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.
The college recruiting process can be confusing. Perhaps the most confusing part is trying to determine where you stand. Are you being recruited? Have you been noticed by college coaches? Or, are you just one of thousands of athletes trying to make it to the next level? No matter who you are, you definitely fit into one of these three categories and sometimes it’s hard to tell which one. Mixed signals from college coaches and well-meaning high school and club coaches make it difficult. Everyone is telling you that you’re good enough, but you are still waiting for a coach to call, or you’ve received some correspondence, but just don’t know what it means.
Every student athlete starts in the same place. They are just trying to get noticed. Once they are noticed, the goal is to be recruited. It is really important to understand where you are, so you can identify what needs to be done. Many prospects and their parents think they are being recruited when they are not. Here are some helpful points to help you determine where you stand in the recruiting process.
You are not being recruited
You are not being recruited if you receive information from college admission offices. Well, you are actually being recruited to become a student at those schools, but not a student athlete. These letters have nothing to do with being recruited to be an athlete in college. These letters are a part of a direct-mail campaign and although those schools would like you to become a student, that is all it means.
You are not being recruited if you get invited to a camp. The primary purpose of camps is to make money for the school and the coaching staff. There may be legitimate recruits at the camps, but 99% of the attendees are not on the school’s “short list” of scholarship candidates. If you attend a camp, just go with the attitude to learn and to gain experience performing in front of college coaches.
You are not being recruited if a college coach “views” your profile on a recruiting website. While a quality profile with verified statistics and video can be helpful, coaches don’t spend hours on the internet looking for players. They find players from coaches and scouts they trust.
You are not being recruited if a college coach sees you play at a game or tournament. College coaches show up at tournaments and games to watch specific athletes. Sure, it might help if you return a kick for a touchdown or score three goals, but unfortunately it may not help a lot.
You’ve been noticed, but you are not being recruited
You’ve been noticed if you receive a letter or email from a college coach asking you to fill out a recruiting questionnaire. Being recognized or noticed is the initial stage in earning a scholarship. Make sure you complete the questionnaire right away and fill it out as accurately as possible. After receiving the questionnaire, the coach will be able to determine if you are a good candidate for his or her program.
You’ve been noticed if your current coach gets an inquiry about you from a college coach. This is a clear indication that the school at least has interest in you as a player. Remember, your current coach is the most credible source to vouch for your abilities and character. Your coach’s response may go a long way toward you actually being recruited.
You’ve been noticed if you receive a letter or email that a coach plans to “keep up with you”. They may also ask for a highlight video or game film. If this happens, you are getting closer to being a legitimate recruit, but you’re not there yet.
You’ve been noticed if you receive a personal response to an email or message you sent to a coach. Apparently, something in your email piqued their interest, now it’s time to close the deal. Have your current coach contact the college coach on your behalf within a reasonable period of time. Don’t wait several weeks before you take action.
You are being recruited
You are being recruited if college coaches are calling you at home, or are communicating with you on a regular basis. A telephone call from a college coach is a great indication that there is real interest in you as an athlete. Relax and be yourself. Let the coach get to know your personality.
You are being recruited if a college coach comes to one of your games to specifically see you play. College coaches are extremely busy, so if they take the time to attend one of your games, they are interested. Understand that they realize you aren’t going to score 30 points every game or go 4 for 4 at the plate. They can tell everything they need to know by just watching you play. If you do turn the ball over or commit an error, your reaction to the mistake is more important than the mistake itself.
You are being recruited if you are asked to go on an official visit. Official visits are not given to every recruit. An official visit is any visit to a college campus by a college-bound student-athlete or his or her parents, paid for by the college. If you are invited on an official visit, make the most of it. Remember, you can only have one official visit per school and five official visits total.
Every high school athlete looking to play in college needs to understand where they are in the recruiting process and then develop a game plan. If you are waiting for the college coaches to find you, or you think your parents “connections” will help, or you plan to walk on, then you need to re-evaluate. If you aren’t being noticed and you aren’t being proactive by reaching out to colleges, it’s time to get started.