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 software identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting advisors provide a recruiting experience that is trusted by college coaches and backed by a money-back guarantee.
My father always used to tell me: “Learn from your mistakes.” While I listened, shook my head and acted like I agreed, I always thought to myself that it would be better to learn from someone else’s mistakes. It seemed like that is a much easier path! I think every athlete should take my approach and learn from every other recruits’ mistakes.
Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of mistakes made by college recruits and a few really stand out. Here are my top five recruiting mistakes and the lessons that can be learned from each one.
1. Take your time writing when sending emails
This baseball player just couldn’t understand why his emails weren’t generating any interest. His athletic abilities weren’t the issue, so I asked him to send me a copy of the email he was sending. Here is what he sent (I have changed the names, links, school and location for example purposes):
Hey coach this is Billy Brown. I am interested in your school and baseball program. I would like to get to know more about it and get a chance to come visit.
That is a link to my recruiting video.
Now, I think we would all agree that the above email isn’t bad, but it just isn’t going to stand out from the other 100 emails those coaches receive every day. For that reason, we had a short conversation about putting some thought into every email and we came up with a better version. Here’s an example of how his next round of emails read:
Subject: Varsity catcher with a 1.85 pop time
Hello Coach Jones:
My name is Billy Brown and I am junior at Lincoln High School in Jacksonville, Florida. I am a two-sport athlete, but my passion is baseball and my dream is to play in college. I have been the starting varsity catcher since my sophomore year. Here is a link to my athletic/academic resume:
The resume includes my skills video, my coach’s contact info and all my relevant statistics. I am very interested in New College and would like the opportunity to earn a roster spot with your team. I would like to discuss the possibility of becoming a Bulldog in 2017. If there is anything I can do to help you decide if I’m a good fit, please let me know.
Thank you for your time,
The next day he sent out 15 emails to schools matching his abilities and he received 6 responses. He didn’t receive an offer from every college, but eventually he had several offers to choose from! Understand that the reason this email was successful is because it was personal, expressed specific interest in the program and the resume contained enough information for the coach to quickly make a decision on whether or not he was interested.
2. Figure out where you fit
This recruit had a 34 on his ACT test, a 4.64 time in the 40, and was an All-District wide receiver in high school. Sounds like a possible Division I prospect, right? Well, that’s what he and his parents thought, but initially they only had their eyes only on elite Division I programs like Auburn and Alabama. They couldn’t understand why their emails to the recruiting coordinators resulted in very little interest. They even posted a highlight video on a few recruiting sites, but the “coach views” weren’t from schools they were interested in. This recruit was a senior, so the entire family was in “panic mode.” What they didn’t realize was that they needed to focus on more appropriate schools.
Once they started to contact the right colleges, the recruiting process actually became exciting. Ultimately, this athlete signed at an Ivy League school and based on his ACT score that probably would have been a good starting point.
3. Do your homework
The first camp this recruit attended was at a Division I school in North Carolina. In his first at bat, he hit the fence. He pitched extremely well, and by the end of the camp, all the coaches knew his name. His dad was ready to pack the U-Haul for North Carolina! Unfortunately, on the last day of the camp they went on a tour of the campus with some former baseball players.
Since his son wanted to study engineering, the father asked where the engineering school was located. The answer? “We don’t have one of those.” Let’s see, airfare to Charlotte, rental car, hotel room for three days, restaurants, camp fee…you get the picture. They wasted a lot of time and money because they didn’t do their homework. They just assumed every major college has an engineering department.
4. Social media really is social
This 6-8 shooting guard was finishing his junior high school season and was being pursued by at least 15 Division I basketball programs. He had it all; very good grades, a 31 on his ACT, played on the best summer team and he was MVP of his district. It seemed as though he would have his choice of colleges, but one Friday night after a game he made a poor decision. He posted an inappropriate tweet about a female classmate. Shortly after he hit “enter” he deleted the post, but it was there long enough for it to be seen by the girl, a few teammates and some players from opposing teams.
The next week, he was suspended from his team for one game and communication from college coaches slowed down significantly. Luckily, he reached out for advice on how to handle the situation. He listened to the advice and handled the situation the right way. He apologized to the classmate, to his team and to the school administration. A few college coaches asked about the incident and when they did, he answered their questions by explaining that he made a mistake. His heartfelt apology along with a promise that a lesson had been learned was received well by the college coaches. He later signed with a Division I basketball program at the college he was most interested in. Be mindful that many inappropriate posts cannot be fixed with an apology. He got lucky; a lot of recruits have sabotaged themselves with social media.
5. Know the Finances
A few years ago, one of the best catchers in Texas was going through the process. His heart’s desire was to play baseball at a particular private school. Since he was one of the top prospects in the state, several Division I colleges were interested, including the college he preferred. Unfortunately, he focused only on the private school and ignored the other colleges. That school actually made him a very good scholarship offer, but the tuition and fees there were not within the family budget even with the partial scholarship.
This recruit was forced to sign with a junior college at the last-minute and later transferred to an in-state public school where the tuition and fees with a partial scholarship were within his family’s budget. Realistically, he shouldn’t have been looking at the private school at all; he should have focused on in-state public schools that were affordable, or he should have explored the possibility of other financial aid.
Here’s the deal
All these recruits made mistakes that could have been avoided. Now that you know the stories, you can avoid making the same mistakes in your recruiting journey.