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 identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers online college planning for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
For every high school athlete and most parents, the first time you go through recruiting is the last time you will go through recruiting. For that reason, the recruiting process for most athletes can be confusing, frustrating and at times discouraging. To help you understand how recruiting really works, you need to know that the general perceptions about recruiting are actually myths, not facts.
Understanding the misconceptions about college recruiting can reduce the confusion and frustration and help your recruiting experience be a successful one. Here are the top 10 college recruiting myths. There are others, but this is a good start.
Myth number 10 – Division I is the only/best option
Fact: Participating in a sport at the Division I level is a tremendous accomplishment, but it certainly isn’t the only opportunity to receive a college scholarship. 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. 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. While 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.
Myth number 9 – Recruiting starts your senior year in high school
Fact: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is waiting too long to start the recruiting process. Many college coaches look to connect, develop and maintain relationships with athletes as early as their freshman year in high school. The earlier you start the recruiting process, the better your chance for success. If you wait to start your recruiting efforts until your senior year, you might dominate in intramurals, but that doesn’t pay the bills.
Myth number 8 – You need to have a professional highlight video
Fact: While a professional video set to inspirational music might make your grandparent’s happy, it is certainly not necessary. Your skills should be the focus, not how entertaining the video is. Here are some simple tips on how to create an effective highlight video:
- Keep it Short – A two or three minute video is long enough. A coach will decide if he or she is interested in the first 45 seconds.
- Put your Best Highlights First – You only get one chance at a first impression.
- Post Your Video online – Post your video online and include the link in your first correspondence to a college coach.
- Know What Coaches look for – Different sports require different approaches. If you are unsure about this, ask your current coach for some help.
- Show all Your Skills – Use clips that show you’re a well-rounded athlete.
- Video Quality is Important – Use a high definition camera or your team’s game film.
Myth number 7 – If you receive an email from a coach you are being recruited
Fact: College coaches send out letters and emails to thousands of athletes, talk to many, but ultimately can only sign a few. For that reason, if you receive an email from a college coach it doesn’t necessarily mean you are being recruited. Obviously, if your first correspondence is a personal message from a coach, then he or she is very interested. However, if your correspondence is not personalized, it is an indication of interest, but you are not actually being recruited yet. Any form of correspondence from a college coach can be the start of a relationship so take advantage of each opportunity.
Myth number 6 – The recruiting process is expensive
Fact: Lessons, camps and select teams can all be very important in developing a college athlete, but all three can be expensive and no amount of money will definitely ensure a college scholarship. With few exceptions, college coaches attend showcases, camps and clinics as a means to evaluate players they have already identified, not to find new prospects. Therefore, don’t think that if you spend a bunch of money on a camp you will be noticed. And don’t think that if you don’t go to a camp that you won’t.
Lessons from a skills coach can help, but nothing pays bigger dividends than hard work. Additionally, you don’t HAVE to be on the best team. You just need to be on a team that plays quality competition, enters the right tournaments and has good coaching. When it comes to other costs such as videos, trips to tournaments and unofficial visits to schools, each family should budget an amount that makes sense for them.
Myth number 5 – College coaches don’t want to be contacted by prospective athletes
Fact: College coaches actually hope to hear from good athletes who are interested in their program. For many athletes, contacting a college coach can be intimidating, but understand that most coaches are happy to hear from you and every year they sign players that have initiated the contact.
Myth number 4 – Good grades don’t matter if you are a good athlete
Fact: While it is true that elite athletes will be recruited more actively, coaches want to invest in athletes that will represent themselves and their university in a positive light and good grades are a good start. When a coach is trying to decide between two players of similar abilities, they will go with the better student every time. So, unless you are Marcus Mariota, you better hit the books.
Myth number 3 – If you sign a scholarship, everything is taken care of
Fact: Most athletic scholarships are not “full rides” and for that reason, your family college budget is an important factor. Full rides are offered at the Division I level in the “head count” sports. These include FBS Football, Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Women’s Tennis, Women’s Gymnastics and Women’s Volleyball. All other Division I sports are equivalency sports and partial scholarships are the norm ranging from 25% to 75%. Division II, NAIA and Junior colleges also offer equivalency scholarships. NCAA Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships.
Since the average college budget for an in-state public college is over $20,000 and a moderate budget for a private school is over $40,000, you can see that if you are seeking a scholarship in an equivalency sport, you still have some financial planning to do.
Myth number 2 – My coach will find me a scholarship
Fact: Coaches can be instrumental in the recruiting process for their players, but it’s not your coach’s job to find you an athletic scholarship. You have to take ownership of your recruiting process. Coaches are busy and many don’t have the time or experience to help all their athletes with recruiting. You have to do the legwork. If your coach is willing to help, provide them with the contact information on the schools in which you have interest and an athletic/academic resume so they have all the information they need.
Myth number 1 – If I am good enough, they will find me
Fact: There are many high school athletes every year that could play in college, but believe that just because they haven’t been discovered, they aren’t good enough. College coaches have recruiting budgets, and with the exception of Division I football and basketball, those budgets are limited. They can’t afford to travel the country looking for recruits. Therefore, if you wait around to get recruited, it may never happen, even if you are good enough. If you are a junior or senior in high school and you are currently being “under-recruited”, you need to reach out to the colleges on your own. If you don’t, the chances of a college coach finding you is about as likely as finding a needle in a haystack.