Byline: USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Joe is a former college-athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. He is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
If you are involved in sports, you understand that the star athlete can get preferential treatment. That type of preferential treatment continues in the recruiting process. In the same way you can’t get away with ditching class like a star athlete can, you can’t treat the recruiting process the way elite recruits do if you aren’t an elite recruit.
Here are five things you shouldn’t do as an average recruit.
Don’t Go Back on a Verbal Commitment
It is not uncommon to see the top football and basketball recruits swapping verbal commitments; however, this isn’t a commonly accepted practice. For most sports and division levels, when an athlete makes a verbal commitment to a school, the other schools stop recruiting them. It is only in the top level of Division I sports where you see programs continuing to recruit committed athletes. You need to remember the network of college coaches is small and they all know each other. If you gain the reputation as someone who goes back on their verbal commitment, you can ruin your chances with other programs. As an average recruit, you can’t afford this type of label.
What should you do: Don’t make a verbal commitment lightly. At the time it’s offered, you will be nervous and the coach will likely put a time constraint on how long you have to accept the offer.
Most athletes don’t get to set the timeline. Hopefully, you’ve done your research before you get to this point and can feel comfortable making your decision.
Coaches Don’t Have the Budget to Fly Around the Country
Top college programs have recruiting budgets of $750,000 per year or more, but most college programs have less than $5,000 to spend on recruiting. While many athletes expect coaches and scouts to show up at their games, coaches need to get the most out of each trip they take because of their smaller budgets. They are going to be able to fly to 2-5 events a year and need to watch as many of their recruits as possible. Expecting a coach to fly out to your high school or smaller club team event just to watch you is only reserved for the top recruits.
What you should do: This is why club tournaments and showcases exist. It allows college coaches to watch multiple prospects at a single event and make in depth evaluations. Most of the time, they’re looking at recruits they’ve already identified and evaluated online. Attend the events the colleges you are interested in typically recruit from.
You Won’t Get 10+ Scholarship Offers (You Don’t Need Them)
If you see the news or Twitter feed of a top-ranked recruit, you see them reporting their “15th offer from blah, blah, blah.” This is not a normal recruiting behavior outside of DI football and basketball schools, and most athletes aren’t going to be reporting five offers, let alone 15. Getting a top recruit to tweet their school’s name and offer is free marketing for that program, and sometimes that is the bigger motivation for extending the offer to an athlete they know they probably won’t sign.
What you should do: It’s a nice ego boost to show everyone your multiple scholarship offers, but the truth is, most recruiting happens outside the view of the media. On average, an athlete will have 2-3 serious offers (notice we didn’t say scholarships) and there won’t be a write-up in your local newspaper or on a national recruiting site.
You Offer Won’t Be a Full-Ride Scholarship
For DI football and basketball, all scholarships are full rides, so every offer extended is for a full scholarship. In all other sports (except DI women’s tennis, volleyball and gymnastics) scholarships are divided up between multiple athletes, so that most athletes receive partial scholarships. For many sports, a 25 percent scholarship offer for a freshman is a great deal, but you don’t see athletes tweet: “I just received a 25 percent scholarship offer from…” The numbers show that the majority of college athletes aren’t on scholarship. Your full scholarships package will likely be a complex mix of financial aid and other factors, not just a blanket full-ride for athletics.
What you should do: Do your research and understand what a good offer is for your sport and division level. Many athletes and families get disappointed when they receive their first offer because it isn’t a full-ride.
Coaches have a limited scholarship budget, and they are stretching their dollars the best they can to put together a full team of good players. Don’t take a partial scholarship offer personally; any offer is a great offer, and most athletes don’t get any athletic scholarship money.