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.
You only get one shot at a first impression; that is an undeniable fact. Given that fact, you really don’t want the first thing out of your mouth with any college coach to be misinterpreted or viewed as negative. You don’t want your first words to be your “last words” with any coach. Many times what you say, how you say it, and when you say it can determine how a coach might react to it.
Listen, I’m not saying that one misspoken sentence or inappropriate tweet will doom your scholarship opportunities, but being smart about how you communicate with coaches is an important factor in a successful college recruiting experience. Here are 5 examples of quotes from recruits we hear all the time that might cause a college coach some concern.
“Hey Coach, check out my highlights!”
Tweeting or posting this comment is not going to result in a coach looking at your video. In fact, it could come off as arrogant or lazy and that’s obviously not the intent. If college coaches actually looked at every video posted, tweeted or shared on social media they would be on their cell phones 24/7. You have to give a coach a compelling reason to view your video. A random tweet from an athlete he or she has never heard of is probably going to be ignored or isn’t going to be well received. Take the time to come up with a respectful, compelling way to convince a coach to click on your video link.
“My high school coach is OK, but I’m ready to have a real coach.”
Your relationship with your high school coach is usually a pretty good indication of your character, work ethic and attitude. If there is any hint that you have a problem with your high school coach, that will definitely be a strike against you with most college coaches. You need to understand that the relationship you have with your current coach is a great indicator of how your relationship will be with your college coach.
College coaches are going to ask about your current coach and they will definitely talk to them. In fact, in an interview a few months ago Mark Henninger, the football coach at Marian University told us, “Bottom line, the alpha and the omega of the list of people we trust regarding a recruit is the high school coach or high school coaches.” You really need to have a great relationship with your high school coach and you should never make a negative comment about any coach to a college coach.
“I know I’m a senior, but I’ve always been interested in playing for you. Do you have any roster spots open?”
In today’s world of competitive athletics college recruiting is starting earlier and earlier. College coaches are forced to start evaluating athletes sooner rather than later. The intense focus on success in athletics is astonishing. Parents start preparing their kids to compete in the Olympics on their fourth birthday. LeBron James Jr. received a scholarship offer at the age of 10. Softball players verbally commit before they play one inning in high school.
For the most part, these are atypical situations and college coaches don’t recruit athletes just because they dominated at kindergarten kickball, but all kidding aside, the college recruiting process actually should start earlier than most people realize. Many college coaches look to connect, develop and maintain relationships with athletes during their freshman or sophomore year. For that reason alone, rosters are filling up much quicker than you think. You really can’t wait until your senior year to start looking for the right college opportunity. At that point, even if a coach is interested in you, he or she may not have an opening.
“So, how big a scholarship are you planning for me?”
Timing is everything and just so you know, college coaches generally don’t want to talk scholarship dollars in the first conversation (unless you are a 5-Star recruit). Remember, for most athletes college recruiting is a process and you probably aren’t going to land a scholarship in your initial conversation with a college coach. They want to get to know you as an athlete and a person. When you go on a job interview, you don’t walk in and ask “So, how much money am I going to make here?” You wait for the appropriate time for that discussion. Every college coach knows you want to maximize your scholarship dollars and if they are truly interested in you they will help you reach your goals.
If you can, let the coach start the scholarship conversation. It might happen during the first conversation, but the more likely scenario is that it will happen after you’ve established a relationship with the coach.
“I plan to work on my grades next semester.”
Academics are big part of the college recruiting process. If you don’t have the grades to be admitted into a college, you won’t be receiving an athletic scholarship from that school. There is a reason you are called a “student-athlete”. If being an athlete was more important, you would be called an “athlete-student”. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to tell a coach “I plan to work on my grades next semester”. That probably won’t cut it…
Here’s the deal
How well you communicate with college coaches most certainly will have an impact on how many scholarship offers you receive. Be prepared before you talk with any college coach because you don’t want your first words to be your “famous last words” with any coach.