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 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.
If you search the internet for recruiting assistance, you will come to find almost as many recruiting services/websites as there are colleges offering scholarships. Many promise they will help you find an athletic scholarship because they have access to people and information you don’t. Others promise college scholarships based on relationships, online profiles and/or networks. The question for student-athletes and their parents is “how do I know who to trust and how much do I need to spend?”
The fact is that any qualified athlete can find a spot on a college roster without the assistance of a professional recruiter, as long as they are willing to put in a little effort. That being said, most people don’t know how to approach college recruiting and they really want help. Like any industry, there are good recruiting services and there are companies that are just trying to separate you from your money. This article will discuss the good, the bad and the ugly side of the college recruiting service industry.
There are many recruiting services that provide helpful information on scholarships, colleges, and the recruiting process in general. Really there is more information available at no charge on how college recruiting works than any one person can absorb. A little research online can be extremely helpful for any high school athlete trying to decide how to best tackle the college recruiting process.
If you decide you want help, there are individuals and companies with the best intentions and truly want to help. In my experience, those companies offer an advisory role in the process, help you organize and manage the process and don’t charge exorbitant fees. They are truly there to help and have the athlete’s best interests in mind. Obviously, the more help you want, the more the company might charge, but the companies that do it the right way generally don’t cross-sell, over-sell or sell your personal information to affiliated companies.
Let’s be honest, the recruiting service industry doesn’t have a pristine reputation. Many recruiting services try to convince well-meaning parents and naïve student-athletes that recruiting is something that it isn’t. The process seems overwhelming, so many companies try to capitalize on that by using high-pressure sales tactics and making promises based on little or no information. Ultimately, they oversell and under-deliver.
The fact of the matter is you don’t need a recruiting “scout” promoting your abilities to college coaches. In fact, over the last several years we’ve had the privilege to interview and talk to hundreds of college coaches, and every single one of them stated they prefer to deal directly with the student-athlete, not a recruiting service scout. Not many of them, not most of them, ALL of them prefer to deal with the student-athlete. 100 percent! That is a very telling statistic. To a college coach, if you hand off your recruiting process to a compensated recruiter you appear lazy, uninterested and entitled. However, if you aren’t going to make any effort on your own at all, then someone contacting college coaches on your behalf is better than no one contacting them at all.
Every recruit also needs to understand that while an online profile can be helpful, you’re mistaken if you believe you can post your profile online and wait for the scholarship offers to roll in the door. Most college coaches don’t spend their evenings scouring through thousands of profiles on recruiting sites. And even if they did, what makes you think your profile will stand out from the others or that they will even see it? The most effective way to use an online profile/resume is to share the link to your profile with the coaches you have identified as realistic possibilities.
The ugly side of college recruiting starts with those companies and individuals that prey on the emotions of parents and athletes, charge thousands of dollars and make false promises. Keep in mind that if you are being pressured and the price isn’t front and center, then you better plan to spend a lot more than is necessary. The best way to describe the ugly side is to give you a few real life examples that make my stomach turn:
A Payment Plan?
A few months ago we had a parent ask a question on our weekly Periscope/Facebook live broadcast. He asked if we thought it was a good idea to start a payment plan with a recruiting service for his 7th grader. Yep, his 7th grader! He was obviously a well-meaning parent who would do anything to help his son realize his dream to play college football. He really couldn’t afford the total fee all at once, but he was being pressured to commit. Needless to say, our advice was to just enjoy his son’s athletic career and not to stress about college recruiting until he at least has taken a snap or two in high school.
Your profile is a match!
A few months ago I received a call from a parent of a student-athlete asking about a particular recruiting service. This mom started the process of signing her daughter up with a recruiting service, but had second thoughts after only completing her daughter’s name, email address, sport and position. For weeks she received emails from this company claiming that college coaches had run a search and her daughter’s profile was a match. All she had to do was sign up to find out which colleges they were. Again, the only information on her profile was her name, sport, position and email address. I guess the college coaches were impressed with her email address….
To avoid dealing with the ugly side of college recruiting companies just remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not and if you feel pressured, step back, take a deep breath and trust your instincts.
Here’s the deal
Let’s get one thing straight, this is your recruiting journey. If you decide to use a service, do your homework, read the reviews, ask the right questions and understand exactly what you are paying for. If you decide to do it yourself, educate yourself on the process and be persistent. Recruiting services aren’t miracle workers. They can’t make you jump higher, run faster or throw harder. They can offer advice and support, but they can’t fix four years of no effort in the classroom either. Ultimately, whether or not you play in college will most likely be determined by your effort on the field, in the classroom and in the recruiting process.