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 ofPlayced.com. Playced.com delivers an online recruiting game plan unique to athletes of all talent levels and ages.
For many athletes, talking to a college coach is intimidating. In fact, it can be more stressful than actually playing in front of coaches. Athletes don’t want to say anything that might hurt their scholarship chances, and some coaches might ask difficult questions. Most high school students haven’t had many job interviews, so they lack the experience to answer difficult questions in a way that highlights their abilities.
As a recruit, you have to be prepared before you have a conversation with a coach. You should also understand that coaches tend to ask the more difficult questions on the telephone, because campus recruiting visits are when they try to sell their program. Therefore, you need to be prepared now, because you don’t know when that first phone call will come.
Write down questions to ask a coach and be ready to answer any questions he or she might have. When you are on the phone, be respectful, talk slowly and calmly. When you go on a recruiting visit, stand up straight, look the coach in the eye, be confident and polite.
In preparation for your next conversation with a coach, here are some common questions he or she might ask and some help with your answers:
“What are your strengths and weaknesses as a player?”
This is not the time to be modest. Be humble, but confident in your abilities. If you can give specific examples, you should. Know your stats, so you can share them with coaches without looking them up. College coaches want self-confident, outgoing players that will represent their school in the right way. Be honest about your weaknesses, but don’t dwell on them. They know you aren’t perfect and most likely will prefer an athlete who recognizes areas to improve and will work to get better.
“What sets you apart from other recruits/players?”
The answer to this question is different for every athlete, but if you have a strong answer it can go a long way toward earning a college scholarship. Some qualities you could highlight in answering this question might be leadership, work ethic, academic achievements, coachability, mental toughness and sportsmanship. If you are involved in programs outside of school, be sure to mention them. Explain how you will be an asset to the program. Also, do your homework on the colleges you are talking with. Knowing about their program might set you apart from other recruits and if you know a little about the school also, that is a plus. .
“What other colleges are recruiting you?”
If you are being recruited by other colleges, let them know, but you need to make them feel like they are your top choice (even if they aren’t). If you aren’t currently being recruited, there are many ways to answer this question. For example, you could say “I have just started the process” or “I am waiting to hear back from several colleges.” Everyone wants to date the popular girl/boy and every coach wants to sign the popular recruit.
“What type scholarship are you looking for?”
Let the coach know if you have other offers. Be honest about financial considerations, especially if that is a determining factor in your ultimate decision. Learn the rules with respect to scholarships in your sport. If partial scholarships are the norm, be open to other forms of financial aid including academic scholarships, grants and student loans. You should also know the “all-in” cost at any college you are talking with so you can compare “apples to apples.” A 25% scholarship to a private school is not the same as a 25% scholarship to a state school. Your share of the actual cost might be dramatically different.
“What things are you looking for most in a college?”
There are many aspects of this question to consider. They can range from your expectations regarding playing time to whether the school offers the major you want to study. Decide early what is important to you. Is it location? School size? Playing time? Tradition? Boy-girl ratio? Once again, be honest with this answer. That is the best way for a recruit and a coach to determine whether the school is a good fit. This is not a time to tell them what you think they want to hear. This is your future and you want to get everything you can out of your college experience.
“Who is helping you with this decision?”
For many coaches, this will be one of the first questions asked. They want to know who will be influential in making the decision and who to build a relationship with. I believe a recruit should limit the number of people involved in the process. Listen to your parents, your current coach and perhaps a trusted advisor. Don’t poll the team or ask the cashier at the grocery store. This is your decision and coaches don’t enjoy having to convince several people to sign a recruit.
“Do you have any questions for me?”
The decision on which college to attend is one of the biggest decisions of a young adult’s life. Given that fact, it is important that the decision is an informed one. Most likely, you will have a limited amount of time to talk with a coach, so write down a list of top questions early in the process. Here are a few ideas:
- What would I need to do to earn a scholarship to your program?
- How many players are you recruiting at my position?
- What would I need to do to be evaluated by your staff?
- Who do I talk to about financial aid?
- When would be a good time to visit your campus?
Decide what is important to you and prioritize your top five to seven questions. Ask as many as the conversation will allow.
Any time you talk to a coach just be yourself, be relaxed, and be confident. Coaches want to get to know you, get a feel for your personality, and determine what kind of person you are. Take advantage of the opportunity to start building a relationship, and find out if he or she is someone you want to play for.