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.
High school student-athletes spend hours in the weight room. Typically the harder they work, the better the result when it’s time to compete. Any coach will tell you, if you don’t train hard, you won’t get stronger or faster. If you aren’t going to give maximum effort, then don’t waste your time. The same holds true for college recruiting.
The college recruiting weight room involves improving your abilities both academically and athletically. It also involves putting in the time to identify the colleges that match your abilities, connecting with the coaches at those schools and being persistent in the process.
Establish your baseline
If you don’t know where you are, you will never be able to find your destination. Even Google Maps can’t give you directions if you don’t tell them where to start. Understanding your baseline in the recruiting weight room is your starting point and is the foundation of a game plan to land a college scholarship. Whether you are a freshman or a senior when you start the recruiting process, you need a realistic assessment of your athletic and academic abilities in order to create a realistic game plan to achieve your realistic goals.
Go to your current coach and ask for an honest evaluation of how you stack up and what you need to improve. Ask for specifics. If they tell you “You’re pretty good” or “You’re above average”, that isn’t much help. If you want to get to the next level, you need specific areas to work on. If your coach is honest with you and you aren’t happy with the assessment, don’t take the feedback personally. Just be thankful that they care enough to shoot you straight and develop a game plan to get better.
Next, go to your college counselor to determine which colleges are appropriate for you, academically. If you are an average student with average test scores, you aren’t going to play basketball at Princeton, even if you’re 7’2” and can jump out of the gym. For that matter, if you did end up at Princeton and were over-matched in the classroom, the college experience wouldn’t be a good one.
Create your workout
Once you’ve established your academic and athletic baselines, you can develop a workout schedule to get to the next level. Develop short term goals and long term goals. Write them down. Share them with your coach and college counselor. Tell your friends. If you do, you will be much more likely to accomplish those goals.
Your short term academic goals might be just to commit an additional 15 minutes a night to studying. Put your phone in a drawer, turn off the TV and focus on algebra or chemistry or whatever course is most challenging for an extra 15 extra minutes a night. It might make a difference in which colleges you can even consider. Athletically, your short term goals might be to work harder in practice or stay a few minutes after to improve your skills. Hard work will pay off.
Your long term goals should include improving your standardized test scores. You might want to take an ACT or SAT prep course. Again, the higher your test scores, the more colleges you can consider. Athletically, your long term goals should be to achieve the physical benchmarks necessary to compete for a roster spot at colleges in which you have an interest.
Finally, your short term and long term goals have to include being persistent and proactive in the recruiting process. You HAVE to be involved if you want a successful recruiting outcome. Commit a few hours a week to identifying the right colleges and expressing sincere interest in their programs.
Put in the work
Unless you are in the top 2% of athletes, you won’t attain an acceptable recruiting result without committing to the grind in the recruiting weight room. It’s not always going to be fun or exciting, you might get sore or tired, but it is ultimately worth it.
Academically, spend the time necessary to improve your grades and test scores. Athletically, outwork your competition. With respect to the recruiting process, you have to be involved and commit to being persistent. Don’t try to hand the process off to someone else and hope that your National Letter of Intent will arrive in the mail. That won’t happen. Committing to the recruiting grind means contacting coaches at numerous schools, numerous times until you find the right fit.
To some extent your recruiting process is a numbers game. The more appropriate colleges you reach out to, the better your chances are to find a scholarship. You might find that perfect fit with your first email, or it might not happen until you contact your 20th college.
If you make the commitment in the recruiting weight room ultimately you will (1) have more college options, (2) connect with more college coaches and (3) have a much better chance for a college scholarship.