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 identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
My father always told me, “Try to learn something from every experience, good or bad.” I generally took his advice, but I also felt like it was a good idea to learn from everyone else’s bad experiences so that I’d have a better chance at good experiences! Here are 5 real recruiting experiences that should help every high school athlete limit their bad recruiting experiences and increase their good ones.
A 34 on his ACT, a 4.54 time in the 40 and an All District wide receiver in high school. Sounds like a possible Division I prospect, right? Well, that is what he and his parents thought, so initially they only had their eyes on elite Division I programs like Alabama and Ohio State. They couldn’t understand why their emails to the recruiting coordinators for Coach Saban and Meyer resulted in very little interest. They posted a highlight video on a recruiting site, but the “coach views” weren’t from schools they were interested in.
What they didn’t realize is how narrow the funnel is to play at an elite Division I program. They didn’t know that some colleges might send out as many as 15,000 letters to prospective athletes. Of those 15,000 recruits, they sign a maximum of 25. Once they targeted more appropriate colleges, the recruiting process actually became fun and exciting. Ultimately, this athlete signed at an Ivy League school, and based on his ACT score, that probably is where he should have started.
Be careful on social media
This 6’8” shooting guard was finishing his junior high school season and was being pursued by at least 15 Division I basketball programs. He had it all; very good grades, a 31 on his ACT, played on the best summer team and he was MVP of his district. It seemed as though he would have his choice of colleges, but one Friday night after a game he made a poor decision. He posted an inappropriate tweet about a female classmate. Shortly after he hit “enter” he deleted the post, but it was there long enough for it to be seen by the girl, a few teammates and some players from opposing teams.
The next week, he was suspended from his team for one game and communication from college coaches slowed down significantly. Luckily, he reached out for advice on how to handle the situation. He listened to the advice and handled the situation the right way. He apologized to the classmate, to his team and to the school administration. A few college coaches asked about the incident and when they did, he answered their questions by explaining that he made a mistake. His heartfelt apology along with a promise that a lesson had been learned was received well by the college coaches. He later signed with a Division I basketball program at the college he was most interested in. Be mindful that lots of inappropriate posts cannot be fixed with an apology. He got lucky. Think before you post.
Research the schools you are pursuing
The first camp this recruit attended was at a Division I school in North Carolina. In his first at bat, he doubled off the wall. He pitched extremely well, and by the end of the camp, the coaches all knew his name. His father was ready to pack the U-Haul for North Carolina until, on the last day of the camp, they were on a tour of the campus with some former baseball players. Since his son wanted to study engineering, the father asked where the engineering school was located. The answer? “We don’t have one of those.”
Let’s see… airfare to Charlotte, rental car, hotel room for three days, restaurants, camp fee…you get the picture. They wasted a lot of time and money because they didn’t do their homework. They just assumed every major college had an engineering department.
You really need to research the colleges you are pursuing or you might be surprised. Make sure they offer your major, be sure the team has a need at your position, ask questions about average class size and make sure your standardized test score will qualify you for admission.
A few years ago, one of the best catchers in Texas was going through the recruiting process. His heart’s desire was to play baseball at a particular private school. Since he was one of the top prospects in the state, several Division I colleges were interested in him, including the college he preferred. Although this school actually offered him a good scholarship, the tuition and fees there were not affordable for his family, even with the partial scholarship.
At the last minute, he signed at a junior college and the next year transferred to an in-state public school where the tuition and fees with a partial scholarship were within his family’s budget. Realistically, he shouldn’t have been looking at the private school at all. He should have focused on in-state public schools that were affordable, or he should have explored the possibility of other financial aid.
If you are looking for a college scholarship in an equivalency sport, where partial scholarships are the norm, then you better do your research on the “all-in costs” of every school you pursue.
Playing football in a small town can make recruiting a challenge. Add to that having to play nose guard at 190 pounds when you will most likely be a linebacker or safety in college made being proactive essential for this football recruit. As a junior, this athlete had received NO interest from college coaches and he was devastated because football was his passion. He realized that the NFL was not in his future, so being realistic wasn’t an issue. The problem was getting noticed by college coaches.
In the summer between his junior and senior year, his parents challenged him to take ownership of his recruiting process. He signed up with us and committed a few hours a month to reaching out to at least 20 college coaches at schools that made sense for his ability level. He asked his coach to be involved and he followed up with each and every college. He set up a Twitter account specifically for his football recruiting efforts. In the fall of his senior year, he was being recruited by 8 Division II colleges and had interest from a few Division I colleges. Eventually, he signed with a large Division II college, close to home and one that offered the major he was most interested in. This is how college recruiting really works.
Make it easy on yourself! Learn from other players’ experiences, good or bad.