USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Don’t kid yourself. College coaches always look first at athletic ability and potential when evaluating any recruit. Size, speed and strength are extremely important factors in projecting an athlete’s ability to compete at the collegiate level. That said, there are several other factors that affect how successful your recruiting journey will be.
Many of these are things you can control and certainly if you are proactive, persistent and work to get better, your chances to play at the next level increase dramatically.
Below are 10 questions that if you answer them honestly will provide a pretty good indication of your chances to play your sport in college. Keep track of your answers as you read the article…
1. Are you considered one of the very best players on your current team?
B. No, but I am a varsity starter
C. I don’t know
If you’re a freshman or sophomore at a large high school you may not be a varsity starter yet. If that’s the case, compare yourself with your classmates and the younger athletes on the team to answer this question. If for some reason you answered C to this question, then your answer is really, “No, I’m not one of the best players.”
If you don’t know if you are one of the best players, then you probably aren’t. Playing a sport at the intercollegiate level is a tremendous accomplishment and for the most part the best players on their high school teams are the ones that go on to play in college. For that reason, your answer has to be A or B if you expect to continue your athletic career.
2. Which of the following statements best describe your attitude regarding college recruiting?
A. If I want to play in college, I need to do something about it
B. I need my coach to help me find a scholarship
C. College coaches will find me
Unless you’re a top prospect, your general attitude with respect to recruiting will go a long way toward whether or not you play in college. If you answered B, keep in mind that it is not in your current coach’s job description to find you or anyone else a college home. If your answer is C, then you are playing recruiting roulette.
Sure, some college coaches might find you, but the chances that a college coach at a school you are truly interested in will find you without a little work is highly unlikely. Identifying colleges that match your abilities and contacting the coaches at those schools is by far the best way to land the right scholarship (Answer A).
3. How would you best describe your academic standing?
A. My grades and test scores are good
B. I’m a pretty good student, but my grades aren’t great
C. My grades and test scores don’t matter
A recruit’s academic standing is usually the first tie-breaker between two athletes of similar abilities. College coaches would much prefer a student-athlete with good grades and test scores over one with marginal grades and test scores. Also, the more schools you qualify for academically, the more schools you can consider athletically. If you can’t meet the academic requirements at a college, you can scratch that school off your list. Answer A gives you the best chance and the most college options. Don’t let your grades be a roadblock to a scholarship.
4. Are you willing to be realistic about the colleges you should consider?
A. Yes, I just want to play in college
B. It depends on what you mean by realistic
C. I already know the colleges I want to play for
Being realistic about the appropriate colleges to pursue is perhaps the number one reason many qualified athletes don’t play in college. Not every baseball player can make the roster at Vanderbilt and not every basketball player has a chance to play at Duke, and that’s okay. Ask your coach for an honest evaluation of your abilities and be ready to accept that evaluation. Pursuing the wrong level schools is a recipe for disaster; therefore, you have to be willing to be realistic and A is by far the best answer.
5. Are you willing to devote some time to your recruiting efforts?
A. I am willing to do whatever it takes to keep playing
B. I have a pretty busy schedule, but I’ll do what I can
C. I’m not sure how much time I can devote to the process
The college recruiting process can be overwhelming with nearly 2,000 colleges to choose from and many factors to consider. For those reasons, breaking the process down into short tasks makes a lot of sense and might take a little time. Really, to get started you might have to commit a few hours to determine the right schools to pursue and develop a game plan, but after that you can break down the process into short, easy tasks. Fifteen minutes a night a few days a week will make a huge difference. If you are willing to do that, you can answer A to this question.
6. Are you willing to start your recruiting efforts this week and not procrastinate?
A. I am ready to start now
B. I’ll start soon, but I have a pretty busy schedule this week
C. I’ll get started next month
We all procrastinate, that’s a given. It’s easy to tell yourself ‘I’ll get to that tomorrow’ or ‘I just don’t have time right now,’ but you only have a limited amount of time to find your college home. Your window of opportunity closes a little more as each day passes. If college coaches aren’t contacting you, then you really can’t afford to hesitate. If you think creating an online profile, relying on your coach to find your scholarship, or using the excuse of “I have too much homework” are acceptable reasons to procrastinate then you really don’t want to play in college. Once again, A is the best answer.
7. Do you work at getting better during the “off-season”?
A. Yes, I am constantly trying to get better
B. I’ll work out when I can
C. I’m just going to relax until practice starts again
Playing in college is a commitment. Now is the time to get used to that. I’m not saying that during the off-season you need to be working out every day. Everyone needs a break. In fact, take a break from your sport if you like, but make sure to stay in shape and don’t regress from the progress you made during the season.
8. Do you have a current coach who will vouch for your abilities and character?
B. I’m not sure
C. I’m afraid to ask
A current coach who will vouch for your abilities and character can be the difference-maker in your recruiting journey. They can be the unbiased, trusted link to a college coach. Most coaches want to help their athletes go on to play in college, so don’t be afraid to ask. All they can say is no and if they do, ask your assistant coach, a skills coach or even an opposing coach to help. You really need to be able to answer A to this question; otherwise your college recruiting process will be a challenge.
9. Do you have a skills video?
B. I’ve started one, but it’s not finished yet
C. I will get to that soon
Don’t break the bank producing an Oscar winning skills video set to inspirational music. Your grandparents might like it, but it is unnecessary for a recruiting video. Video alone may not land you a scholarship at your dream school, but it certainly will serve as a virtual handshake to any college coaching staff in the country. Video doesn’t lie and it doesn’t have an opinion so it’s a great way for college coaches to evaluate players they might not be able to observe in person.
Answer A is the best choice and is critical by the time you are a junior. If your answer is B or C, then get busy and make your answer A.
10. Do you have an updated Athletic/Academic Resume to share with college coaches?
B. I’ve started, but it’s not finished yet
C. I will get to that sometime soon
A well-organized, concise athletic resume is an effective way to provide a college coach with the information they need to quickly decide if they are interested in reaching out to you. It’s never too early to prepare one, so answers B and C are really not an option. Get your resume together now and just update it as your grades and stats change. Once you feel you are ready to be seen by college coaches then include the resume in any correspondence you send to college coaches.
Here’s the deal
You probably noticed that A was the best answer to every question. The more questions you truthfully answered A to, the more likely you will be a college athlete. Conversely, if any of your answers were C, things need to change in a hurry. Depending upon where you are in the process, if your answer is A to at least 7 of the above questions you have an excellent chance to be recruited. If not, don’t panic. Just make an adjustment.