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.
If you were a college coach, what would you think about a recruit who obviously isn’t concerned about his or her grades? What about recruits who don’t get along with their high school coach? What if you got an email from an athlete who clearly didn’t know anything about your program? Or consistently made inappropriate posts on social media? Would you be interested in any of these athletes?
College coaches have the difficult task of evaluating a recruit’s abilities and then projecting how successfully a 16 or 17 year-old athlete will adapt to college life. While each coach has his or her own way of evaluating athletes, you can be that certain that a recruit’s actions and behavior in high school will be considered by every coach.
Right or wrong, college coaches assume that how a recruit acts in high school is an indication of how they will act on campus. If they are foolish on social media, don’t respect their coach, and aren’t a good student, many college coaches will justifiably eliminate that recruit from consideration. So, here are four areas college coaches review when considering any potential recruit. A good rule of thumb to follow might be to ask yourself, “What would I think if I was the college coach?”
Social media behavior
If you were a college coach, what do you think is the easiest way to find out a little information on a particular athlete? I’d take a quick look at their social media accounts. In fact, it is entirely possible that the first impression a recruit makes with a college coach will be on social media.
They might not even know about it. I can assure you that there are thousands of recruits who have been scratched off recruiting lists based just on their social media accounts.
I get it. In today’s world, social media is a huge part of any high school student’s life. I certainly don’t think every recruit should eliminate all their social media accounts just because they want to be a college athlete. That said, consistent profanity or negative posts are major red flags to college coaches. Additionally, if it is apparent from a recruit’s posts that they don’t get along with their coaches or teammates, that they dread practice, or hate homework, it might be a sign for a college coach to steer away from that recruit. Every recruit needs to understand that their social media accounts are absolutely being viewed by college coaches.
Just think about it, if you were the coach and a recruit’s behavior on social media was at all suspect, wouldn’t that change your opinion of that player? The best advice I can give any recruit is to think twice before you post, then think again, and don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read.
If you actually were a college coach, your inbox would be flooded every day with emails from high school athletes looking for a scholarship. How much consideration would you give to an impersonal, poorly-worded email with five typos in it? What about an email that, within the first paragraph, the recruit was making excuses about why they don’t have the numbers they deserve, or why they haven’t been treated fairly? My guess is that you would delete those emails pretty quickly.
Every recruit needs to be mindful that how they communicate with college coaches is extremely important to how successful their recruiting journey will be. Negative comments about a coach or teammate will not be well received. Also, an impersonal email, or a conversation with a coach where the recruit seems disinterested both send a terrible message to a college coach. So, before pressing “send”, do some research and personalize your email.
I have to believe that if you were a college coach each communication you receive from any athlete would affect your opinion of that athlete. For that reason alone, every recruit needs to understand that whether they are sending an email or having a conversation with a coach, being polite, confident, and respectful will always be received better than being cocky, arrogant, and boastful.
If you were a college coach trying to decide between two recruits with similar abilities and potential, what would be the first tie-breaker for you? If you ask that question to every coach in the country my guess is that over 90% would say academics. Most parents and student-athletes don’t understand the importance of academics to college coaches. In addition to being able to brag on the team GPA or graduation rate, there are many other reasons why college coaches want good students on their roster.
First of all, good students often qualify for academic scholarships and in-state tuition, potentially saving the athletic department scholarship money. Second, a good academic record is an indication that a student will most likely be able to transition into college life. Third, grades and test scores are an indication of a student’s work ethic and achievement standards, for all areas of their lives. And finally, the admissions and administration offices at most universities are putting more and more pressure on athletic departments to recruit athletes that succeed once they get into school.
Based on the above, I assume that if you were a college coach you might spend some time reviewing the academic standing of any recruit you are serious about. For that reason, every recruit needs to make academics a priority. If a recruit’s grades and test scores aren’t great, it’s not the end of the world, but something needs to change. They need to find a tutor, take an ACT/SAT review course and/or spend some extra time studying. Consistent academic improvement is something a college coach will be impressed with!
High school/select coach’s opinion
As a college coach, whose opinion about a recruit would matter to you? Would you call the player’s parents? How about their classmates? Probably not! As a college coach you would be looking for an unbiased opinion of each player’s abilities and character. For that reason, you most likely would want to talk with each recruit’s high school and select coach.
About a year ago, we had the pleasure of interviewing legendary University of Texas Coach Mack Brown. He was adamant when he told us “Really, we didn’t trust anyone other than our coaching staff and the player’s high school coach. Our coaching staff handled all aspects of recruiting. We didn’t rely on anyone else and if a high school coach had any hesitation about a player, we were out!”
If a coach is willing to vouch for the character, work ethic, and abilities of a particular player, as a college coach you would be much more interested in that player. An athlete’s coach sees their effort in practice every day, sees how they react to game situations, and is the best source for a college coach to gain insight on a player.
Here’s the deal
College is not that far off. Make sure you give yourself the best chance to keep playing. Look at this whole process from a different perspective and reverse the roles. Would you, as a college coach, recruit you as a student-athlete? I’m hoping your answer is yes!