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 they provide recruiting assistance that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Each week we try to bring you recruiting advice that will make a difference in your search for a college home. Over the last several years we’ve talked about everything from Why Academics Matter to College Coach’s Pet Peeves and everything in between. We know our advice will make a difference and to prove it, here are some real life recruiting stories and the lessons learned from some of the athletes we’ve worked with.
Be persistent and proactive
Playing football in a tiny town in central Michigan can make recruiting a challenge. Add to that having to play nose guard at 185 pounds when you will most likely be a linebacker or safety in college made being proactive essential for this football recruit. As a junior, this athlete had ZERO interest from college coaches and he was devastated because football was his passion. Being realistic wasn’t the issue. He realized the NFL was not in his future, but he wanted to play four more years. The problem was that he wasn’t getting noticed by any college coaches.
In the summer between his junior and senior year, his parents challenged him to take ownership of his recruiting process. He contacted us and committed a few hours a month to reaching out to college coaches at schools that made sense for his abilities. He asked his coach to be involved and followed up with every college he had serious interested in. Just to cover all his bases, he also set up a Twitter account specifically for his football recruiting efforts. In the fall of his senior year, he was being recruited by 8 Division II colleges and had interest from a few Division I programs. Eventually, he signed with a large Division II college, close to home and one that offered the major he was most interested in. This is how college recruiting really works.
Be careful on social media
This 6-8 shooting guard was finishing his junior high school season and was being pursued by at least 15 Division I basketball programs. He had it all; good grades, a 31 on his ACT and he played on one of the best summer teams in the country. It seemed as though he would have his choice of colleges. Unfortunately, one Friday night after a game he made a poor decision on social media. He posted a completely inappropriate tweet about a female classmate. Shortly after he hit “enter”, he realized his mistake and panicked. He deleted the post almost immediately, but it was out there long enough for it to be seen by the girl, a few teammates and some players from opposing teams.
The next week, he was suspended from his team for two games and the communication from college coaches slowed down significantly. Luckily, he reached out for advice on how to handle the situation. He listened to the advice and handled the situation the right way. He apologized to the classmate, to his team and to the school administration. A few college coaches asked about the incident and when they did, he answered their questions by explaining he made a mistake and that it would never happen again.
His heartfelt apology along with a promise that a lesson had been learned was received well by most of the college coaches. He later signed with a Division I basketball program at the college he was most interested in. This recruit got lucky. Your behavior on social media cannot always be fixed with an apology. Think before you post and then think again. Don’t post, tweet or share anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see!
Research the schools you are pursuing
The first college camp this recruit attended was at a Division I school in North Carolina. In his first at bat, he doubled off the left field wall. He pitched three innings, with six strikeouts and no runs allowed. By the end of the camp, the coaches knew exactly who he was. In fact, his parents were ready to pack up a U-Haul trailer for North Carolina. Then, on the last day of the camp, he was taking a tour of the campus. Since he wanted to be an engineer, he asked to see the engineering school. Guess what their answer was: “We don’t have one of those.”
Let’s see… airfare to Charlotte, rental car, gas, hotel room for three days, restaurants, camp fee…you get the picture. They wasted a ton of time and money on a college that wasn’t even a possibility. Unfortunately, this family just assumed every major university had an engineering department.
The lesson to learn here is that you really need to research the colleges you’re pursuing or you might be surprised. Make sure your standardized test scores will qualify you for admission, be sure the team has a need at your position, and ask questions about the things that are important to you. Finally, make sure they offer your major!
Your coach can make a difference
A few summers ago, a high school baseball player struggling to find the right college contacted our office. He was an All-District catcher with good grades and test scores. He was the prototype candidate for quite a few college baseball programs, but somehow he was being overlooked. It was June after his high school graduation and he had no offers from any colleges he wanted to attend. The fall semester wasn’t far off and he had no idea where he would start classes. He was about to give up his dream and enroll in a college where he had been accepted academically.
By making a few calls and looking at the rosters of several schools, we identified a possible need at two Division I colleges, one in Texas and one in Oklahoma. Both programs needed catching, so we gave his high school coach the contact information for the coaches at both schools. Although the coach had not previously been involved, he was thrilled to help. He just hadn’t been asked. In a very short period of time and a minimal amount of time invested by the coach (an email and a phone call), both college coaches came to see him play. A few weeks later he was packing his bags (cleats included) for his new college home.
Several years ago, one of the best softball catchers in the state was going through the recruiting process. Her heart’s desire was to play softball at a particular private school. Since she was a top prospect in the state, several Division I and Division II colleges were interested, including the college she preferred. She basically ignored the other schools and focused exclusively on the private university. Although this school actually made her a good scholarship offer, the tuition and fees there were not affordable for her family, even with the partial scholarship.
At the last minute, she was forced to sign with a junior college and the next year transferred to an in-state public school where the tuition and fees were more affordable. Realistically, she shouldn’t have been looking at the private school at all. She should have focused on in-state public schools that were within their family budget from the start.
If you are looking for a college scholarship in an equivalency sport, where partial scholarships are the norm, then you better do your research on the “all-in costs” of every school you pursue.
With a 34 on his ACT, a 4.54 time in the 40 and All-District honors as a wide receiver everyone was convinced that that this recruit was a sure-fire Division I prospect. And, that’s what he and his parents thought also. Initially, they had their eyes on elite Division I programs like Alabama and Ohio State and they didn’t understand why their emails to the recruiting coordinators for Coach Saban and Meyer weren’t being answered.
What they didn’t realize is how narrow the funnel is to play at an elite Division I program. They didn’t know that colleges might send out as many as 12,000 letters to prospective football players. Of those 12,000 recruits, each program signs a maximum of 25 athletes. That’s right, 25; and of those 25, how many do you think are wide receivers?
After a short conversation about the College Football Recruiting Funnel, they became more realistic and the recruiting process actually became fun and exciting. Ultimately, this athlete signed at an Ivy League school, and based on his ACT score and academic profile, that probably is where he should have been focused on to begin with.
Here’s the deal
I hope the lessons learned from the above stories will be helpful in your recruiting journey. If you have other questions or need specific recruiting advice, just let us know. We want to help!