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. Jason is a former NCAA D-III athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason 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.
With the complex rules, mixed signals and different advice about how to get recruited, the recruiting process can be difficult to understand. To better wrap your mind around it, it’s helpful to take the perspective of a college coach. Coaches approach recruiting like a funnel. They begin their search by considering thousands of athletes per recruiting class and narrow down to their final recruits. This article outlines the general recruiting process college coaches follow.
Initial Evaluations: Identify potential recruits
This first step in the recruiting process for college programs is to identify all potential recruits. With this type of search, coaches look for athletes who meet the basic requirements like height, weight, position, grad year, academics, location, etc. This is where platforms like NCSA, recruiting media sites and other third-party evaluators play a role in helping coaches identify potential recruits.
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Each sport and program is different in how many athletes it includes in this stage. For a typical, large DI football program, you could see up to 8,000 athletes in this stage of the recruiting funnel, while smaller colleges might only have a few hundred athletes.
Initial Correspondence: Find Interested Prospects
Once coaches have the list of initial prospects, they send out communications to see who is interested in their program. These can include requests to complete a recruit questionnaire, invitations to a camp or general interest letters from the university. It is easy to misinterpret this type of communication from coaches as something more or less serious than it is. A good rule to follow: If a college program has taken the time to send you information, it is a sign they have at least passed you through an initial evaluation. You should consider the information and respond to the coach.
After this stage, coaches narrow down their list of potential recruits to about 500-3,000 athletes depending on sport and division level.
Second Evaluations: In-depth athletic, academic and character evaluations
This stage is where most people think the recruiting process begins. However, athletes who’ve made it this far have already passed an initial evaluation and shown some interest in the school. At this point, coaches have several athletes who have similar credentials and skills. During these in-depth looks, they focus on ranking their prospects. When you hear stories of coaches talking to an athlete’s high school or club coach, calling their school and more, this is the stage they’re in.
Once a program is done with the follow-up evaluations, their class has been narrowed down to 20-300 athletes depending on sport and division level.
Campus Visits and Scholarship Offers: Signing athletes and locking down commitments
After coaches have their list of ranked prospects, they are going to begin extending offers and locking down verbal commitments. For many sports, the recruiting process is accelerated to the point where “the end” of the recruiting process is a verbal commitment. Offers to athletes in this stage can be athletic scholarships, other forms of financial aid or maybe recruited walk-on positions.
The size of a recruiting class can range from 2-30 athletes depending on the sport and division level.
How you can use this information
If you are an athlete or a parent of an athlete in the recruiting process, the most important takeaway is that you need to engage and reach out to college programs to get identified as a potential recruit. Most athletes are waiting, thinking that if a coach isn’t calling or visiting them, they aren’t getting recruited. In reality, the recruiting process starts with coaches evaluating tens of thousands of athletes; you need to make sure you’re in the pool of athletes they’re looking at.