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.
The dictionary definition of the term “Myth” is: A widely held, but false belief or idea. There are many myths when it comes to the college recruiting process. In my opinion, most of them are a result of a lack of understanding by parents and student-athletes on how the process really works. After all, for every high school athlete and most parents, the first time you go through recruiting is the last time you’ll go through recruiting. Therefore, almost everyone going through the recruiting process is a “rookie” and it can be confusing, frustrating and at times discouraging. To help you understand how recruiting really works, you need to know that many of the general perceptions about recruiting are actually myths (or misconceptions), not facts.
Understanding the misconceptions about college recruiting can reduce your confusion and frustration and help your recruiting journey be a successful one. Here are my top seven college recruiting myths. There are many others, but this is a good start.
Myth No. 1: NCAA Division I is the only/best option
Fact: Participating in intercollegiate athletics at any level is a tremendous accomplishment and Division I certainly isn’t the only opportunity to receive a college scholarship. Not every high school basketball player can make the roster at Duke and not every student-athlete will have the grades to play at Princeton, and that’s okay! There are many other schools that offer a great education, an opportunity for a high school athlete to continue his or her athletic career and a scholarship to help cover the costs.
There are athletic scholarships in most sports at the NCAA Division II, NAIA and Junior College levels. Also, while NCAA Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, they do offer other financial aid, grants, loans, etc., and the athletic department can generally help find sources of money to help their athletes with the cost of tuition.
Myth No. 2: The college recruiting process starts your senior year in high school
Fact: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to wait too long to start the recruiting process. I’m not telling you to start emailing college coaches when you’re in middle school, but many college coaches look to connect, develop and maintain relationships with athletes as early as their freshman year in high school. In today’s world of incredibly competitive athletics college coaches are forced to start identifying and recruiting prospective athletes earlier and earlier. If you wait to start your recruiting efforts until your senior year, you most likely will be too late.
Myth No. 3: You need a professional highlight video
Fact: While a professional highlight video set to inspirational music is nice for your grandparents, it is certainly not necessary. College coaches are not looking for a commercial, they want to focus on your skills and be able to quickly decide if you’re a candidate for their program. Here are some simple tips on how to create an effective highlight video:
- Keep it short: A coach will know if he or she is interested almost immediately, so 2 or 3 minutes is long enough.
- Put your Best Highlights First: You only get one chance at a first impression.
- Make your video accessible online.
- Make sure your video includes what coaches want to see in your sport: If you’re not sure about this, ask your current coach.
- Showcase all your skills and use clips that show your athleticism.
- Use spot shadows when necessary. You need to stand out from the rest of the athletes.
- If your highlight video doesn’t make you look like a stud, don’t send it yet!
Myth No. 4: If you receive an email from a coach you are being recruited
Fact: College coaches send out letters and emails to thousands of athletes every year. They talk to hundreds of athletes, but can only sign a few. If you receive an email from a college coach it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being recruited. Obviously, if your first correspondence is a personal message from a coach, then he or she is very interested. However, if your correspondence is not personalized, it is an indication of interest, but you are not actually being recruited yet.
Any form of correspondence from a college coach can be the start of a relationship so take advantage of each opportunity. The point is, just because you’ve received a few emails from coaches asking you to attend a camp or other event, that doesn’t mean a scholarship is in the bag. Meaningful conversations and personal emails about how you might fit in their program is the only sign you are really being recruited.
Myth No. 5: College coaches don’t want to hear from prospective athletes
Fact: College coaches actually hope to hear from good athletes who are interested in their program. Obviously if your abilities don’t match the athletic and academic qualifications at their school, then you probably won’t be receiving a response from that coach. However, if you are contacting appropriate schools, then being proactive in the college recruiting process can pay big dividends. For many athletes, contacting a college coach can be intimidating, but understand that most coaches are happy to hear from you and every year they sign many players who have initiated the contact.
Myth No. 6: Good grades don’t matter if you are a good athlete
Fact: Wow, anyone who believes this myth is going to have a long and disappointing recruiting journey. You have to qualify for admission academically for any college you are considering athletically. The admissions office at every university has derailed many athletic scholarship opportunities.
Additionally, while it is true that elite athletes will be recruited more actively, coaches want to invest in athletes that will represent themselves and their university in a positive light and good grades are a good start. When a coach is trying to decide between two players of similar abilities, they will go with the better student every time. So, you better have your academic house in order.
Myth No. 7: If I’m good enough, the college coaches will find me
Fact: There are many high school athletes every year that could play in college, but believe that just because they haven’t been discovered, they aren’t good enough. College coaches have recruiting budgets, and except for Division I football and basketball, those budgets are limited. They can’t afford to travel the country looking for recruits. Therefore, if you wait around to get recruited, it may never happen, even if you are good enough. If you’re a junior or senior in high school and you are currently being “under-recruited”, you need to reach out to the colleges on your own. If you don’t, the chances of a college coach suddenly finding you is about as likely as finding a needle in a haystack.
Here’s the deal
There are many misconceptions about how college recruiting really works and you really need to be aware of them. These seven are the ones I hear most often, but if something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t seem quite right, ask your coach for advice or send me an email. I’d be happy to help!