Recruiting Column: Tools of the Trade

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.

(Photo: Playced)

(Photo: Playced)

Over the last year, we have been fortunate enough to interview some of the greatest college coaches in the country. From Russ Rose with Penn State Volleyball to Billy Kennedy with Texas A&M Basketball, these coaches have provided us with valuable insight into the current state of college recruiting. The purpose of interviewing these coaches goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway; we want you high school athletes to understand how college recruiting really works! With each interview and article, our hope is that you understand what these coaches look for, how they recruit and what it takes to play in college, from an academic standpoint and an athletic standpoint. I mean c’mon, no one knows the ins-and-outs of recruiting the way these coaches do!

RELATED: Check out all our great recruiting content here!

Now athletically speaking, every single coach interviewed said the process starts with the same evaluation. Let me paraphrase… “Obviously, the kid has got to have some tools!” What exactly does it mean to “have some tools”? Basically, it means a college coach will notice you first because of your athletic skill set and how you physically perform. Since “recognizing tools” is the start to recruiting for college coaches, we thought we would dedicate today’s column to just that.

Knowing what college coaches look for, understanding your abilities and how you can become more appealing to those coaches is key to having the most successful recruiting experience, possible.

Know what tools matter

College coaches evaluate every position within every sport a little bit differently. For example, the way a football coach grades a defensive lineman is different than the way he would grade a defensive back. A defensive lineman’s size and strength matter more than his 40-yard dash time, whereas a defensive back’s speed and agility mean more than how much he can bench press. Likewise, a volleyball coach evaluates an outside hitter entirely different than how she would grade a libero. Outside hitters need to be able to jump out of the gym, while a libero is graded more heavily on her digging ability. You get the point.

The key here is to understand exactly what tools matter for the sport you play and more specifically, the position you play. Do a little research, ask a coach or pay attention to how the best players in your sport are measured. It doesn’t take a PhD to identify tools that stand out against tools that don’t. Here’s one thing that you can take to the bank, in nearly every sport: size, strength, speed, hand-eye coordination will take you a long, long way.

Know where you stand with each tool

Since we have determined that college coaches first identify physical tools in the college recruiting process, you have to know what you are working with. Whether you are a freshman in high school or you are a senior, knowing what your “baselines” are for each tool will help you better navigate your college recruiting journey. Establishing your baselines will do two things for you: 1. Help you to understand why you are being recruited or why you are not being recruited and 2. Give you an idea of what areas you need to improve upon. I like to call this the assessment stage of college recruiting.

The physical tools you want to establish your baselines for might include your height, weight, speed (40-yard or 60-yard dash time), vertical leap, velocity (how hard you throw, mph), agility, etc. I would recommend having all of your vitals officially recorded by an unbiased third-party or coach and keep them for your record. You won’t know what you are doing right or what you are doing wrong unless you can honestly know how you grade out on tools that matter within your sport. And keep this in mind, when college coaches communicate with you, they will most definitely want to discuss how you measure up.

(Photo: Playced)

(Photo: Playced)

Have a plan to work on sharpening your tools 

You have the answers to the test! Think about that. If you know what college coaches are looking for and how you stack up, you have the answers to the test! So let me ask you…What are you going to do once you have the answers?!

I am not saying that just because you know what it takes to be a Division I athlete means you can actually become a Division I athlete. But you should absolutely be inspired to use your knowledge of what it takes to get the most out of your career. Continue to hone your athletic strengths and pinpoint where you are lacking. Identify what tools are holding you back and develop a game plan to get better. The more tools you develop, the better chance you have at a successful college career, and maybe beyond!

More Stories

Playced: Recruiting Column: Wish I would’ve known then, what I know now

Someone who has already gone through the recruiting process can provide advice to recruits today. Playced recruiting breaks down what (...)

Read the full article

Playced recruiting column: You’ve signed. Now what?

You've signed your National Letter of Intent. Congratulations! But this is just the beginning. What comes next? Tips from Playced:

Read the full article

Playced Recruiting Column: Assume Nothing

High School athletes can't assume they know where they stand as a college recruit. Playced has more.

Read the full article
More Recruiting Column