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. Mike Adler was a 3-sport captain in high school who went onto play running back for DIAA Morehead State University in Kentucky. Mike 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.
Recruiting is what I do. I spend most of my days talking to student-athletes and their families, educating them on how the recruiting process works. Most people think they have a good understanding as to how it works. When I was a high school student-athlete, I thought I had a solid handle on where I was being recruited. However, when looking back on my recruiting journey, having played in college, and working with today’s athletes, I realize now I didn’t know as much as I thought.
And over the years, I’ve learned there are some very common misconceptions that can negatively impact an athlete’s recruiting efforts. Here are the top four.
My coach is handling my recruiting for me
Many high school and club coaches are great at helping their players get recruited. Make no mistake, if your coach is willing to assist with your athlete’s recruiting journey, take their help and guidance. With that being said, it isn’t that coach’s job to get your student recruited. Student-athletes and their families need to take ownership of their own recruiting.
Here’s an example; say your athlete is a high school football player aspiring to play in college. They think their coach will handle recruiting for them. Say there are 10 players on his team who want to play in college, too. That coach realistically needs to dedicate at least an hour a week per athlete to truly help them. 10 players at an hour a piece is 10 hours. The reality is high school coaches simply don’t have that extra time. Chances are they have their day job, coaching job and their own family and life to worry about. There simply isn’t enough time in the day for your coach to handle all your recruiting needs in addition to all the others looking for help.
Bottom Line – High school and club coaches can absolutely assist student-athletes with recruiting but the athletes and their families must take ownership of their recruiting process.
I’ll just walk-on
The term “walk-on” can be misleading. It sounds so easy. Most people think of the movie Rudy, where an undersized Notre Dame student tries out and makes the prestigious football program. These days, most of the time, this is not how walking-on works. Athletes can’t just show up and expect a try-out or assume to be given a roster spot. Even if the student is already accepted into the school, the majority of the time they need to be invited to be a preferred walk-on. Most walk-ons have previously had some form of communication with the college coach and were asked to walk-on.
Bottom Line – The days of just “showing up” and walking-on rarely happen anymore if at all.
I’ll focus on recruiting in my offseason
Recruiting isn’t like a light switch; you can’t just turn it on and off. An athlete shouldn’t ever say they’re not going to do recruiting while they’re in-season. Why? College coaches don’t stop recruiting in-season. It is part of their job year-round. Many coaches reach out to athletes while they’re in-season. If an athlete waits until their season is done to respond to that coach, they may have missed their window of opportunity as the coach may have moved on to other prospects. If a coach reaches out to a student- athlete, they should always answer that coach. No matter what. Even if it’s a school the athlete isn’t interested in, they should at least reply to the coach and thank them for the opportunity. If an athlete waits until their offseason to tackle recruiting, frankly, it’s probably just too late.
Bottom Line – Recruiting is like training; it’s a year-round process.
I’m going to start my recruiting process when I’m a junior or senior
There are far more disadvantages than advantages to waiting until junior or senior year of high school to begin the recruiting process. Once an athlete turns 13 years old they are eligible to start being recruited online. Coaches are starting to recruit kids earlier and earlier these days and there are many middle- school athletes who have already been targeted and even offered scholarships by college coaches. Most Division I schools have contacted or offered scholarships to most of their prospects by the end of athletes’ sophomore year of high school. Even colleges in smaller divisions begin recruiting athletes before they become upperclassmen.
Bottom Line – Waiting until junior or senior year of high school hurts athletes and as a result, may make them miss out on a lot of opportunities (especially at the Division I level).