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.
The first time any athlete goes through the college recruiting process is probably the only time they will go through the process. For that reason, every athlete and his or her parents are essentially “rookies” at college recruiting. They don’t know what to do, when to do it or how the process really works. Therefore, there will be many questions along the way.
In an effort to make the process a little easier and to relieve your recruiting stress, here are the 10 recruiting questions we hear most often and my answers. The good thing about this article is you only need to read the questions you want answers to…
1. I’ll be a senior in the fall, is it too late to start?
Absolutely not, but you really need to use this summer to set the stage for your senior year. Start by identifying target schools and connecting with college coaches now. Certainly if you took the time to do some of the groundwork as a freshman/sophomore then your recruiting efforts this summer won’t be too time-consuming. If not, you really need to devote a few hours a week to your college search, because you’ve got some catching up to do. That said: If you are persistent and consistent, there are many opportunities available.
2. What are my chances of playing in college?
The reality is that only 2 percent of high school athletes will play their sport in college, but I wouldn’t let that statistic discourage you. In fact, it should motivate you. The only statistics that matter are the ones you put up in your sport.
The fact that you are reading this article is an indication that you probably have the talent and desire to play at the next level, you just need to implement a workable game plan.
So, if you are a serious athlete, research the teams that interest you, analyze how you stack up with their current players and if you are realistic about your abilities, then your chances are pretty good. Understand that every team is looking for something a little different in their athletes and you just need to find the ones looking for a player like you.
3. Do I need to use a recruiting service?
The real answer to this question is: “It depends.” It depends on whether or not you are willing to do all the work yourself. Also, like any industry, it depends on which recruiting service you choose and what you expect them to deliver. There are good recruiting services and there are companies only interested in your credit card number and expiration date. My best advice is to be careful.
A recruiting service can’t make you stronger, faster or more talented. Recruiting services can be helpful if you don’t want to do it all yourself. If you decide to use a service, do your homework, read the reviews, ask the right questions and understand exactly what you are paying for. If you decide to do it yourself, make a commitment to educate yourself on the process, be persistent and don’t procrastinate.
4. How do I get noticed by college coaches?
If you haven’t been noticed by college coaches yet, the best way to get noticed is to develop a realistic recruiting strategy. Attending a showcase camp with 200 other athletes will help, but only if you stand out. Setting up an online profile might make you feel good, but why would your profile stand out from all the others? And sending a Direct Message to a college coach telling them “Check out my highlight video” may do more harm than good.
Take ownership of your recruiting process and go directly to the source in as many ways as you can. Here are a few suggestions:
- Fill out the recruiting questionnaire on the school websites of the colleges in which you have the most interest. Pay attention to the questions they are asking. That will provide insight on what they are looking for.
- Send an introductory email expressing specific interest in their program that includes your academic standing, some relevant athletic stats, a link to your highlight video and your current coach’s contact information.
- If possible, have your current coach send an email vouching for your abilities and character.
- Send a follow up email to the coaches you have not heard back from.
- Try to connect with college coaches on Twitter. If they follow you, then send them a Direct Message expressing specific interest in their program.
- Strategically select a few camps and showcase events to attend. Send the coaches in attendance an email before the camp notifying them that you will be there. They need to know your name before the camp.
5. When should I expect to hear from college coaches?
You shouldn’t expect to be recruited before September 1 of your junior year in high school. That’s typically when you can expect a college coach to start recruiting you as a prospective student-athlete for his or her program.
So, you might be wondering why, and how, do we hear about seventh and eighth graders verbally committing to schools? Well, in today’s world of college athletics, recruits are being pursued earlier and earlier every year because there are, in fact, legitimate ways that college coaches can navigate the recruiting rules. While the above is true in certain circumstances, most college coaches are not scouting the tee-ball fields of America looking for the next Mike Trout. In fact, college coaches recruiting athletes before they have played a game in high school is not the norm.
6. When am I allowed to contact college coaches?
Athletes are allowed to contact college coaches at any time. It is against NCAA rules for a coach to contact a recruit during certain times; however, if you initiate the conversation or contact, they can reply. Don’t make a habit of contacting coaches too often. Make sure you have something worth telling them, or have a well thought-out question to ask.
7. How important is a highlight video in the recruiting process?
A highlight or skills video can be very important in recruiting. A video can allow a college coach in Binghamton, N.Y., to evaluate an athlete in Albuquerque, N.M., without the time and expense of a recruiting trip. Most coaches can watch 30 to 45 seconds of a video and know if they are interested in an athlete. That being said, you don’t need a professional video, set to music with terrific graphics. Here are some tips on how to make a good highlight video:
- Keep it short: Two or three minutes is long enough. Put your Best Highlights first because you only get one chance at a first impression.
- Post your video online and provide college coaches the link in your first correspondence.
- Know what coaches want to see: Different sports require different approaches. For example, baseball and softball coaches would rather see video of your skills rather than game footage. Highlight videos for sports like basketball and football are the opposite.
- Showcase all your skills and use clips that show you’re a well-rounded athlete.
- Quality video is important, but it certainly DOES NOT have to be done by a professional.
8. How do I decide which colleges to contact?
This may be the most difficult question when it comes to recruiting. There is no reason to waste your time pursuing schools that aren’t a match for your athletic and academic abilities. In fact, pursuing the wrong schools may be the most common reason why many talented athletes don’t find a college team.
If you aren’t sure which colleges are a fit athletically, ask your coach (or coaches) for an honest evaluation. If you aren’t sure which colleges are a match academically, talk to your high school guidance counselor.
9. If I’m invited to a camp or asked to fill out a questionnaire am I being recruited?
You aren’t necessarily being recruited if you get invited to a camp. The primary purpose of camps is to make money for the school and the coaching staff. There may be legitimate recruits at the camps, but 99 percent of the attendees are not on the school’s “short list” of scholarship candidates.
If you receive a personal letter or email from a college coach asking you to fill out a recruiting questionnaire then you have been noticed, but you aren’t being recruited yet. Being recognized or noticed is the initial stage in earning a scholarship. Make sure you complete the questionnaire right away and fill it out as accurately as possible. A good rule of thumb is you are not being recruited unless a college coach specifically contacts you or your coach.
10. I’m not getting any responses from coaches. What does that mean?
A lack of responses might not mean anything at all; however, it could mean they don’t have a need at your position or their recruiting class is full. Most likely, you are targeting the wrong schools, or they have no way to verify that you are a realistic candidate for their program.
Be certain that the schools you are contacting are a fit athletically. It’s okay to pursue dream colleges, but you should primarily pursue realistic colleges and “fallback” colleges. If you contact a school multiple times without a response, then just move on to other options. Don’t take it personally. Not every college coach is going to be interested.
Here’s the deal
You will have questions as you go through the college recruiting process. Count on it. Don’t be afraid to ask your high school coach, your select coach, or just take a few minutes and do some research on your own.