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 college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Searching for and finding the right college is a complicated process. Throw into the mix playing your sport at the intercollegiate level and the process can become confusing, frustrating, and stressful. Picking the right college is one of the most important decisions you will make. It’s not a four-year decision. It’s a 40-year decision. For that reason, you really need to explore all your options. When you’re looking for an athletic scholarship you should expect to run into a few obstacles along the way. All the schools you are initially interested in may not be interested in you, and if they aren’t, it’s time to make an adjustment, not an excuse.
Here’s a list of the recruiting excuses I hear all the time and some possible adjustments to make.
Recruiting excuse No. 1: I don’t qualify academically for the colleges I like
Whether you’re an athlete or not, the better your grades and test scores are, the more college options you will have. That’s a fact and you really need to remember that there’s a reason you are called a “student-athlete” and not an “athlete-student”. If you have that backwards, make the adjustment. Take care of business in the classroom.
If you aren’t happy with the schools you qualify for academically, or if your grades are damaging your “recruitability”, find a tutor, commit to a study program, and/or take an SAT or ACT review course. Good grades and test scores make an athlete much more attractive to a college coach. College coaches don’t want to waste their time recruiting athletes who might struggle to stay eligible academically, or, worse yet, can’t get past the college admissions office. Finally, you need to understand that the athlete with better grades and test scores will almost always get the nod between two athletes of similar abilities.
Recruiting excuse No. 2: I don’t have any time to spend on recruiting
If you aren’t a five-star recruit, then the college recruiting process is going to take a little time and effort. That being said, if something is important to you, I bet you find the time to make it happen. If it’s not important, it’s easy to find an excuse. We all watch our favorite TV show, but we generally have something else to do when it’s time to clean the garage.
Listen, I know high school athletes are busy, but if you really want to play in college, stop looking for excuses. Commit a little time up front and then just a few minutes every few days. It will make a difference. The time you spend up front should include talking with your current coach or being evaluated to determine the proper level of competition for your athletic abilities. Then research the schools at that level to decide which ones to pursue. After that, spend 15 minutes a day, three days a week reaching out to the coaches at those schools. It’s a small price to pay to play at the next level.
Recruiting excuse No. 3: I’ve sent emails, but no coaches are responding
For most athletes the recruiting process is really about being consistent and persistent. The more schools you contact, the better your chances for a scholarship. Being persistent does not mean sending out a few emails and waiting for the scholarship offers to arrive in the mail. First of all, please realize that you have to send more than one email to each coach. The first email is just an introductory email and the intent is to generate interest, not to land a scholarship.
If you’ve truly contacted numerous colleges (more than five), multiple times (more than once) and haven’t heard back, wake up! They probably aren’t interested. The recruiting class might be full, they might not have a need at your position, or you might not be a match for their program. Don’t take it personally or get discouraged, just move on. Re-evaluate the kinds of colleges you are targeting. Ask your current coach for his or her opinion about the schools on your list. Remember, many of the Division I recruiting classes fill up early, so if you are starting late, you may have to consider another level of competition. Again, the point is to make an adjustment based on your situation.\
Recruiting excuse No. 4: My coach won’t help me
A coach who is willing to contact colleges on your behalf and vouch for your abilities can make a big difference in your search for a college scholarship. The reality is that most coaches are more than happy to help their athletes in the recruiting process, but if your current coach is unable or unwilling, you have to improvise. Use your summer coach, an assistant coach, a skills coach or even an opposing coach to vouch for your abilities. If you still aren’t having any luck, you may have to go to a camp or use video to support your athletic abilities and use a teacher or other mentor to vouch for your character. The college recruiting process is on you. This is your scholarship, not your coach’s.
Here’s the deal
Lou Holtz once said, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.” This is great advice for college recruits. You have to be willing to make adjustments, because if you don’t, your playing days may be over sooner than you like.