Recruiting Column: The Perfect Recruit

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 This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.


In my profession, I have had the opportunity to speak about recruiting with college coaches all over the country. From football coaches to baseball coaches and from the NCAA Division I level down to the junior college ranks, I have certainly been able to “pick the brains” of some coaching greats. In every conversation, I always try to learn something new or walk away with a different perspective, and, most of the time, I do!

Although the accent of recruiting sounds a bit different with each coach, the fundamental message is always consistent, especially when we discuss what they look for in a recruit. So, what exactly is it that these college coaches are looking for? What do they want? More importantly, what do they expect? For all of you high school athletes wondering, here is what the “perfect recruit” would look like.

In the classroom

Monopoly money. Consider that the value of your scholarship offer if you can’t get accepted by the school’s admissions office of the program offering you the scholarship. Always remember that being a good student and getting good grades will open more doors than athletics ever will. Conversely, not getting it done in classroom is the deadbolt lock on the door of college opportunity. Can you imagine losing a chance to play for a college you have always wanted to play at because you didn’t care about your grades?

Bottom line, coaches want, expect and need you to be a good student. In most cases, being an academically disciplined recruit shows:

  • You are well-rounded and have balance in your life
  • You take pride in more than just your FG%
  • You can be trusted off the field
  • You can manage your time, appropriately
  • You probably have a good on-field IQ
  • You respect your future

The “perfect recruit” would be the one that cares equally as much about their academic career, as they do their athletic career.

On the field

I’m going to just get this out of the way; the “perfect recruit” has some athletic ability! College coaches first take notice of you because of your physical abilities. They want to see that you can compete at their level, without physical limitations. There is no way getting around that. For the sake of this article, let’s go ahead and assume that you do physically have what a college coach is looking for. Great! But that doesn’t necessarily mean your scholarship is in the bag.

The “perfect recruit” that coaches dream of:

  • Leads by example in practice, in the weight room and during games
  • Cares about his/her teammates
  • Puts the team first, ALWAYS!
  • Is a consistent, “know-what-you-are-going-to-get” type player
  • Respects the game, coaches and officials
  • Loves to play

Physical talent is certainly something you need to possess to become a college athlete. Add these qualities to the mix and you are going to be very appealing to college coaches.


Off the field

There is a huge difference between coaching and babysitting. Coaching is about developing, motivating and getting the most out of kids. Babysitting is about making sure the house doesn’t go up in flames! The last thing a college coach wants to worry about is whether his/her athletes are burning down the house.

It is really pretty simple; the “perfect recruit”:

  • Respects all authority-figures
  • Honorably represents their family, team, coaches and institution
  • Doesn’t misuse social media
  • Stays out of trouble and obeys the law
  • Understands what a privilege it is to be a student-athlete

Here is some “off the field” advice to live by: If you want a good reputation and want good things to happen in your life, do good things! If you don’t care about doing things the right way, you really don’t belong in college athletics!

So, how perfect of a recruit are you?

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