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 provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
So, you’ve been selected First Team All-District two years in a row, you’re captain of the team and everyone is telling you that a college scholarship is on the way. There’s only one problem: You don’t have any offers and haven’t even been contacted by very many college coaches. What’s worse is that the coaches you have heard from aren’t at schools you have any real interest in. You sit in class every day wondering why college coaches aren’t calling, texting or coming to watch your games. Your coach has told you not to worry, but it’s hard not to. You really just want answers.
Well, here’s the reality… only the elite high school athletes are highly recruited. It’s not that uncommon for an athlete with exceptional skills and stats to go unnoticed, especially by NCAA Division II, Division III or NAIA schools that don’t have large recruiting budgets.
There may be many reasons why you don’t have multiple college offers, but let’s talk about the 3 most likely ones.
You’re not a 5-Star athlete and you aren’t doing anything to move your recruiting needle
Only the top 2 percent of high school athletes are highly recruited. The other 98 percent who want to play at the next level need to do a little work to help move the needle in their direction. Be honest with yourself. Are you really in the top 2 percent? That means if there are 100 varsity starters in your district, then you are either the best or second best prospect. If the answer is “no”, that’s okay! It doesn’t mean you won’t be in the top 2 percent when you graduate from college. However, it does mean that you probably need to do a little work to find the right colleges and you most likely will have to initiate the communication with college coaches.
Whether you want to believe it or not, if you aren’t already a highly recruited athlete, then the success or failure of your recruiting journey is directly related to how much effort you are willing to put into the process. I’m not talking about spending 20 hours a week on finding a college, but 15 to 30 minutes a day, three days a week can make a big difference in how many college coaches you are talking with.
You think it’s your coach’s job to find your college home
Let’s get one thing straight, it’s not your coach’s job to find your scholarship. Even if it were, why in the world would you leave something so important in the hands of someone else? The recruiting process is your responsibility. High school and select coaches can help, but they may not have the time or even know how to help. Your high school coach is an important contributor in your development as an athlete; they can vouch for your character and can give college coaches an honest evaluation of your abilities. The rest is on you.
Here is a comment we heard from a parent just last week: “We believed Ryan’s high school coach had college recruiting taken care of. Now he is a senior and the only college that seemed interested just informed us that their roster is full. ” This athlete is now in “panic mode”. Most coaches want to see their players make it to the next level and try to help their players, but you can’t afford to assume they have everything covered.
You aren’t really committed
If college coaches haven’t found you yet, you have to make three commitments. You have to commit to being realistic, you have to commit to the process and you have to commit to being persistent. If you aren’t willing to make these simple commitments, you probably don’t want to play in college as much as you thought.
Commit to being realistic: Perhaps the most difficult task in an effective college recruiting game plan is being realistic with who you are as an athlete and as a student. If you spend your time pursuing colleges that aren’t a fit, your recruiting experience will be a huge disappointment. For that reason, you need an objective, honest, unbiased evaluation of your abilities. That evaluation can come from your current coach, or from any other independent source.
If the colleges that fit your evaluation aren’t the ones you want to attend, then you need to work harder on the field and/or in the classroom. It is okay to pursue some dream schools, but focus on the ones that will have the same amount of interest in you as you have in them. You might be surprised how much more attractive a college becomes when they want you on their team. Also remember that just because you haven’t heard about a school, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a perfect match for you. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Commit to the process: Committing to the process means taking ownership of your college search. You have to be involved and proactive. Being proactive means reaching out to the coaches at realistic colleges and developing a dialogue with them. It means doing anything necessary to get noticed by the right colleges. Send an email, attend a camp, go on an unofficial visit or pick up the phone a make a call. I understand that you don’t want to say the wrong thing or annoy a coach, but if you are honest, respectful and polite college coaches will appreciate your desire to play at the next level.
Commit to being persistent: The commitment to being persistent means carving out time a few days a week to finding your college scholarship. Sending an email or two and/or filling out a recruiting questionnaire does not constitute being persistent. Keep in mind that you really need to contact numerous schools, numerous times to find the right fit. Remember, no matter how you connect with college coaches everything has to line up to get a response: (1) the coach has to open your email or letter, (2) he or she has to actually read it, (3) there has to be a need at your position. For that reason, the more appropriate colleges you reach out to, the better your chances are to find a scholarship. You might find that perfect fit with your first email, or it might not happen until you contact your twentieth college.
Here’s the deal
You might have noticed that the solution to each situation is for you to take ownership of your recruiting journey. Certainly if you are unsure about what to do you can find someone to help, to provide advice, suggestions and support. The bottom line is that if you haven’t been “noticed” then you need to do something about it….Today.