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 identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
West Texas A&M softball coach Kevin Blaskowski has been to the top of the mountain. Check that. Coach Blaskowski and his Lady Buff softball program have been camping out on the top of that mountain since long before most of you high school kids could get into a PG-13 movie! To be clear, West Texas A&M is one of the premier NCAA Division II softball programs in the country, and they have been for a while now. So, as they head into this weekend’s 2016 NCAA Division II postseason as the nation’s unanimously-ranked No. 1 team, it’s just business as usual.
Amidst his Lady Buffs quest for a 2nd national championship in the 3 years, Coach Blaskowski took some time this week to sit down and talk college recruiting with me. Here’s what Coach has to say to high school recruits, everywhere.
Q: How do you and your staff typically identify recruits?
A: At West Texas A&M, we really use two different methods. First, our coaching staff attends all of the recruiting and qualifier events that our schedule will allow. We get out and see as many of those type events during the summer and fall, since our season runs in the spring. Our staff works extremely hard in utilizing our off-season to evaluate the players we have on our radar.
Additionally, we have had a lot of recent success hosting camps and round-robin events, right here on campus. Both of those serve such a great value to not only our coaching staff, but also to the players that have interest in our program. At the Division II level, we don’t have a huge recruiting budget. By bringing the talent on campus, we really get to see which players are serious about coming here, while staying within that budget. We have to be strategic with how we recruit and how we evaluate.
Q: What age or grade do you start recruiting a potential student-athlete?
A: In most cases, we are recruiting 2 years out, meaning we try to stick with juniors and seniors in high school. College recruiting has turned to younger and younger players each year and that is not something I have a great amount of interest in. Quite honestly, it’s a gamble. When you have to make scholarship offers based on how a player projects down the road as opposed to how a player can fit into your program right now, there is just too much risk involved. I firmly believe in letting young athletes develop and grow those first few years of high school, without the pressure of worrying about college.
Q: What would your advice be to a recruit that has interest in your program that you have not yet identified?
A: Be diligent with the process and be genuine! Players that show their personal interest in our program are players that we recruit and take seriously. I would tell these recruits that if we haven’t seen them yet, they need to reach out to us and tell our staff of their interest. It’s all about creating that open line of communication, because if you want to play for us, we need to know that.
High school recruits have got to understand that most college programs, especially the successful ones, will handle them in the same manner they are handled. Our staff gets up to 100 emails a day from prospective student-athletes. That’s a large number! How we differentiate the serious prospects from the rest is by the personal touch shown in the communication. It’s easy to see when a recruit has genuine interest in being a part of what we are doing. It is also easy for a college coach to spot an email that was sent out to 200 other programs. Well, if that is how you want to present yourself, just kind of seeing what will stick, you shouldn’t expect a whole lot responsive interest.
Q: What would the ideal recruit be to you?
A: College softball is about so much more than what happens on the field. College athletics, as a whole, is that way. That said, it is more than just being an athlete. That ideal recruit is trustworthy, has unbelievable work ethic and is motivated from within. They want excellence in every area of their life, whether that’s athletically, academically, or personally speaking.
Every athlete on our roster was one of the top 2 or 3 players from their high school program. We have been blessed with a good amount of talent, but that talent that doesn’t always translate into the expectations a player has in terms of her role on the team. So when we recruit, the real question we ask is whether or not that recruit is willing to be a good teammate? Will she be hung up on individual stats or team goals? How will she leave her legacy? The goal is to find the recruits that will leave the program in better shape after they have graduated. And with the success that we have had, that requires a recruit to be the entire package!
Q: What advice would you have for parents of student-athletes going through the recruiting process?
A: As parents, we have to counsel our kids on how you go about doing things the right way. The same way you went about selecting a career, a job or just making a good decision can be applied to your son or daughter’s recruiting experience. Think about that, you don’t just get a call from someone that you don’t know offering you a job. You do your due diligence in finding the career that best suits you. You research companies that you have interest in, you apply for the position and you go through the hiring process. That’s what college recruiting is all about! Parents have got to teach their kids how important preparation is and what the path to success looks like.