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. Garland Cooper, was a three-time NFCA All-American (two-time first team) and Big Ten Player of the Year at Northwestern University. In 2012, Garland was inducted into the NU Hall of Fame having helped the Wildcats to a pair of Women’s College World Series appearances. She was also a first-round pick of the New England Riptide in the 2007 National Pro Fast Pitch College Draft. Garland 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.
It’s a good, and often-asked question by families and athletes beginning the recruiting process. There are several websites, including the NCAA’s, who will show this answer by dividing the total number of college athletes by the number of high school athletes. While this formula presents an easy to understand answer, in reality, it should be considered only a starting point.
To understand why, let’s do a quick breakdown on how to identify your true competition in the recruiting process and what you can do to make sure college coaches know you are serious about competing at the college level.
Not every high school athlete wants to compete in college
Your competition in the recruiting process is not every high school athlete. The truth is, most high school athletes aren’t looking to continue on in college. Even fewer are going to be willing to do what it takes to get recruited. If you want to get a sense for who your competition is in the recruiting process, look at the elite athletes in your sport. That said, you should know, virtually every athlete in college was the best or among the best high school athletes in their area. Being good in high school is just a baseline.
Athletes playing only club sports are missing from this equation
Depending on your sport, club sports play just as important if not a more important role in the recruiting process than high school competitions. It is very difficult to fund numbers on how many student-athletes are competing in club sports. So, the point here isn’t really to calculate a percent likelihood of getting recruited, but instead to understand, if you are good enough athletically and what will separate you in the recruiting process that are the real key factors.
How many high school seniors will find spots as high school freshman?
Your competition in recruiting are the other athletes being considered in your recruiting class, not just high school or club athletes. When college coaches are looking to fill a recruiting class, they aren’t going to limit their search to high school seniors. In addition to the class of high school seniors, coaches are evaluating junior college transfers, international athletes and other college transfer recruits as part of the recruiting class.
The real question is not how many athletes am I competing against but “how do I set myself apart from all of the other potential recruits?”
If the percentage of high school athletes competing in college tells you anything, it’s that the recruiting process is not easy. Smart athletes will use it for motivation. And as the saying goes, “never limit your challenges.” Instead, keep your focus on what you want. Here are some tips that will help you get there.
1. Make sure the right college coaches know you are interested in competing in college. Don’t assume just because you are on a club team or are a good high school athlete coaches are going to know you are interested in getting recruited. Most college coaches expect athletes to let them know they are interested in competing in college first.
2. Find opportunities to compete against other college recruits. This can be a challenge for some families, but expecting a college coach to come to you isn’t going to give you the best opportunity to make it to the college level. Coaches have limited recruiting budgets and go to the events with the greatest density of potential recruits, you need to be at those events as well.
3. Make sure you meet all of the “other” requirements. Being good enough athletically is only one part of what coaches are evaluating. Once college coaches have a group of athletes they consider athletically qualified, they will look at academics and attitude to identify the recruits they are most interested in. Having strong grades and being a great teammate can be the real difference maker in the competition of recruiting.