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. Kyle Winters was a standout high school pitcher who tossed seven scoreless innings in a major tournament during his senior year. That performance against some heavy-hitting future MLB draft picks helped Kyle earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of New Mexico. However, Kyle opted to play professional baseball and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fifth round and played seven seasons for various minor league teams. Kyle 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.
Getting recruited by college coaches can sometimes feel like an impossibly long and winding journey. There are rules to keep in mind and so many boxes to check off. To make the process more manageable, it can be helpful to break it down into bite-sized chunks, or to look at it like a series of causes and effects. If this, then that. For example, if a coach emails your athlete, then they should respond.
Below, I’ve outlined a few of the most common events that will take place throughout your athlete’s recruiting journey and explained some of the best ways to respond to each one. By taking direct and immediate action, your athlete will keep their recruiting process moving forward, helping them reach their goal of finding their best college match.
Your athlete has decided they are committed to competing in college sports
Before your family starts the recruiting process, it’s important to have an honest conversation with your athlete. Do they really want to play their sport in college? Are they prepared to take charge of their recruiting process? Do they understand the demands of being a collegiate student-athlete?
What to do next: Once your athlete has answered each of these questions and decided that they are ready to tackle the recruiting process, your family’s next steps revolve around researching the recruiting process and potential schools that might be a good fit for your athlete. Here are a few areas to focus on:
- Understand the recruiting process from the college coaches’ point of view
- Learn about the different division levels and which ones might be the best athletic fit for your athlete
- Brush up on scholarship facts so you know what to expect and how to maximize your athlete’s scholarship opportunities
Your athlete received general recruiting information from a school
College coaches will often send generic recruiting information to a large pool of athletes to gauge who’s interested in their program—and who isn’t. For underclassmen, generic information could include pamphlets about the school in general, recruiting questionnaires camp invites and other pieces of information that aren’t personalized specifically to your athlete.
What to do next: In the recruiting process, the best path forward is always to keep as many options open as possible. That means, your athlete should be responding to all letters and mail, even if they aren’t sure they are interested in that school yet.
- Learn the purpose and intent behind the different types of recruiting letters
- Fill out the program’s recruiting questionnaire
- Send the coach an introductory email with a link to your athlete’s online recruiting profile
Your athlete attended a camp, combine or another athletic event
Attending events can be a great way to keep your athlete’s recruiting moving forward. Combines give your athlete a chance to get third-party verified stats, which college coaches trust much more than measurements families take on their own. Camps and showcases can also give athletes exposure to college coaches and media sources, like Rivals.com.
Read more: How to make the most of college camps
What to do next: In general, your athlete will need to follow up with college coaches after they’ve attended an event, but how and who they connect with will depend on what type of event they were at:
- Combine: Your athlete should update their recruiting profile with their new numbers and contact the coaches that they are interesting, letting the coaches know that they have new stats to review.
- College camp: Your athlete should send a quick, personalized email to each of the coaches at the camp who your athlete is interested in being recruited by.
- Other events: Whether your athlete attended a showcase or skills development camp, they should always alert the coaches they are interested in that they’ve taken steps to improve their skills and move forward in their recruiting process.
Insider tip: Events can be a great way to get some updated film for your athlete’s highlight or skills video.
Your athlete has been communicating with a coach consistently for a few months
Athletes and coaches oftentimes will email each other, text, call, DM or communicate through their current coach. This gives them an opportunity to develop a relationship and for the coach to better understand who your student-athlete is as a recruit. However, after about a few months of consistent communications, the athlete can take a few crucial actions.
What to do next: There are a few key ways that your athlete can keep the ball rolling after they’ve been in touch with a coach for a period of time:
- Pick up the phone and give the coach a call—most athletes rely on emails to contact coaches, but calls can often be more productive.
- Invite the coach to one the athlete’s upcoming games or tournament by sending the coach their schedule.
- Schedule an unofficial visit with the coach; send the coach a few weekends that would work for your family to visit the school and ask the coach when they are available to meet with your family on campus.
Insider tip: Double check the NCAA recruiting rules to make sure your family doesn’t schedule a visit during a dead period, as your family will not be able to meet with the coach on their campus during that time.
The recruiting process is ultimately a series of events that require the appropriate and timely response. The more you understand how recruiting works, the better equipped you will be to take the right action at the right time. Your athlete may be nearing the end of the recruiting process with one school, and at the same time, be just in the beginning stages with another school. And that’s okay. The most important things to remember are to be prompt and proactive.