Highlight films for club sports: Harder to get but not impossible

Highlight films for club sports: Harder to get but not impossible

NCSA Recruiting

Highlight films for club sports: Harder to get but not impossible


USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Joe is a former college-athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.

It’s true—there are some grey areas in the recruiting process. Does your student-athlete have to attend a camp or showcase? Not necessarily. Do they need to craft a personal statement to impress college coaches? Not always.

But when it comes to highlight film, you can consider it a must-have. College coaches rely on them to conduct initial evaluations of student-athletes.

For some sports, getting film is rather easy. High school football programs, for example, usually have the budget to record every game. But for other sports—especially club sports—parents are often left with two options: film it themselves, or pay a hefty price to hire a professional service to do it for you.

MORE: A parent guide to getting quality video for highlight film

Before you take out your checkbook, know that it’s completely possible for you to get great footage of your student-athlete in action and put together a highlight film. To prove it, we’ve compiled a list of sports that rarely have access to video—and tips on how to successfully capture your athlete’s skills.


This time of year, it’s common for a college coach to ask for spring or summer video. But AAU games can be tough to film because you’re crammed in a gym with low-level bleachers that don’t provide a great viewpoint. Here’s what you can do:

  • Get a spot mid-court. Don’t stand under the basket. Coaches want a full court view.
  • Use a tripod. A tripod can help you get the elevation you need when bleachers aren’t an option. Plus, it prevents a shaky camera. Some families have tried using GoPros, but we’ve found that the fisheye lens isn’t compatible with an aerial view.
  • Include 25 plays. Post players need to show their shooting range, ability to finish around the rim, rebounding, shot blocking ability, footwork and defense. Perimeter players can concentrate on scoring, ability to penetrate and finish at the rim, ball handling, court vision and defense.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t zoom in or out, or get fancy with slow motion features.

Insider tip: Share filming duties with other parents. You’re probably not the only family who’s looking to make a highlight film. Find other parents on your student’s team to share footage with.


Even the top club teams don’t have easy access to video. Your biggest challenge is going to be elevation. Standing along the sideline won’t provide college coaches with the perspective they need. Here’s what you can do:

  • Use a tripod. The wider the angle, the better. You want to show the field from the player’s perspective so coaches can see their decision making. Plus, you don’t want to lose track of the ball.
  • Picture the field separated into thirds—offensive, middle, and defensive. When the ball is within one of these zones, make sure you’re capturing the entire box.
  • Film before and after the play. Don’t cut to your athlete scoring—show progression. Coaches want to see how the play unfolds and what happens after.
  • Include 25 plays, including crosses or clears, corner and goal kicks, steals, a variety of passes, such as a clean pass, one touch, give-and-go’s, and thru balls, headers, goals, assists, and your athlete’s ball handling abilities.
  • Edit. Keep the highlight film between two to three minutes long.

Insider tip: Goalies need video, too. In fact, in addition to game footage, they also need a skills video that covers diving shots to each side, breakaways, punts, goal kicks and high balls.


Unlike other sports, wrestling requires full match footage. This can seem complicated in tight quarters, but here’s what you can do:

  • Capture as much of the mat as possible, including the referee. And be sure to film your student-athlete, not the team score board.
  • Film continuously. You want to start rolling from the second your athlete steps on the mat until the moment they step off. Include time between rounds and referee re-sets. Coaches are interested in how your student reacts—are they confident? Do they hustle?
  • Show your athlete’s ability to work through tough matches. You need to record top tournaments where they’re competing against highly-skilled wrestlers. This will resonate more with coaches compared to a match where they pin an average recruit in 20 seconds.
  • Film two to three matches. Freestyle footage should be a last resort.

Insider tip: You can borrow, buy used, or rent equipment. You don’t need to break the bank filming your student-athlete. Utilize eBay, Amazon or Craigslist to find tripods and cameras—just make sure the camera shoots Full 1080HD. If you have an iPad already (iPad Pro is recommended), you can film with that—you’ll get the same high-quality video.


Walk into a volleyball tournament and you’ll find a handful of parents (we’re talking five to 10!) standing on the side with a tablets or smartphones in hand, creating a highlight film for their student-athletes. But another gymnasium sport means another case of cramped quarters. Here’s what you can do:

  • Stand on your student-athlete’s side of the court. Station the camera at the back of the court: right back for a setter, middle of endline for a middle hitter, and left back sideline for an outside.
  • Keep the camera about five feet off the ground. And don’t follow the ball or move the camera while filming. A tripod will come in handy here.
  • Get a clear view of the player. Depending on the position, you need a film a variety of blocks (five), serves (five), defensive plays (10), hits/kills (10-15), sets (20), serve receive (15-20), and attacks (5).
  • Include up to 25 plays total. This will put your video at two to three minutes long.

No matter the sport, you want always want to put the best plays at the beginning of the highlight film. And don’t use any kind of background music (even though you’re singing “Eye of the Tiger” in your head). Keep in mind that your athlete will receive more coach interest if their video is at the varsity level, or from a competitive club tournament or game. And most importantly, don’t feel overwhelmed! We promise that it’s not as complicated as you think.


More USA TODAY High School Sports