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.
If you truly have the desire to play your sport in college, the last thing you want as a college freshman is to be asking yourself, “what happened?” It seems to me it would be a terrible feeling to wonder why you aren’t on a college roster if you really believe you’re good enough. For that reason, my advice to every recruit is to leave no recruiting stone unturned. Do everything you can to make your dream a reality. Not every talented athlete is “discovered” by college coaches. Sometimes you have to make things happen and this might be one of those times.
There are many reasons why you may not find the right college to continue your athletic career. Some of them are out of your control, but many are not. If you don’t want to have any regrets, take care of the tasks you control. Here are my top 5 ways to avoid asking yourself “what happened?”
Don’t wait to get started
At Playced we’re asked daily when the college recruiting process should start. The answer to that question (for the most part) is that it should have started yesterday. In today’s world of incredibly competitive athletics the college recruiting process should start as early as your freshman year in high school and sometimes sooner. Listen, I’m not at all telling you to start contacting college coaches while you’re in middle school, but the earlier you start learning how recruiting works, the better your chances for a scholarship. Many college coaches look to connect, develop and maintain relationships with athletes during their freshman or sophomore year in high school.
As a freshman, you can start familiarizing yourself with the process and identifying colleges that might interest you. As a sophomore and junior you should step up your efforts. Once you get to your junior year in high school, you can’t procrastinate one day longer. Your recruiting window closes a little more every day you don’t start.
If you wait to start the recruiting process, there’s a good chance that as a college freshman you’ll be asking yourself “what happened?”. In my mind, that’s an unacceptable situation.
Don’t expect the right college coaches to find you
There are over 2,000,000 high school student-athletes (annually) looking for college scholarships to help cover all or part of their college education. Based on that fact alone, it’s a given that college coaches can’t identify and evaluate every potential recruit. In other words, the right college coach might not find you without a little help.
In addition to the sheer number of athletes, college coaches also have recruiting budgets to deal with, and except for Division I football and basketball, those budgets are limited. Unless you truly are a five-Star recruit, you can’t afford to sit back and hope that the right college coach will find you. If you do, the chances are your college athletic career will be limited to the intramural field.
To have a successful recruiting journey you have to commit to being persistent. Sending an email to a few college coaches and waiting for the scholarship offers to start rolling in the door is not my idea of being persistent. How bad do you want it? That’s what you need to ask yourself. You will encounter setbacks. You will have to deal with failure. You will indeed, be rejected by some coaches. But, if becoming a college athlete is what you really want, you must accept the entire process, the good and the bad.
To be specific, being persistent means sending multiple emails to many college coaches. It should include asking your current coach to be involved. It could also include strategically identifying camps and showcases to attend. Finally, if all else fails, pick up the phone and call the coaches at the colleges you are most interested in. Make the commitment to being persistent, because playing at the next level will undoubtedly change your life, forever.
Don’t waste your time on the wrong schools
Contacting the wrong schools and hoping for a miracle is the main reason many talented athletes end up asking, “what happened?”. There is nothing you can say or do to convince a college coach you are qualified for his or her roster if you aren’t. And there is no way to explain away a few years of poor grades or mediocre test scores. That’s why you have to pursue colleges that match your academic and athletic resume.
The colleges you contact have to be “appropriate” for you to have a shot at a roster spot. They must be appropriate for who you are as a student and who you are as an athlete. Anyone can contact a college, but the key is getting a response and you won’t get a response unless your abilities match the colleges you are contacting.
Don’t rely on someone else to find your scholarship
There is a long list of people who can help you with your college recruiting process: your parents, high school coach, summer coach, guidance counselor and even a recruiting service. That said, I am a firm believer that you are your best recruiting resource. There is no one better to pick your college home. Don’t expect your parents to take care of it for you, don’t ask your coach to find your college and you don’t have to use a recruiting service.
Your college choice isn’t a four year decision, it’s a forty year decision. Why would you leave something so important in someone else’s hands? If you rely on someone else to find your college home, there’s a good chance you won’t like the result. If that happens, you will again be asking, “what happened?”
Here’s the deal
As a freshman in college, you don’t want to be in your dorm room wishing you were at practice, or at the stadium watching a game you should be playing in. Take responsibility for your recruiting journey and do everything in your power to find the right college roster. If you do, then you won’t ever ask, “what happened?”