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.
From the time you started to walk and talk, you probably were told what not to do. “Don’t cross the street without looking both ways.” “Don’t dribble your basketball in the house!” “Don’t play with dad’s hole-in-one golf ball.”
I’m sure that sometimes you listened and sometimes you did not. Being told “don’t do this” or “don’t do that” all the time gets a little old, but I’m guessing that when you followed that advice, things generally turned out better than when you didn’t.
For that reason, I think it’s appropriate to go over the mistakes many high school athletes need to avoid in the recruiting process, or what I call the “Don’ts of College Recruiting”. Sometimes what you don’t say or do is more important than what you do. So, here are my Top 5 Don’ts of the college recruiting process.
1. Don’t take no (or no response) for an answer
If you truly want to play in college and especially if you want to play for a particular coach or school, then you need to do everything you can to make that dream a reality. Don’t give up after sending one general email to the coach at a program you are truly interested in. That isn’t going to cut it. You have to be persistent and consistent.
MORE FROM PLAYCED: How to deal with rejection in the college recruiting process
Also, if you don’t express specific interest in a coach’s team or program then your attempts to contact that coach will most likely fall on deaf ears.
Finally, if a coach doesn’t respond immediately to your initial email that doesn’t necessarily mean the answer is “no”. You have to follow up and make sure they understand that you are serious about playing for them.
Just last week one of our basketball players who has all the credentials necessary to play for numerous Division I programs turned a “hard no” from his No. 1 college into “we’ll be at your next tournament to help us decide between you and one other player.” He accomplished that by reconnecting with the coach after he had been told no, thanking him for the opportunity to get to know the program, and emphasizing again how much he wanted to play for him. That phone call caused the college coach to reconsider his decision.
The jury is still out on this recruiting journey, but it’s a great example of the fact that persistence can pay big dividends. He didn’t take “No” for an answer and now he has a chance at his dream school.
2. Don’t procrastinate
We are constantly asked when the recruiting process should start. The answer to that question (for the most part) is that it should have started yesterday. In today’s world of incredibly competitive athletics the college recruiting process is starting earlier and earlier.
Many college coaches look to connect, develop and maintain relationships with athletes during their freshman or sophomore year. I’m not at all telling you to start contacting college coaches in eighth grade, but the earlier you start learning how recruiting works, the better your chances for a scholarship. And, if you’re a junior in high school who hasn’t even started the recruiting process yet, don’t procrastinate one day longer. Your recruiting window closes a little more every day you don’t start.
3. Don’t be foolish on Social Media
Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook. Most high school students spend a large part of their day on social media and many are sharing, posting or tweeting every detail of their day right down to what flavor jelly donut they had for breakfast. Tweeting and posting has almost replaced talking for many young adults.
For that reason, college coaches have become more and more active on social media as a way to research and communicate with potential recruits. Right or wrong, most college coaches will assume that how you act on social media will be how you act on campus. For that reason, your actions and behavior on social media in high school are critical if you expect to play in college.
Based on the above, every high school athlete looking for an athletic scholarship should seriously think about each and every share, post or tweet. It’s simple, don’t post, tweet or direct message anything you don’t want a college coach to see.
If for some reason you do make a mistake on social media, don’t make excuses or try to hide it. If you realize that you tweeted or posted something you shouldn’t have, then delete it immediately and take responsibility for it.
I’m not telling you to issue a blanket apology across all your social media platforms, but if the subject of an inappropriate post comes up with a college coach or anyone else, just be honest, take responsibility and let them know it was just a mistake that won’t ever happen again.
4. Don’t overstate your statistics
One of the fastest ways to get your name permanently scratched off a recruiting list is to overstate or even project your athletic or academic statistics and accomplishments. If you think college coaches don’t cross-check this information, think again. Be honest about your abilities and work hard to improve.
Coaches know that for underclassmen they need to project where each player might be as a senior. They also understand that some athletes develop later than others. If you are realistic about your abilities, your chances to find a college scholarship increase dramatically. If you overstate your statistics and abilities how do you think a coach is going to react when he or she finds out the truth?
5. Don’t expect your coach to find your scholarship
For some reason, many recruits believe it’s a high school or select coach’s responsibility to find their college scholarship. That is just not how recruiting really works. Coaches can make a tremendous impact on an athlete’s search for a scholarship, but not all coaches are comfortable in that role. Some just don’t have the time and some don’t have the experience in recruiting.
Plain and simple, the definition of coach doesn’t include “a person who is responsible for locating and securing a college scholarship for his or her athletes.”
Your coach should be responsible for teaching you the fundamentals of your sport, the rules of the game and should be objective and fair with you as a player. If your coach wants to help, ask for an honest evaluation of your abilities and ask if he or she will be available if and when a college coach calls or emails.
If you are extremely lucky and your coach really wants to be involved, there are many things he or she can do to help, in addition to the items discussed above. It would be ideal if your current coach would take the time to help you identify appropriate colleges to pursue. That kills two birds with one stone; you know the colleges on your list are appropriate and you know your coach will be comfortable contacting them on your behalf. This is about all you can expect from your current coach and it certainly helps in finding a scholarship, but closing the deal is still on you.
Here’s the deal
There are many things to do in the college recruiting process. That said, if you can avoid the “don’ts” of the recruiting process you will have a much better chance of playing at the next level.