How to stand out, even if you're on a less-than-stellar team

How to stand out, even if you're on a less-than-stellar team

NCSA Recruiting

How to stand out, even if you're on a less-than-stellar team


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. Mike Adler was a 3-sport captain in high school who went onto play running back for DIAA Morehead State University in Kentucky. Mike 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.

Each year, thousands of high school students participate in sports. Many play for great teams, some play for average teams and some play for terrible teams. Countless student-athletes who play for less than stellar teams think that because their team isn’t very good, they won’t be able to get recruited to play in college. This isn’t the case at all. Here are a few ways athletes can improve their recruiting odds, regardless of how their team performs.

Keep your hopes up and always be coachable

Katelin Klimczak can relate. She played soccer in high school for a middle-of-the-pack team in Illinois, yet earned a scholarship to women’s soccer powerhouse University of North Carolina. She was there for two National Championships. Despite being recruited by many schools she chose to play at UNC. “When your dream school puts you on a list, you go there no matter what,” said Klimczak.

A key to her success was that Katelin learned early on to build good relationships with her coaches. “By maintaining a strong rapport with your coaches, it will help ensure that they’re promoting you to college coaches. Always make sure you stay coachable. Coaches can be your best advocate.”

Play travel or club if you can

If your athlete plays a sport like volleyball, soccer, basketball or baseball/softball they should consider playing for a travel or club program. Jason Smith, NCSA Head Recruiting Coach explains that college coaches prefer to recruit from club or travel programs. They attend club/travel tournaments because it allows them to view multiple recruits over the course of a weekend. It also gives these coaches a chance to see the athlete face-to-face and gives them the opportunity to evaluate how they perform against elite talent.

READ MORE: How to get recruited if you’re from a small school 

Transferring your child to a different high school is always an option. However, if you’re thinking about transferring, make sure you weigh your options very carefully. If you do transfer be careful that your athlete won’t have to sit out any games. They will also have to establish themselves at a new school and because of that they may not get as much playing time. Also, college coaches may not know where they can find your son or daughter if they were recruiting them at their previous high school. Often, transferring hurts athletes’ recruiting more than it helps.

Video is still king

College coaches have always relied on highlight videos to evaluate potential prospects. Today, it’s easier than ever for them to view your film. You can be the best player on the planet but if you don’t have a highlight video, it’ll still be very difficult to get recruited. The days of coaches coming to a high school game to watch a player are few and far between. Why would a coach go watch a game in say, Arizona, when they can recruit kids from Arizona, New York, Hawaii and California all online?

If your athlete has a highlight video; great. If they don’t; they should get one ASAP. And just having a highlight video isn’t good enough. Make sure that their video is tailored to what college coaches want to see. Even if your child’s team is bad, they can still make a good highlight video. Coaches don’t look at teams or final scores, rather individuals and how they perform. Even in a blowout loss a player can still have one or two plays that make it into their highlight reel. Showing good plays against highly competitive teams may also help coaches evaluate your athlete on how they compete against elite talent.

Take responsibility for yourself

When asked how she overcame playing for a mediocre team, Klimczak had some sound advice; “Take responsibility for yourself. Playing for an unsuccessful team shouldn’t determine If you get recruited or not. What are you doing on your own? Telling yourself that you play for a bad team so you’re not going to play anywhere in college isn’t a valid excuse.” And Klimczak isn’t just speaking from playing experience but coaching experience as well. She is a former college coach and is currently coaching high school soccer. “When I coached in college, I would go to a game to watch a player, not the team.”

Consider the positives

Playing for a less-than-stellar teams most likely means your athlete will have to work harder at their recruiting process, but here are some positives that may be working in their favor:

  • If they are a good to above-average player, they will likely get more playing time. This gives them more experience than their and peers and more opportunity for good video.
  • If they are a good to above-average player, they can take on a leadership role on the team. Beyond talent, college coaches look for those who can lead.
  • If they are a good to above-average player their individual talent will be easier to spot. Your athlete will stand out more because the players around them may not be as good.

There are many ways to overcome competing on a so-so team. Simple things like having a good, clean social media presence and maintaining solid grades will drastically increase the odds of getting recruited. By keeping their GPA as high as possible and achieving maximum test scores on the ACT or SAT will also increase your athlete’s chances of being recruited.

Regardless of their team’s success or lack thereof, the more a student-athlete is proactive and relentless in their recruiting process, the more they will get out of it.


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