Recruiting Column: What college coaches are looking for

Recruiting Column: What college coaches are looking for

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: What college coaches are looking for


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 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.

Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to talk recruiting with college coaches from all over the country in nearly every sport. From football to water polo and every sport in between we’ve been able to ask direct questions and get honest answers from coaches at every level. We’ve always tried to ask different questions and walk away with a new perspective, but one question we’ve tried to ask every coach is “What do you look for in a prospective recruit?” Although the coach’s accent might have been different, the fundamental message was the same every single time.

So, what exactly are college coaches are looking for? What do they want? More importantly, what do they expect? Every college coach in the country is going to evaluate prospective recruits a little differently, but all of them evaluate athletes in these three areas: On the field, off the field and in the classroom. They consider the entire package and each area is important to every college coach.

On the field

College coaches will first take notice of you because of your physical abilities. They need to know that you can compete at their level, without physical limitations. There is no getting around that fact. Physical ability is the first and most important factor college coaches consider in determining which athletes to recruit. In addition, they observe your actions and behavior when you compete.

My good friend, the late Brooks Thompson, a former NBA player and Division I college basketball coach may have said it best when he told me “My coaching staff watches players from the time they step off the bus until the time they get back on the bus. We watch how they warm up, how they interact with their teammates, how they handle themselves in competition, how they win and how they lose. We evaluate the entire package, we don’t just look at the box score.” College coaches will watch to see if you’re a leader, if you get along with and care about your teammates and if you put the team first. Being a good teammate can separate you from the competition.

They will also be watching your relationship with your coach. How you interact with your coach is a pretty good indication of how coachable you are. Finally, they will be watching how you react to a mistake, a bad call or when things don’t go your way. Your reaction to making a mistake tells a coach more about you as an athlete than the mistake itself. You aren’t perfect and college coaches don’t expect you to be.

Physical talent is certainly something you need to possess to become a college athlete. Add these other qualities to the mix and you are going to be a very appealing college recruit.

Off the field

Believe it or not, your off the field behavior can positively or negatively affect your status with a college coach. There is a big difference between coaching and babysitting. Coaching is about developing talent, motivating players and teaching the fundamentals. Babysitting is about making sure the house doesn’t catch on fire! The last thing a college coach wants to worry about is whether his/her athletes are burning down the house. College coaches do not want to be high-priced babysitters. For that reason they tend to stay away from athletes that might be “high maintenance”.

Athletes who aren’t high maintenance generally respect all authority figures, behave on social media and stay out of trouble. Right or wrong, college coaches will assume that how you act in your personal life and on social media is how you will act on campus. They don’t expect high school athletes to be public relations experts. They just want players that will make good decisions and positively represent their university.

In the classroom

Imagine this: You’ve worked extremely hard to be considered for a scholarship to your #1 Dream School. The coaches are ready to offer you a scholarship, but because of your GPA and test scores you don’t meet the academic requirements for admission. Guess What! You aren’t getting that athletic scholarship. The value of your scholarship offer if you can’t get accepted by the school’s admissions office is ZERO.

Many athletes and their families don’t understand the importance of academics in the college recruiting process. Coaches want players who are good students. Not because it brings up the team GPA, but because good grades and test scores are an indication of a student-athlete’s character and work ethic. Being a good student and getting good grades will open more doors than athletics ever will. Conversely, not getting it done in classroom will slam the door shut on many scholarship opportunities.

Bottom line, coaches want, expect and need you to be a good student. In most cases, being an academically disciplined recruit shows:

  • You are well-rounded and have balance in your life.
  • You take pride in more than just athletics.
  • You will always be academically eligible to play.
  • You can manage your time appropriately.
  • You probably have a good on-field IQ.

If you aren’t currently getting it done in the classroom, make an adjustment today!

Here’s the deal

College coaches are looking for the whole package. If you really want to play your sport in college, make sure you take care of business in all three areas.


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