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 service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting experts provide a recruiting experience that is backed by a money-back guarantee.
Last year we were asked hundreds of recruiting questions by high school athletes and their parents. We were asked everything from “How do I get noticed?”, to “What song should I use for my highlight video?”
Since you’ll only go through the process once, you have zero recruiting experience and you will have questions. In fact, you’ll most likely have many questions.
In 2017, there were three questions we were asked most often. All three questions stem from either a misconception about how college recruiting really works or the fact that high school athletes are intimidated by the process. Student-athletes and their parents just want answers, so here are the top three questions from 2017 and my three answers. Hopefully, the answers will make sense and help ease the stress related to college recruiting.
When should I expect coaches to start calling?
The real answer to this question is, “It depends.” It depends on how you currently compare to the other athletes at your position and in your sport. If you aren’t in the top 2%, then don’t expect to hear from any college coaches before September 1 of your junior year (at the earliest). I know you’ve heard the stories about the eighth-grader from Sheboygan, Wis., who verbally committed to a college, but that’s not how college recruiting works for most athletes.
If you’re an elite athlete (top 2%) your recruiting process will most likely start earlier than your teammates and the process will be reactive and easy. If you aren’t in the top 2%, consider yourself a 98%er. The 98%ers are those athletes who have the talent and desire to play at the collegiate level, but aren’t being highly recruited. The recruiting process for these athletes usually starts on-time or later, and generally has to be more proactive in approach. If you’re a 98%er (and 98% of you reading this article are), you need to put more work into making connections with college coaches on your own.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t expect any personal contact prior to September 1 of your junior year and don’t panic if you haven’t heard from anyone by Labor Day. Slow down, take a deep breath and if college coaches haven’t noticed you yet, consider yourself a 98%er and reach out to them.
Are showcases and college camps helpful?
Again, the answer to this question is, “It depends.” Yes, showcases and college camps can be very helpful if you’re ready to be seen and if you are strategic about the ones you attend. You are ready to be seen if your skills are at a level where you have a chance to be noticed at a camp. If you aren’t ready, there is no reason to attend. For example, if you’re a freshman and haven’t started to mature yet, you might want to wait for Mother Nature to kick in. If you’re not sure if you’re ready, ask your current coach.
Once you are ready, you need to be strategic with which camps to consider. Do your homework before you pull out your parent’s credit card. Which college coaches will be in attendance? How many athletes will be there? Is the college sponsoring the event one you might consider?
Once you decide on a few camps, notify the coaches in attendance that you will be there. If the coaches don’t know your name before the camp, they probably won’t know your name when you leave. Hopefully, by notifying them early, they will put your name on their list and try to make time to watch you compete. During the camp, introduce yourself to the coaches and before you leave, thank them personally for the opportunity. Finally, follow up with an email to make sure they know you are serious about their program.
Should I use a recruiting service?
You guessed it, “It depends.” Like any industry, there are good recruiting services and there are companies only interested in your credit card number and expiration date. My best advice is to be careful.
A recruiting service can’t make an athlete stronger, faster or more talented. That said, a recruiting service can be helpful if you’re comfortable with the price and understand what will be delivered. Just use common sense. If you feel pressured or don’t understand their role in the process, that is a warning sign. Don’t make a decision based on emotion.
Here’s the deal
Every recruit is going to have questions. The first time you go through the college recruiting process is probably your only chance to land a college scholarship. Ask as many questions as you need to. Participating in college athletics can be one of the best experiences of your life, don’t miss out on the opportunity because you didn’t understand the process.