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.
You have one chance at your college recruiting process. Take your best shot. Do your homework, learn how the process works and realize you might make a few mistakes along the way. Physical mistakes on the field or the court generally won’t make much of a difference. College coaches know you are human and will make a mistake here and there. In fact, they probably want to see how you react to making a mistake. Do you let it bother you? College athletes need to have a short memory in the heat of competition.
The mistakes you want to avoid are those that involve your approach to the recruiting process. Here is a list of my top 10 common mistakes made by high school athletes while going through the recruiting process.
Mistake No. 1 – Contact too few schools
If you aren’t being highly recruited yet, then to some extent your recruiting process is a numbers game. The more appropriate colleges you contact, the better your chances are to find a scholarship. Just because you are interested in a school doesn’t mean the school will be interested in you. What if that school already has three other players at your position?
Understand that you might find that perfect fit with your first email, or it might not happen until you contact your 25th college. Everything has to line up: (1) the coach has to open your email or correspondence, (2) he or she has to actually read it, (3) there has to be a need at your position, (4) there has to be a way to verify your abilities and (5) you have to come to an agreement.
We preach it all the time: Be persistent, make sure the colleges you are pursuing are appropriate and get a coach involved to vouch for your abilities. That is a plan for success.
Mistake No. 2 – Have a false sense of security
Many athletes believe they are being recruited when they are not. You are not being recruited if you get invited to a camp or if you receive a letter or email from a college coach asking you to fill out a recruiting questionnaire. You might have been noticed, but being noticed or recognized is only the initial stage of being recruited.
The primary purpose of camps is to make money for the school and the coaching staff. Coaches ask many recruits to complete their recruiting questionnaire so they can determine if they are a good candidate for their program. You should never have a sense of security until you sign a National Letter of Intent. Keep your options open until you secure a scholarship.
Mistake No. 3 – Believe someone else will take care of your recruiting process
Don’t expect someone else to find your scholarship. The recruiting process is your responsibility. Why would you leave such an important process to someone else?
College coaches want to hear from potential recruits. Certainly your high school and select coaches can help, but they may not have the time or even know how to help. Your high school coach is an important contributor in your development as an athlete, they can vouch for your character and can give college coaches an honest evaluation of your abilities, but the recruiting process is on you.
Mistake No. 4 – Wait too long to start the process
The earlier you start the recruiting process, the more success you will have. Your window of opportunity closes with every game that passes. The recruiting process truly is a process.
Unless you are a highly recruited athlete, you have to familiarize yourself with the rules, identify colleges to pursue, connect with the coaches and close the deal. This can take a while. The sooner you get on the radar screen of the right coaches, the better off you will be and the more time you will have to evaluate which school is right for you.
Mistake No. 5- Don’t understand the importance of academics
If being an athlete was more important than being a student, you would be called an ATHLETE-STUDENT. Many student athletes and their parents underestimate the importance of academics in the recruiting process. College coaches want good students. They don’t want to worry about academic eligibility and good students are generally highly motivated, hard-working individuals they won’t have to babysit.
Recruits also need to understand that you must meet academic requirements for your core courses, grade-point average (GPA) and test scores. The rules can be a little complicated and they vary a little between Division I and Division II, but here are some highlights:
- NCAA Division I uses a sliding scale to match SAT/ACT scores and core-course grade-point averages to determine eligibility. The sliding scale balances your test score with your GPA. If you have a low test score, you need a higher GPA to be eligible. If you have a low GPA, you need a higher test score to be eligible.
- The NCAA calculates your grade-point average (GPA) based on the grades you earn in NCAA-approved core courses.
- You must complete 16 core courses.
- Your NCAA GPA is calculated on a 4.0 scale. If you enroll before Aug. 1, 2016 you must have a 2.0 GPA in your NCAA core courses. The requirements increase after Aug. 1, 2016.
- Honors or advanced courses may improve your core-course GPA but your high school must notify the NCAA Eligibility Center that it weights grades in these classes.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly the more schools you qualify for academically, the more schools you can pursue athletically.
Mistake No. 6 – Worry about what is going on with other players
As you go through the recruiting process, you really only need to worry about the things YOU can control. Don’t fret about what is happening with other players and don’t try to guess what coaches are thinking. It will drive you crazy.
Focus on what you can control and be sure you don’t give the college coaches a reason to scratch you off their lists. Work hard, be a good sport, be coachable, play every game like someone is watching and don’t worry if you make a mistake. These are all things you can control. Don’t worry about the rest.
Mistake No. 7 – Your parents contact the college coach
We all know how parents can be. They want to help and are willing to do anything to help you achieve your dream of playing in college. That being said, if a college coach wants to talk to your parents, he or she will call them. College coaches are looking for mature, confident young adults. If you are interested in a college then you should make the connection.
Mistake No. 8 – Inappropriate posts on Social Media
Coaches are serious about monitoring their players’ and recruits’ social media activities. Their opinion of you can change with the click of a button. Obviously, athletic ability is the primary deciding factor for a coach, but when candidates of similar abilities are considered for the same roster spot, a player’s academics, behavior and character BECOME the deciding factors.
How an athlete handles the responsibility of social media speaks to their ability to use sound judgment.
Mistake No. 9 – Believe Division I is the only option
Division I is not the only option to pursue a college athletic scholarship. You can find an athletic scholarship in most sports at the NCAA Division II, NAIA and junior college levels. These schools offer a quality education, an opportunity for a high school athlete to continue his or her athletic career and a scholarship to help cover the costs. Many athletic programs at the Division II, NAIA and junior college levels are as good, or better, than some of the Division I programs.
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. NCAA Division III is also an option and although these schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, the coaches can help you find other scholarships and sources of financial aid.
Mistake No. 10 – Target colleges that aren’t a match
We have said it over and over, but pursuing colleges that aren’t a match for you athletically and academically is a recipe for disaster. Pursuing the wrong colleges is the most common reason why many talented athletes don’t find a college team.
If you are realistic about who you are as a student and an athlete and you pursue appropriate colleges, then your recruiting journey will be a success.