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 Playced.com. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting experts provide a recruiting experience that is backed by a money-back guarantee.
So, you want to play in college? Well, the fastest track to a college athletic scholarship is to be the biggest, strongest, fastest, most talented player in your city. If you can’t make that claim, then you might have a little work to do. In fact, you’ll probably have to initiate the communication with college coaches on your own.
We’ve talked about it before, but it’s worth repeating. If you’re not a 5-Star athlete, you really need to approach the college recruiting process like a job search. In a job search, you’re looking for employment and companies are looking for employees. In the college recruiting process, you’re looking for a roster spot and college coaches are looking for players. In both cases, once you find a match, it’s just a matter of negotiating the details and deciding on the best situation for you. Using the job search comparison, here is an eight-step process on how to earn a college scholarship.
1. Prepare your resume
When you’re looking for a job, you have to start with an organized, thoughtful, concise resume outlining your academic standing, your personal accomplishments and your qualifications for the position you are seeking. It’s no different if you’re looking for the right college team. You need a recruiting resume and it should include all the academic and athletic facts a college coach needs to easily determine whether or not he or she is interested in finding out more about you. There are many ways to organize your recruiting resume, but it should at least include the following:
- Your personal information;
- Your academic accomplishments;
- Your athletic statistics and honors;
- A link to your highlight video, and
- the contact information for your current coach.
Your resume can be online or on paper, but you need to be able to easily deliver it to prospective college coaches.
2. Identify your realistic possibilities
If you have a degree in business management, you probably shouldn’t apply for a chemical engineering position. The same holds true in the college recruiting world. Contacting the wrong schools and hoping for a miracle is the No. 1 disconnect for most college recruits. We know that if you reach out to the wrong schools, you will be disappointed with the results every time.
Anyone can contact a college, but the key is getting a response. There is no combination of words that will convince a coach you are qualified for his or her roster if you aren’t. That’s why you have to pursue colleges that match your academic and athletic resume. And trust me, when the dialogue starts with a college that fits your combined athletic and academic resume, the fog clears leading to a fun and productive recruiting process.
3. Make sure there is a need at your position
Before targeting a school, it’s a good idea to review the current roster to be certain there’s a spot available. Nearly every college program in the country has the current roster on the school website and most can be sorted by graduating class and/or position. A quick look at the roster should tell you if there is a need at your position. For example, if you’re a point guard and a team has four point guards, none of which are graduating, you might want to consider another school. It’s no different than when you are looking for a job. If you’re a tax accountant, unless there are openings in the tax department, then you better move on to the next opportunity.
4. You need a reference
Whether you’re applying for a job or trying to land a scholarship, a credible source who will vouch for your abilities and character can be a difference-maker. In a job search, a good reference from a previous employer or college professor can go a long way in securing employment. The same holds true in college recruiting.
If your coach is willing to vouch for your character, work ethic and abilities, a college coach is much more likely to be interested in you for his or her program. Your coach sees your effort in practice every day, sees how you react to game situations and is the best source for a college coach to gain insight on you as a player. A recommendation from your coach, like a recommendation from a former employer will go a long way toward landing a scholarship.
5. Connect with the appropriate coaches
In a job search, if you want to inquire about a job, you would typically contact the Human Resources Department. Well, when it comes to college recruiting, the Human Resources Department is the coaching staff. You need to contact the coaches directly and you need to contact the right coaches at each school.
I would suggest sending your correspondence to the recruiting coordinator (if there is one designated) and copying all the other coaches that might be involved in deciding if you’re a fit. For example, if you’re a running back, copy the running backs coach and the offensive coordinator. Sending your recruiting resume to the wrong coaches is like sending your resume to the cashier at Walmart. They might be impressed, but they won’t know what to do with it.
6. Use a recruiting company?
There are recruiting services available if you’re looking for a job or for a scholarship. That said, there is one big difference. If you’re in the job market, the employer pays the bill. If you’re looking for a scholarship, you pick up the tab. In both situations, the use of a recruiting service can make a big difference if you sign up with the right company.
If you’re in the scholarship market and decide to use a recruiting service, my best advice is to do your homework, read the reviews, ask the right questions and understand exactly what you are paying for. Don’t ever sign up with a recruiting company unless you are 100 percent comfortable with them.
7. Be prepared when you talk with a college coach
Preparation is the key for a job interview, or when you talk with a college coach. If you know a little bit about the coach and his or her program you won’t be as nervous, you’ll come across as more interested and the conversation will just be more comfortable. Generally, you can anticipate many of the questions a college coach might ask and you can be ready with your answers. When you’re on the phone with a coach be respectful, talk slowly and calmly. When you go on a recruiting visit, look the coach in the eye, be confident and polite.
8. Follow up
Once you’ve made contact with or talked to a college coach, don’t let them forget about you. The old saying “Out of sight, out of mind” can hold true. Follow up whenever you can without being a pest, even if you just send an email thanking them for taking the time to talk with you. Whether you’re looking for a job or trying to land a scholarship, following up shows initiative. The more times a coach sees your name, the more likely he or she is to remember you when they are making roster decisions.
Here’s the deal
College recruiting is a process. If you have the talent and desire, and if you follow these eight simple steps you will find a place to play in college. Be persistent, don’t get discouraged and good things will happen.