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. Joe 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.
“Random Rant. Transferring to get recruited based on the school you’re at = crazy. Dominate where you are… we will find you! Show loyalty.”
This tweet by football coach Cory Bailey sparked an open debate about the benefits and downfalls of transferring high schools for your sport.
Coach Bailey’s stance is clear: Under no circumstances should recruits transfer high schools to increase their chances of getting recruited. And there’s a lot of merit to that statement. Families who are too quick to jump ship leave a bad impression on college coaches. It shows mental toughness and character to work through issues with your team and stick with a program.
However, in my experience working with college coaches across the country and throughout different sports, the topic may be a little more nuanced depending on the athlete’s situation. I’ve put together a list of possible scenarios that might cause a family to consider transferring high schools and detailed out possible next steps.
I have a five-star athlete competing in my position the year ahead of me and behind me. Even though I’m really good, I may never play a game.
When college coaches are evaluating recruits, varsity game film is a huge component for most sports. It’s crucial that you get a chance to compete, especially against other top athletes. If you’re never going to get on the field in your position, first consider switching positions. This shows a college coach that you are a versatile, team player who’s athletic enough to fill any role. Plus, college coaches will be able to see your athleticism regardless of the position you’re in.
If you play a specialized position, however, and you aren’t able to move into a new role, it’s worth considering a new program. Whether that means joining a club team or transferring high schools, that game day footage is critical. If you move to a larger school, it may take you a few years to get playing time, so factor that in when you’re talking to your family about transferring.
The final decision: Switch positions or consider transferring.
I’m on a terrible team that loses every game.
If you compete against highly competitive teams, your film will stand out, and coaches are going to notice you. In other words, if you’re on a non-winning team in a great conference, your film will probably be coach ready. If you’re on a bad team in a lower-level division, you should consider attending a series of camps to show coaches how well you play against other elite athletes. You can consider transferring, but camps, combines and game day videos may be enough to capture a coach’s attention.
The final decision: Attend some elite camps and put together a great video before looking at transferring schools.
My coach and I don’t get along, and I’m worried it will negatively impact my recruiting.
Your current coach is your biggest asset. College coaches will do their research on you, and one of their first stops is your high school coach. They will ask your coach about your character, your talent level and how you are as a teammate.
To that end, you’re never going to get along with everyone. If you and your high school coach don’t work well together, it’s worth the trip to their office to talk about why you aren’t seeing eye-to-eye. This is intimidating and may be uncomfortable, but are you willing to live with the consequences if you don’t iron things out?
If you simply can’t work through the issues with your coach, you might want to consider transferring to find a coach who will advocate for you in your recruiting. However, you need to treat this like putting in your two-weeks’ notice at a job. Let your current coach know that your family decided it would be best to change schools. And whatever you do, make sure you leave on good terms. College coaches may still reach out to your former coach to get more background about who you are as an athlete.
The final decision: Make every effort to patch things up with your coach. When all else fails, look for a coach who will advocate for you.
The coaching staff isn’t very knowledgeable about my sport, and I’m afraid they aren’t providing me with enough advice or growth to compete at the next level.
No coach is going out there to intentionally hinder the progress of their athletes. However, some schools just don’t have the resources to hire a whole staff of sport-specific coaches, so you’re not always going to get elite-level instruction. There are plenty of additional ways to up your game, including personal trainers, sport-specific camps and club teams. Weight lift on your own, train hard, and do your research about what you need to do to compete in your sport at the college level.
The final decision: Seek outside help to get to the college level.
The decision to transfer boils down to finding the best opportunities for you athletically, academically and socially. Moving to a different school is a huge decision and it should not be based on athletics alone. Talk to your family and your coach and make the decision based on what’s right for you as a student-athlete, not just an athlete.