Recruiting Column: Your first impression

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 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)

You don’t get a second chance at a first impression.  We’ve all heard that saying before.  Well, your first impression with a college coach may happen sooner than you think.  In fact, it might be happening right now.  College coaches generally do their homework on recruits well before they introduce themselves.  Your first impression with a college coach most likely will happen before you ever meet them in person or talk with them live.  For that reason, your actions and behavior in high school are critical if you expect to play in college.  If you aren’t a good teammate, don’t respect your coach and aren’t a good student many college coaches will eliminate you from consideration and concentrate on the next player on their list.

Here are three ways you might make a first impression before you know it.

At a game or showcase event

Brooks Thompson, the head basketball coach at the University of Texas at San Antonio told us a few months ago, “My coaching staff watches players from the time they step off the bus until the time they get back on the bus.  We watch how they warm up, how they interact with their teammates, how they handle themselves in competition, how they win and how they lose.  We evaluate the entire package; we don’t just look at the box score.”  Consider yourself warned.

College coaches show up at games unannounced, they watch how you react to game situations and how you interact with your teammates and coaches.  Your behavior is always on display and that will only intensify if you play in college.  College coaches are certainly looking at talent first, but your conduct and character are definitely factors, especially when they are trying to decide between recruits of similar abilities.

You don’t have to be a boy scout or a nun, but if you don’t respect your teammates, coaches and parents then your attitude might be a problem.  College coaches don’t want to be college babysitters.

College coaches will check with your current coach

You can bet that college coaches will check with a current coach before they spend a lot of time on any recruit.  In fact, when we asked Mack Brown, the former University of Texas Head Football Coach who he trusted in recruiting, he told us:  “Really we didn’t trust anyone other than our coaching staff and the player’s high school coach. Our coaching staff handled all aspects of recruiting. We didn’t rely on anyone else, but if a high school coach had any hesitation about a player, we were out!”

Your relationship with your current coach is important for a number of reasons.  He or she controls playing time, they can reach out to colleges on your behalf and they are likely the most reliable source to vouch for your character and abilities.  Don’t ask your coach to dinner, but practice hard, be a good teammate and respect his or her authority.  If you do those things, the rest will take care of itself.

(Photo: Playced)

(Photo: Playced)

On social media

Finally, one of the very first things college coaches do when vetting a potential player is monitor their social media. They’re hoping to not find racist, sexist, vulgar or profane posts.  If they do, that recruit comes off the list.  It is entirely possible that the first impression you make with a college coach will be on social media and you probably won’t even know about it.  I can assure you that there are thousands of recruits who have been scratched off recruiting lists based just on their social media accounts. The best advice I can give any recruit is to think twice before you post, then think again and then don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read.

Consistent profanity or negative posts are certainly red flags, but coaches also monitor social media for other warning signs.  If it is apparent from your posts that you don’t get along with your coaches or teammates, that you dread practice or hate homework, it might be a sign for a college coach to steer away from you.

Also, if a student-athlete has the time to be on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook 24/7, coaches might question a recruit’s priorities.  If gaining followers, likes or re-tweets is your priority, then those habits might take away from homework, practice and just being a kid.  Finally, sending a direct message on Twitter or Facebook is a way to communicate with college coaches; however, a message like “Hey coach, check out my highlight video, it’s good!” may cause more harm than good.

Here’s the deal

In college recruiting, and in life, your conduct has a lot to do with how successful you are.  Be yourself, work hard and respect others.  Those traits will go a long way to help you make a good first impression every time.

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