USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where 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 delivers online college planning for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Eight catches for 112 yards, a forty yard punt return and two touchdowns. With five or six college coaches in the stands, it sure seemed like your cell phone would have been lit up this weekend, but it wasn’t. Understand this, you probably don’t know exactly which coaches were there, whether or not those coaches have a need at your position, if they were there exclusively to watch someone else, or if based on your tremendous performance they added you to their “watch” list.
When going through the recruiting process, you really need to worry only about the things you can control. Don’t fret about what is happening with other players and don’t try to guess what coaches are thinking. It will drive you crazy. Following these few Recruiting Rules of Engagements will help you focus on what you can control and ensure you don’t give the college coaches a reason to scratch you off their lists.
Be a good sport
This may seem like an archaic concept, but sportsmanship is an important part of college sports. If you are the type of player who is quick to taunt or mouth off, you most likely will not be the type of player that a college coach wants. Helping a member of the other team off the ground may not be as glorious as your touchdown dance, but college coaches will appreciate good sportsmanship more than an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. College coaches certainly want good players, but they also want good teammates, good students and good citizens.
College coaches want players who are coachable. It doesn’t take long for a coach to spot an uncoachable player and very rarely can a coach make a player coachable.
So, what does it take to be coachable?
• Be thankful someone will take the time to help you improve
• Be open to honest feedback
• Be willing to work hard
• Be willing to change bad habits
• Be humble
How can you ever get better if you aren’t willing to work hard, listen to feedback and make changes when necessary? Being a coachable athlete will go a long way with your current coach and prospective college coaches.
Be careful on social media
If you are a high school athlete going through recruiting and one of your posts or tweets is inappropriate or could be misinterpreted, you have given a college coach a legitimate reason to scratch you off his or her list. This has happened numerous times to the top recruits in the nation, and if you aren’t careful it could happen to you. Does this mean you need to stop using social media? Not at all. But you should think before you post or tweet. A coach’s opinion of you can change with the click of a button. As an athlete, your character reflects your school and it should be of the highest standard.
Don’t wait until your senior year to start
The recruiting process is an ongoing, involved process that ideally should be started as early as your freshman year in high school or earlier. During your freshman year, you can start familiarizing yourself with the process and identifying colleges that might interest you. As a sophomore and junior you really need to step up your efforts. If you want the reward of playing your sport in college, don’t wait until the last minute.
Don’t rely on someone else to find your scholarship
The recruiting process is your responsibility. College coaches want to hear from potential recruits. They want to get to know the athletes before they award scholarships. Never assume that someone else has recruiting covered for you. Signing a college scholarship can be a life changing event. Why would you leave it to someone else?
Learn how athletes in your sport are evaluated
Every coach knows the top recruits in the country, but those athletes don’t fill every college roster spot. The remaining roster spots are filled by projectable, coachable student athletes. Talk with your current coach about where you need to improve. Analyze the recruiting questionnaire on a few college websites. That will give you a pretty good idea what college coaches feel is important. If you don’t like one of your answers, then you have probably identified an area where you need work.
Play every game like someone is watching
We’ve all played in games we just want to finish and go home. But, remember you never know who might be watching. College coaches have scouts and sometimes, they show up unannounced. That is why it is crucial to always play like someone is watching, which means always playing your heart out. Give 100% until the final buzzer, the final gun, the last out. Every time.
Understand that mistakes happen
No one is perfect. You will make mistakes. Everyone does and college coaches understand that. When a coach comes to watch you play, don’t worry about making a mistake. They don’t expect you to be perfect; in fact, they want to see how you react to a mistake. Your reaction to an error, a turnover, or a fumble tells so much more about you as a player than the mistake itself. Forget about the last play. There is nothing you can do about it. Make the next play and the one after that.
The above rules are all things you can control. Don’t worry about the rest.