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.
Once the word gets out that you want to in play your sport in college, the “experts” will come out of the woodwork. Everyone has advice on what will help you achieve your dream. For that reason, if you are looking for recruiting advice, make sure you are listening to the right people. Your Uncle Billy who knew someone, who had a cousin, who was second string at XYZ State University is probably not who you should listen to. Go to your current high school or summer coach and ask for his or her advice.
Over the years I have heard many stories from many players about how to approach college recruiting. Much of the advice is good, but some isn’t. Here are the 5 worst pieces of recruiting advice I have ever heard. There is a lesson to be learned from each one.
“Don’t worry, the college coaches will find you”
If you ask for advice and this is the response, whoever gave the advice just doesn’t have time to help. If college coaches haven’t already identified you as a potential recruit, then sitting on your couch eating pizza, watching Sports Center and waiting for the phone to ring probably isn’t going to get you to the next level. If you have the desire and believe you have the talent to play in college, then you need to do something about it.
It’s a given that college coaches know the 5 star athletes, but that leaves plenty of roster spots available for the rest of high school athletes. Coaches fill the large majority of their rosters with talented, coachable, hard-working student-athletes who are identified and evaluated by their coaching staff. Your objective should be to get noticed by those coaching staffs to get recruited. Help them find you. If you provide a college coach with your contact information, highlight video, game schedule and a way to contact your current coach, you’ve at least given them a roadmap to find you.
“If you’re good enough, grades don’t matter”
If someone tells you this and you believe it, your recruiting journey won’t have a happy ending. Listen, you are looking for an athletic scholarship to go to COLLEGE and get an EDUCATION. In order to play, you have to meet the NCAA and/or NAIA academic eligibility requirements and you have to meet the entrance requirements at any school you plan to attend.
Most high school students and their parents don’t understand the importance of academics in college recruiting and the emphasis that college athletic programs place on grades. Quite frankly, that is somewhat surprising. On almost every television broadcast of a college sporting event the announcers talk about “scholar athletes”, team GPA’s and team graduation rates. College coaches want athletes in their program that will represent themselves and their university in a positive light and good grades are a good start. College coaches are actually encouraged by their university to field a team of true “student athletes”.
For the above reasons, a good athlete with good grades and high standardized test scores is much more attractive to a college coach than a good athlete with marginal grades and a below average ACT or SAT score. That is a fact. When trying to decide between two players of similar abilities, coaches will go with the better student every time.
“Recruiting doesn’t really start until you are a junior”
If you don’t start the recruiting process until you are a junior, it’s not too late, but it is much more difficult than if you had started as a freshman. The earlier you start, the more options you will have. Potential recruits are being identified earlier and earlier every year. As crazy as it sounds, in some sports college coaches are identifying prospects as early as the 7th or 8th grade.
I’m not suggesting that elementary students start sending emails to coaches, but as a freshman you should at least start learning about the process and identifying colleges you might be interested in. As a sophomore, you can start the process by getting on the radar of coaches at colleges in which you have an interest. If you do the groundwork early, your junior year will be much more productive.
“You need an online profile if you want to be recruited”
While an organized profile can be helpful in recruiting, that alone will not lead to a college scholarship. In fact, if you prepare an athletic resume, it will serve the same purpose as anything you might see online. Don’t fool yourself, the vast majority of college coaches don’t come home after practice, eat dinner, watch “The Voice” and then log onto recruiting sites to search for potential recruits. That just doesn’t happen, and even if it did, why would your profile stand out among the thousands of other profiles?
If you will take the time to send your relevant information to coaches at colleges that are a match for your abilities, you will be ahead of the competition. At least this way your resume is presented to coaches that might actually be interested.
“Your recruiting video needs to be done by a professional”
While a professional video set to inspirational music might make your grandparent’s happy, it is certainly not necessary. Your skills should be the focus, not how entertaining the video is. Here are some simple tips on how to create an effective highlight video:
- Keep it Short – A two or three minute video is long enough. A coach will decide if he or she is interested in the first 45 seconds.
- Put your Best Highlights First – You only get one chance at a first impression.
- Post Your Video online – Post your video online (YouTube or Vimeo) and include the link in your first correspondence to a college coach.
- Know What Coaches look for – Different sports require different approaches. If you are unsure about this, ask your current coach for some help.
- Show all Your Skills – Use clips that show you’re a well-rounded athlete.
- Video Quality is Important – Use a high definition camera or your team’s game film.
Creating a highlight video is not hard. If you are a parent and uncomfortable working on it yourself, ask your kid! I bet they know how to do it.
A word of warning
The college recruiting process is not as complicated as many would have you believe. If the above is the kind of advice you are getting, you need to ask someone else! And the best place to start is with your current coach.