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.
Every year thousands of high school athletes who are good enough to play in college never realize their dream. Why? They weren’t “discovered” by the right college coach and they didn’t take matters into their own hands and pursue a college athletic career. They settled for being a stud on their intramural team.
Roughly 2% of high school athletes are highly recruited. Let me say that again…2% are highly recruited. The other 98% need to figure out a way to “be noticed” by college coaches if they want to continue their athletic career. Let’s put these numbers into perspective…If you play basketball, that means to be a highly recruited athlete you probably need to be the best player in your district. Not one of the better players, not the best player on your team, the best player in your district.
Understand that if you aren’t highly recruited, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to play in college, it just means you need to do a little work to get there.
What does being under-recruited mean?
Being under-recruited merely means that for some reason you haven’t been noticed yet by college coaches or you’ve been noticed, but aren’t being recruited by coaches yet. You might have the athletic ability and the grades, but the right coaches haven’t seen you play or heard about you. Your stats might be great, but for some reason you have gone unnoticed.
Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers is the ultimate example of how a great athlete might go unnoticed. Kaepernick really wanted to play college football. He attended football camps and was as good or better than the other players, but he really never got noticed by any college coaches.
With a little help from his coach and his brother, he decided to take matters into his own hands. His high school head coach, Larry Nigro, sent video to college coaches. His brother Kyle sent out over 1,000 DVDs, but for the longest time Kaepernick got no scholarship offers.
Finally, Nevada assistant coach Barry Sacks, heard about Kaepernick from Nigro and he followed Kaepernick. He evaluated him in the spring of his junior year and watched game film in the fall of his senior year. Finally, Sacks went to watch him play in a basketball game (yes, basketball) and Kaepernick dominated, in spite of the fact that he had a 102 degree fever. With that performance he separated himself from other recruits and Nevada signed him. His persistence paid off and it ultimately landed him a career in the National Football League.
Think about this: If you are a Division II level soccer player, how would the Division II coaches in other states ever find out about you as a player? Recruiting budgets in most sports are limited and coaching staffs can only scout a finite number of games. There is absolutely no reason to hope that a college you are interested in will suddenly notice you without a little effort on your part.
Why are you under-recruited?
There are many reasons why an athlete might be under-recruited or lightly recruited. The reasons can range from small recruiting budgets in your sport, to quite frankly just not being in the right place at the right time.
Steph Curry of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors was actually “under-recruited” out of high school. How in the world did the majority of college coaches miss out on a talent like this? Curry’s high school coach, Shonn Brown explained it this way: “Sometimes kids don’t pass the eye test. As a senior he looked like he was about 14 years old.” The “eye test” said he was too small to play high-level Division I college basketball.
Curry ended up playing at Davidson College where he dominated. Now he is the NBA’s MVP and he just won an NBA title. Here’s the point, college coaches don’t always find every talented athlete. You might not pass the “eye test” or the colleges that have seen you play might not have a need at your position. If that is the case and you are being under-recruited, do something about it.
How do you fix the problem?
The best way to go from being under-recruited to highly-recruited is to reach out to colleges on your own. As long as you reach out to schools that are a match for abilities and you are persistent, you will be successful. If you aren’t “feeling the love” from college coaches yet, then do something about it. Put together a strategy to get recruited.
The strategy should involve researching colleges, developing an understanding of the recruiting process and even filling out the athletic questionnaires on college websites, but here are the three main steps:
- Identify and research colleges that are appropriate for your abilities both athletically and academically.
- Reach out to the coaching staff at those schools expressing genuine interest in their program and provide them with some information on who you are as a student-athlete.
- Get your current coach involved to vouch for your abilities and character.
There is no better way to navigate the college recruiting process. Online profiles are nice for your parents to look at, hiring a recruiting service might help, but the fact of the matter is that the college recruiting process should be between the college coach and the student athlete, PERIOD. Invest in your future and take the time to pursue colleges that are as interested in you as you are in them.