How coaches evaluate a recruit’s college potential

How coaches evaluate a recruit’s college potential

NCSA Recruiting

How coaches evaluate a recruit’s college potential


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.

Once college coaches have identified a recruit they are interested in, their next step is to predict how well that recruit will do at the college level. There are general ways coaches approach this, like assessing how big or fast you are, but for most recruits, their measurables alone aren’t enough. In this week’s column, we cover some of the other ways recruits can make it easy for coaches to project their skills at the college level.

Coaches need to see you against other college-level recruits

Many times, the biggest struggle for coaches isn’t evaluating the individual recruit, but knowing how to interpret their performance related to their competition. If you put a college-level athlete on the field against normal high school competition, they are going to dominate. Coaches really want to know how will they do against other college-level athletes. Most coaches would rather watch 10 plays of a recruit against another legitimate college recruit, than 100 plays of that recruit against normal high school competition.

Insider Tip: Let coaches know when you are playing against other college recruits. If you know you are playing a team with other athletes who are getting recruited, this is a great reason to email a coach. Any time a coach can watch multiple college-level athletes in a single game, they are more likely to take notice.

Coaches want to see a simple highlight video that gets to the point

Many athletes make highlight films with the wrong audience in mind. While a “cool” tape with catchy music is more likely to get views on YouTube, coaches need a simple video that gets right to the point. While there is definitely a skill to putting together clips for a highlight film, below are a few things to keep in mind.

  • How fast do you look on film? Many recruits love to put a big play of them on a breakaway as their first clip. What you don’t realize is that coaches are watching that clip to see if people behind you are catching up. Coaches don’t care about you running down the field, but they will notice if they players behind you are catching up.
  • Just because you scored, doesn’t mean it is a highlight. Scoring on a broken play, catching a pass against busted coverage or running through a perfectly blocked hole, while fine for you, don’t really matter to a college coach. You want to identify plays where coaches can evaluate your decision making or elite skill that lead to a big play. This is a great opportunity to ask your high school or club coach for help in picking clips, as they can usually help you select plays coaches would be interested in.
  • Coaches need to see the whole field of play. Resist the urge to zoom in for highlight films. Coaches need to see the whole field so they can tell how the athlete moved within the context of the play, not just what they are doing individually.

Coaches evaluate recruits’ potential to keep improving

For many sports, evaluating a recruit’s training is just as important as their current ability. Many recruits will move up or down the recruiting board based on the amount and type of training they’ve done in high school. For example, imagine you have two runners with the exact same best time. One runner has been training seriously for 3-plus years, while the other runner has only trained part-time because they played multiple sports. Coaches will look at the under-trained athlete as someone with more potential. Here are a few of the way coaches evaluate an athlete’s training:

  • What volume of training are you doing? When athletes step up to the college level, it almost certainly comes with a step up in training volume. If a recruit has already been doing high volume training, make sure the college coach gets a detailed explanation of the program.
  • Are you strength training? As part of a more serious training program, most coaches will have some sort of weight training. If you haven’t started strength training, it doesn’t mean you have to. If you are lifting weights, make sure detail out what your program is.
  • What has your progression been like? Did you run/swim/row your best time as a sophomore or senior? Coaches not only want to know what your PR is, but whether you’re improving or plateaued. Make sure you give coaches a list of your top 5 best times, not just your best time, as well as the date when each was achieved.


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