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 Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.
This week, I was able to sit down and talk college recruiting with Jeff Hosler, head women’s soccer coach at Grand Valley State University. Sure, I could tell you to listen to what he has to say because the Lakers have won 5 NCAA Division II National Championships since 2009. Or I could tell you to listen to what he has to say because his “common sense” philosophy of college recruiting is a breath of fresh air. But the real reason I want you to pay attention to Coach Hosler is… he’s just a cool dude!
Here is Coach Hosler’s recruiting advice to high school student-athletes and their parents.
Q: What age or grade-level should a student-athlete get serious about college recruiting?
A: Like anything in life, the more prepared you are, the better off you are going to be when you are making decisions. That idea applies to the college selection process, too. Recruiting timelines vary for each athlete, so I would just really encourage kids and their families to research schools they have interest in once they realize they want to pursue a college career. That might be in 8th grade for some kids or even as late as senior year of high school for other kids. And don’t just research schools online, get out and see those campuses with your own eyes. Go find out what those programs are all about, what the coaches are like, what the team makeup looks like. Get out and watch some practices and attend a few games. Understand the level of competition at the schools you are researching. Your goal is to get the best overall picture so you can feel great about the decision you are going to make.
Q: What is your advice to a student-athlete that is interested in your program that you have not yet identified as a potential recruit?
A: Communication during the recruiting process is the key. Student-athletes have got to understand that, now more than ever, college recruiting really is a two-way street. I would encourage these recruits to be persistent in their approach and make it known as to what they want. We really encourage kids to attend events here on campus, like ID camps or tournaments because it benefits both the player and the program. The recruit can get on our campus and work with us, while we are able show them what GVSU soccer is all about. It serves a mutual evaluation purpose, really. Just be clear that you are interested in us, because we are going to do the same for you.
Q: Aside from the physical talent, how can a recruit make a good impression on you?
A: For us, if we are at a stage where we are having consistent conversations with a recruit and they are coming on campus visits, we are going to ask some difficult questions. With the success we have had, we have got to make sure we are bringing in the right kids for our team culture. So, we dig in and ask specific questions about their character. What have they done in the community? What’s their reputation in the community and at school? What would their teammates and coaches say about them? We are going to fact-find and gather as much quality information as we can on any athlete that we have serious interest in. To make a good impression on us, you have got to be a good person. You have got to display high character, poise and competiveness. Those are the things that take a program to the top, it’s not just skill-level.
Q: What is your advice to parents of student-athletes going through the recruiting process?
A: Be supportive of your child. Be supportive of their wants and wishes for their experience because they are going to be living it every day. Help your child to recognize every opportunity within the process. I think it’s also very important for parents to ask questions of their child. Ask them what they are thinking. Ask them how they are comparing the schools they are choosing from. Ultimately, just ask those guided questions that allow and force your child to think and answer with an opinion. Create the conversation that goes beyond the “yes/no” and “shrug-of-the-shoulders” answer. Just always keep in mind, this is about what they want, not what you want for them.
Q: Why has Grand Valley State had so much success over the years?
A: The reality of college athletics is that it is very difficult to create and maintain a high-level of success. My coaching mentor, Scott Frey of Messiah College, told me something when I first started coaching that rings so true. Coach Frey said, “It’s easy to pick out the kids with talent. The tough part is picking out the kids that are right for your program, the philosophies and the culture you want to create.” Every coach is different and every program is different. I think what separates the best of the best is finding those kids that are more than just good athletes. At GVSU, our entire university buys into that philosophy. We have a community of tremendous support and that creates such a great expectation of our student-athletes. We have student-athletes and coaches that love their university and their community. They are looking to make a positive impact, both on and off the field.