams. Kyle 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.
“I think I’m getting recruited by this coach, but… I’m really not sure!”
Does this sound familiar? Many student-athletes have struggled to clearly understand if and when they are getting recruited by a college coach. Do recruiting questionnaires count? How about camp invites? A phone call? Not every coach is going to show interest the same way, and interest will mean something different for every program.
I’ve laid out some of the different ways you might hear from a coach and what they usually signify in terms of interest. Look at it like a ranking system, starting with actions that indicate the least amount of interest to actions that show the most.
Haven’t heard anything from the coach or school? The coach isn’t interested yet
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you aren’t hearing from a coach or school, they most likely aren’t interested. Even if the NCAA contact rules mandate that coaches cannot start communicating with you yet, coaches will usually find a way to get in touch with student-athletes they are interested in. They may contact your high school or club coach. They also might have the institution send generic information about the school. In other words, if you’re a freshman or sophomore especially, contact from coaches can come in unexpected ways. Make sure you always follow up with the coach so they know you are interested in their program.
Received questionnaires in the mail? You may be on the coach’s radar
Coaches will send questionnaires out to a large number of freshmen and sophomores to gauge their interest in the program. Make sure you respond to the questionnaires as soon as possible so they know you are interested! You should also send the coach a follow-up email with your key information and highlight or skills video so they can make their initial evaluation. If you’re a junior or senior who’s still only receiving questionnaires, you need to immediately reach out to the coaches at programs you’re interested in to claim a spot on their list of recruits.
READ MORE: How to tackle recruiting questionnaires
Camp invites filling up your inbox? The coach may want to evaluate you in person
Camp invites can be somewhat tricky! At camps, coaches usually have a set list of athletes who they are interested in evaluating, and they will spend most of their time watching those athletes compete. If the coach mentions specifically that they know who you are or that they have watched your highlight video, that’s a good indication you are on their list of recruits to watch. If your invitation is generic, you may be in the larger pool of athletes who aren’t really on their radar yet. Before you go to an event, reach out to the coach, sending them your highlight or skills video, key stats and a short introduction. Make sure you’re on that list of top recruits!
Fielding emails from the coaching staff? You’re probably on their list of recruits
Email is an easy way for coaches to communicate with athletes who are on their list of recruits. They may ask you for more information about your athletics, academics and character. Make sure you respond promptly, and you proofread your emails for any grammar or spelling errors. At this stage, you still need to show the coach that you’re interested.
The coach has been calling, texting or DMing you? You’re definitely a prospect
The coach is likely quite interested if you’re receiving calls, texts or direct messages through social media. If the coach has given you their personal contact information, you can feel confident that you are relatively high up on their list of recruits. However, just because you’re on their list of recruits, doesn’t mean that you’ve secured your spot on the team yet! You need to keep putting in the work to get an offer.
Invited on an official or unofficial visit? You’re an important recruit
Visiting a school is an important step in your recruiting process, especially if the coach personally invited you! Official visits, or campus visits in which any part is paid for by the school, indicate the strongest interest from college coaches. They are using their budget to show off their school and create an impressive experience for you as a recruit. However, being personally invited for an unofficial visit also indicates clear interest from the coach. Not all coaches and programs have a huge budget, and many simply don’t have the ability to conduct official visits. Make the most of this trip by being polite and attentive, answering the coach’s questions appropriately and preparing your own questions. Campus visits are a popular time for coaches to extend an offer to athletes, so make sure you’re prepared if that conversation comes up.
Received an offer? Congratulations, you’re a top recruit
Getting an offer is the reason you started this process in the first place! If a coach extends an offer to you, remember that you can ask what their deadline is for your response so you have time to think about it and determine any questions you have. Verbal offers, while a sure sign that you are a high-value recruit, are not legally binding yet, which means that the coach can back out if they need to. Keep in touch with the coach up until Signing Day to ensure that they expect you to be part of the team.
The recruiting process is tricky and stressful—I know firsthand! And it’s easy to overthink communications with college coaches. Remember: the more personalized the contact from the coach, the higher up you are on their list. If you aren’t receiving the kind of communication you want from a program, proactively reach out to them and show why you would be a great fit.