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. Garland Cooper, was a three-time NFCA All-American (two-time first team) and Big Ten Player of the Year at Northwestern University. In 2012, Garland was inducted into the NU Hall of Fame having helped the Wildcats to a pair of Women’s College World Series appearances. She was also a first-round pick of the New England Riptide in the 2007 National Pro Fast Pitch College Draft. Garland 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.
We focus a lot on college coach communications because they are obviously such an important part of recruiting. However, there are other key people and influencers you may meet along the way that could play a big factor in getting your college sports career started. From high school guidance counselors to college recruiting staff–they could all play an important role.
For example, two recent articles, SB Nation’s Meet the women who run college football recruiting in the South and The Sun Sentinel’s Behind the scenes: How women help shape the UM football program both highlight the growing number of women playing critical roles in the once male-dominated world of college football recruiting. What the articles also illustrate is the number of individuals your student-athlete may meet and interact with during the recruiting process in football or any other sport.
While their title may not be “head coach” every one of these individuals deserves your attention, courtesy, and respect. You cannot underestimate the power of their influence.
The following highlights some of the more common key players, how they can help your recruiting, and what you can do to build solid relationships with each.
Meet early with your high school guidance counselor
If the only conversation you have with your guidance counselor is about sending official transcripts you are missing out. High school athletes often under estimate the value of their guidance counselor in their recruiting efforts. Meeting with your guidance counselor early is one way to make sure you are on track to be academically eligible to play sports in college. It’s true, many counselors may not be well-versed in the NCAA Eligibility Center but you can work together on making sure you have the core courses covered. Guidance counselors can also help answer questions about colleges you may be putting on your target list. Lastly, things happen, a college or coach may have an urgent request for another copy of your transcripts. That’s when you’ll need someone who knows who you are and who will go the extra mile to help you out.
Develop good relationships with your high school and or club coach
This one is a little more obvious but there’s so much a college coach can learn from talking to your current coach or coaches. Their opinions and observations are incredibly valuable-especially when college coaches get an unsolicited endorsement or recommendation about a specific athlete. It says a lot about your child’s athleticism and character when their coach is willing to take the time to single them out. Many early recruiting offers come about because college coaches are talking to a high school or club coach. Your son or daughter may disagree with your coach from time to time, but remember the coach can be one of your strongest allies when it comes to recruiting.
Make a good impression on everyone you meet on campus
If you are fortunate enough to be invited on an official visit there’s a good chance you will be working with someone from the recruiting staff or athletic director’s office. They have many different titles but usually their role is to welcome you to the university, schedule meetings and activities, and also make introductions so you can make the most of your time on campus. They meet a lot of athletes every year and coaches truly value their opinions and keen observations.
If your student-athlete does not promptly return their emails or phone calls, spends scheduled tours mostly looking at their phone, or runs consistently late to scheduled meetings or misses them completely, just know that’s going to weigh heavily against them and their recruiting efforts. Everyone your child meets on campus, whether it’s an official or unofficial visit, needs to walk away with a positive impression of your son or daughter as a student, person, and athlete.
One easy way to do that is be sure they follow up with a “thank you” to everyone who helped them on their visit, not just the head coach.
Hit up the financial aid officer with your questions
Beyond the tour of the campus sites, dorm rooms, and stadiums, it would be wise to get to know the financial aid office on your college visits. Financial aid officers can offer a wealth of information regarding the true costs of college and the many different way it can be funded. Many financial aid officers would love to talk to more parents so they have a better understanding of costs, but also so they can help answer the questions that might be keeping them up at night like:
“If I’m laid off of work or my financial situation changes, how will that affect my child?”
“If the lacrosse program is cut, what does that do to my scholarship? What are my options?”
“Can athletes graduate in four years with this major or should I plan on paying for five years?”
Finding the right school or determining the best scholarship/aid package may come down to the answers you get from the financial aid officer. And that’s definitely worth a follow up thank you note.