Recruiting Column: The gift of knowledge

Recruiting Column: The gift of knowledge

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: The gift of knowledge

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 This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. is an industry leader in college recruiting.  Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.

With the holiday season upon us, I thought it would be appropriate to keep the whole gift-giving thing rolling. 2017 was another great year for our coach interviews. For that, we are so thankful. The insight into the college recruiting process these coaches give us is nothing short of amazing. From practical advice, to real feedback, these coaches educate us on how recruiting works. The knowledge they drop on us each week is, well, a true gift!

So, Happy Holidays to all you recruits out there! Here is some of the best advice we received in 2017, from some of the best college coaches in the country.

Paul Mainieri, LSU baseball

Q: What advice do you have for a recruit when making a college commitment?

A: Everybody sees the world through their own perspective. This is especially true when it comes to deciding what school will make you the happiest. I can’t accurately tell you what that is for yourself. You have to figure that out on your own.

But my personal experiences tell me that the players you are going to play with, and the coaches that you’re going to play for, will have more to do with your happiness and contentment than any of the ancillary things. The reality is that once you start matriculating every day, you’ll start taking the things you thought were important for granted. The uniforms, the big stadiums, whatever it is, that stuff won’t be as big of a deal as you thought it would be. What makes the biggest impact on your happiness will be what you’re getting out of the program. Are you being treated fairly? Are you being coached in a good way? Do you enjoy being with your teammates? Those are the things you really need to take a look at.

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State football

Q: Are you guys paying attention to your recruits on social media?

A: Without a doubt. It’s information that’s available to us, so it’s information we include in our evaluation process. We have people on our football staff that track every one of our players and every one of our recruits. I remind our guys every week about that. I just tell our guys to stay off social media! Especially, if you can’t behave. I have three sons and I tell them the same things. I just don’t understand how taking a picture of what you’re doing and presenting it for the whole world to see makes any sense. Why would you do something questionable and incriminate yourself by posting about it? That kind of behavior has certainly cost some young men an opportunity to play football at Oklahoma State.

Chris Ducar, North Carolina women’s soccer

Q: Give me one thought that can help any recruit make his/her college decision.

A: The academic component of your college decision should weigh more heavily than the soccer component. If you put soccer before academics and end up at a weaker institution than you’re qualified for, what happens if soccer doesn’t work out? Well, then you’ve missed out twice. If all things are equal academically, use soccer as the tie-breaker. But, don’t ever sacrifice education for soccer.

Bill Snyder, Kansas State football

Q: What would a successful outcome to the recruiting process be for a student-athlete?

A: When a young person can go to a university and it turns out to be exactly what they expected, I believe that’s when you can consider the recruiting process a success. The university is exactly how it was portrayed. The athletic program is the same. The people are the same and the day-to-day life is the same. Anytime a student-athlete makes a college commitment based on a certain standard and that standard is met, I would say that’s the best possible turnout.

One of the things that happens, as a byproduct of the recruiting process, is you see an athlete settle on a place only to find out it’s not what they thought it was going to be. That’s when you end up with an unhappy player. For that reason, it’s so significant for us to be who we are. As quality of a program as we feel we have, Kansas State football is not for everyone. Maybe it’s our style of coaching, the composition of our team or even certain elements of the university. Whatever the reason might be, we wouldn’t want any young person to be unhappy as a part of our program. It doesn’t serve either side well and it’s what we try to avoid with any young person we’re recruiting.

Dan Stratford, University of Charleston men’s soccer

Q: What’s the best way for a recruit to let you know he’s interested in your program?

A: The first communication, from kids we end up recruiting, is almost always over email. The most important thing for a recruit to understand, in that regard, is that time is always a factor for us. So, you need to get to the point, quite efficiently. And then, the quality of footage and the quality of your highlight video becomes the next most important thing. You need to grab our attention in the first 90 seconds, if not before that. The footage is such a critical piece when you’re wanting to make that great, initial impression.

Understanding how important that footage can be, is something many recruits miss on. We see a lot of mistakes on those videos, that I think neither the player, or the people helping them put the video together really consider. They don’t consider what that footage looks like through the eyes of a coach. They end up putting highlights on there, that aren’t really highlights.

For example, players often think that it’s an absolute necessity to add any goal they’ve scored. They don’t consider the quality of the goal or what the circumstances behind the goal may have been. Who was the goal against? What were the other players in the video doing? Was it a goal resulting from poor defense? Subtle things like that are what we’re seeing, not just the perceived highlight.

Lewis Theobald, Central Missouri women’s soccer

Q: What advice do you have for a high school player not getting much attention from college coaches?

A: From an exposure perspective, your sophomore and junior years are the most important. That’s typically when you’ll be identified as a prospect. So, I’ll start by saying that’s something you, as an athlete, need to be aware of. Use that as a timetable, of sorts.

I would then tell that athlete to start early with their high school or club coach. Ask those coaches to help you determine the appropriate level you’re capable of playing at. Once you identify the level, you can start figuring out which schools you would have interest in. It’s just a matter of researching what you want out of a program, and coming up with a target list of schools.

Lastly, creating attention for yourself is all about taking the initiative. Some athletes have to do that, more than others. But, if you’re really wanting to play in college, you’ve got to be the driving force. Send emails, make phone calls. And, the more personalized the communication, the better. Coaches will take notice if they can make a connection with you. The goal when communicating should be to figure out the events coaches will be attending, and get in front of them. Once a coach can see you play, it’s much easier to come to a decision on you.


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