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 their recruiting experts provide a recruiting experience that is backed by a money-back guarantee.
In today’s world of ultra-competitive athletics, many college coaches start to connect, develop and maintain relationships with athletes during their freshman or sophomore years of high school. At Playced, we’re asked all the time, “When should the college recruiting process start?” The simple answer to that question is “Yesterday!”, but based on the above, our answer is that athletes interested in playing their sport in college should approach recruiting as a four-year process starting when they are a freshman.
Listen, I’m not suggesting that a freshman in high school should start emailing Coach K, but every recruit can set the table for a successful college recruiting experience early in their high school career.
Here are 5 things you can do in your freshman and sophomore years that will make your recruiting process a success.
1. Make a commitment to being a student-athlete
First things first. Fall in love with being a student and an athlete! Passion is a must for every student-athlete that wants to play in college. Participating in intercollegiate athletics at any level involves commitment. It’s like having a full-time job while you go to school. There will be many long practices and late nights to keep up with your studies. You better love your sport.
Also, as a high school student-athlete your commitment should be to doing things the right way, on and off the field:
- Understand that your academic standing is critical. There is a reason you are called a student-athlete. If being an athlete was more important than being a student, you would be called an athlete-student.
- Make the commitment to work hard in practice and on your own. Your effort will pay big dividends.
- Keep in mind that one unfortunate incident or inappropriate social media post could be the deciding factor between you and another athlete.
2. Familiarize yourself with the recruiting rules
Next, familiarize yourself with the recruiting rules. I’m not asking you to memorize all the NCAA rules for college bound student-athletes, but a general understanding of terms like contact period, quiet period, dead period, etc. shouldn’t take long and it will put you a step ahead of most other high school athletes. Also, knowing the rules related to your core course GPA and college visits will be helpful in deciding which schools to pursue.
Finally, understanding the specifics related to athletic scholarships is important. The NCAA breaks sports into two categories with respect to scholarships—head count sports and equivalency sports. Students who are offered a scholarship to play a head count sport are being offered a full scholarship, while students who play equivalency sports will most likely receive a partial scholarship generally ranging between 25 to 60 percent.
The head count sports are all at the Division I level and include football (D-I FBS only), basketball (men’s and women’s), women’s tennis, women’s gymnastics and women’s volleyball. All other Division I sports are equivalency sports. Division II, NAIA and Junior Colleges also offer equivalency scholarships. You need to understand the scholarship opportunities in your sport and integrate them with the family college budget. If you play an equivalency sport, you still have some financial planning to do.
3. Assemble your recruiting team
Once you understand the rules, start rounding up your recruiting team. There are many people willing to help if you ask. Just don’t expect them to do everything for you.
First, enlist your parents to be your administrative assistants. Let them be involved, but keep in mind that you should be running this process. Second, inform your high school guidance counselor of your desire to play in college. He or she can be a big help in identifying schools that are a match for you academically. Finally, alert both your high school coach and summer coach of your desire to be a collegiate athlete. Ask for their help and guidance. Ask them for an honest assessment of your abilities and where he/she projects you as a college athlete. Eventually, you will want them to reach out to a few college coaches on your behalf.
4. Lay the groundwork for a successful recruiting journey
Okay, you’ve made the commitment, you understand the rules and you have your recruiting team in place. Now it’s time to get started. As a freshman or sophomore, here is a short list of items that will start you in the right direction:
- Begin thinking about the type of college you want to attend and research those schools by visiting their websites.
- Research the athletic benchmarks for athletes at the colleges you want to attend. Once you understand where you need to be you can set athletic goals.
- Start creating a recruiting timeline. There are many examples online that will help.
- Begin building an athletic resume. You can also start accumulating video clips for a highlight video, but don’t overdo it (remember, you’re still early in your career).
- Sign up for a few strategic camps and/or showcase events. Pick events where coaches from the schools you are pursuing will be in attendance.
- Discuss the family college budget with your parents.
5. Get on the radar of college coaches that make sense
As a sophomore, it’s time to introduce yourself to the college coaches. Consider sending an introductory email to the coaches at the schools you are most interested in. This email is just to get on their radar. Don’t expect a great response rate. You aren’t going to land a scholarship with the first email.
Fill out the Recruiting Questionnaires for the colleges on your Favorites List. This is a no-brainer way to get on their radar! While you are completing the questionnaire, pay attention to the questions you are answering and the information they are requesting. This should give you a pretty good idea of what is important to the coaches at these colleges.
Here’s the deal
The earlier you start your recruiting journey the more time you’ll have to find the right college fit. If you truly want to play in college, a little work early on will put you a step ahead of the competition.