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.
Clearly, the most important factor in any successful college recruiting journey is talent. You aren’t going to play in college if you don’t have the talent. That being said, if you are reading this article, then you probably have some talent and apparently you have the desire to play at the next level.
Here are the facts: There are 7,000,000 high school athletes looking to play in college each and every year. Less than 7% of those athletes will play at one of the nearly 2,000 colleges that offer scholarships. Given those numbers, unless you are one of the 2% of athletes who is being highly recruited, you really need to do the little things that separate you from the crowd. Those things are “the difference-makers” and they will separate you from other recruits with similar abilities. Here are my top 5 “difference-makers”.
Have the right attitude
Good or bad, attitude dictates your entire approach to life. Is the glass half full or half empty? College coaches can smell a bad attitude from a mile away and they would like to stay away from those players who consistently feel like the glass is half empty. They know that as a college athlete, you will go through some difficult times: early morning workouts, late night travelling, sleepless and homework full nights. Your attitude is an indication of how you will deal with difficult situations and college coaches have the difficult task of trying to predict how a student-athlete will respond in those situations.
An athlete with a good attitude works hard every day, is a good teammate, respects his or her coaches and doesn’t cause problems. If you don’t think a college coach will ask your current coach about your attitude, you are fooling yourself.
College coaches want players who are coachable. It doesn’t take long for a coach to spot an uncoachable player and very rarely can a coach make a player coachable.
Almost every athlete is coachable when they start their career. That changes over time for some. So, what does it mean to be coachable?
- Be thankful someone will take the time to help you improve
- Be open to honest feedback
- Be willing to work hard
- Be willing to change bad habits
- Be humble
How can you ever get better if you are never wrong, won’t work hard, won’t listen to honest feedback and/or aren’t willing to change? Being a coachable athlete will go a long way with your current coach and prospective college coaches.
Focus on academics
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 below average test scores. When trying to decide between two players of similar abilities, coaches will go with the better student every time. College coaches review transcripts when evaluating a student-athlete and a good academic record is an indication of an athlete’s ability to succeed on campus in all areas.
There are many reasons why college coaches want good students on their roster other than being able to brag about the team GPA or graduation rate:
- Good students often qualify for academic scholarships and in-state tuition, potentially saving athletic scholarship money. This is very important in the equivalency sports. It allows the coach to spread the athletic scholarship money out over more players.
- A good GPA and SAT/ACT score indicates to coaches that a student will most likely achieve the minimum college GPA needed to maintain athletic eligibility. It is also an indication that a student will be able to adjust to college life. If an athlete is stressed about grades he/she may not perform to the best of their abilities.
- Grades and test scores are an indication of a student’s work ethic and achievement standards for all areas of their lives.Athletes that put forth the effort in the classroom generally put forth the same kind of effort in practice and in games.
Always give maximum effort
It takes zero talent to give maximum effort. Effort in college recruiting includes effort at practice, in games and believe it or not, in your pursuit of the right college. Your efforts in practice will result in a better performance in games. It will also be noticed and appreciated by your current coaches. Your effort in games will be apparent to college coaches. You should always play like someone important is watching. You never know when a college coach might show up unannounced.
Finally, the effort you put into the recruiting process will have a direct correlation to how many colleges are interested in you. If college coaches aren’t contacting you, then you need to make a concerted effort to connect with them. Setting up an online profile or sending a few random emails won’t cut it. Be strategic. Be persistent. You may have to contact numerous colleges, numerous times before you find the right match. If you want options, you have to create them.
The final, but perhaps most important “difference-maker” is being realistic about which colleges make sense for your athletic and academic abilities. This is the hardest part of the recruiting process and many athletes pursue colleges that don’t make sense for their abilities. For that reason, each athlete who is serious about playing in college really needs an honest, objective assessment of their athletic and academic standing.
If you cannot be realistic with who you are as a student and who you are as an athlete, you will struggle with the recruiting process. Not every student has the academic profile to play at Princeton, nor can every athlete make the roster at Ohio State. Pursue colleges that have as much interest in you, as you have in them. You have a limited time to find the right fit; don’t waste it on schools that are out of reach.