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.
College recruiting is not an exact science. There are so many things that are constantly changing: scholarship availability, roster needs, coaching preferences and many more. That said, as crazy and chaotic as college recruiting can be at times, there are a few ways to determine how good a chance you really have at playing your sport in college. Here are my top 3.
1. Are you one of the top three players on your team?
Let’s do an exercise quickly. Take out a piece of paper, grab a pen and write down the three top players on your team. Use whatever team you are currently playing for. It can be your varsity team, your junior varsity team or even your select/club team (in that case, make it the top six players). Do you think that every player on that list will get the opportunity to play collegiately? I’m guessing that most of you would say “no” to this question.
The reality of college recruiting is that not every good player will get a shot at the next level. Whether it has to do with size, speed or lacking fundamentals, so many talented players plateau at the high school level. The bottom line is that it takes a special talent to get through that high school funnel. If you want to know whether or not you have what it takes to play in college, you absolutely have to be one of the standout players on your varsity team.
2. Are you open to playing at the NCAA Division II, Division III or NAIA level?
If your answer to this question is “No” and you’re a junior and Division I college coaches aren’t contacting you yet, then college athletics might not be in your future. If you’re a senior in high school and you’re still waiting for that DI offer to arrive, then your expectations better change. Participating in intercollegiate athletics at any level is a tremendous accomplishment and the reality is most athletes don’t play at the DI level.
You can find an athletic scholarship in most sports at the NCAA Division II, NAIA and Junior College levels. These schools offer a great education, an opportunity for a high school athlete to continue his or her athletic career and a scholarship to help cover the costs. Depending on the sport, many athletic programs at the Division II, NAIA and junior college levels are as good, or better, than some of the Division I programs.
Also, some athletes develop later than others. You may need an extra year to refine your skills, increase your strength, work on your speed, or even work on your grades. There are many former Division II, NAIA and Junior College athletes in the NFL, the NBA and in Major League Baseball. Finally, don’t rule out Division III schools, either. Although Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, they do offer other financial aid, grants, loans, etc, and the athletic department can generally be a big help in finding sources of money to help with the cost of tuition.
If you’re open to one of these other options, your chances to play at the next level increase dramatically and there’s a lot more schools to choose from.
3. Is your coach willing to vouch for you?
Ask any college coach in the country whose opinion they trust when making a decision on a recruit. The overwhelming majority would answer “the recruit’s current coach.” Whether it is a high school, select or club coach, college coaches rely on the opinion of the coach closest to the recruit. So, let me ask you this, would your current coach be willing to put his or her name behind you? Would your coach be willing to help you get to the next level because he or she thinks you are worthy of that privilege? You shouldn’t even have to think about this one.
Here’s the deal, your coach’s opinion of you matters. It’s not the only opinion that matters, but it is one of the opinions that can greatly increase your chances of playing in college. A coach that is willing to vouch for you speaks volumes to the college coach that is recruiting you. It’s telling of your character, your work ethic, your abilities and so much more. If you are wondering what it is going to take to get to the next level, take a long, hard look at the relationship you have with your current coach. It will play a huge role in your college recruiting process.