Recruiting Hindsight: What some new college athletes would’ve done differently

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Kyle Winters was a standout high school pitcher who tossed seven scoreless innings in a major tournament during his senior year. That performance against some heavy-hitting future MLB draft picks helped Kyle earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of New Mexico. However, Kyle opted to play professional baseball and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fifth round and played seven seasons for various minor league teams.

Kyle is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.

One thing every college athlete will tell you is hindsight is 20/20. There are certain lessons they wished they had learned earlier in their recruiting process. The good news is we hear from them every day and they would love to share their new-found wisdom with the next crop of college-bound athletes. We’ve gathered together some of the best advice here to help shorten your learning curve.

Don’t wait to get your video online

Video is something that’s always easy to put off for another day. Or, maybe, you’re waiting for next week’s game footage to get that perfect play to cap off your highlight video. Many new college athletes will tell you not to wait.

“Once I put my video up, it was like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom–all of sudden these coaches started watching and they started emailing me,” said one new college football player. “I posted my video and honestly, it got a little bit overwhelming,” added a women’s volleyball player. “I just didn’t think coaches would respond that quickly to my video.”

Statistics bear this out. NCSA research shows that student-athletes with an online profile are 12 times more likely to be viewed by coaches. So, don’t procrastinate. Get your athlete’s video online. Check out ‘A quick parent guide to getting quality video for a highlight film‘ for some great advice on getting your video game in high gear.

Recruiting is a competition, not a to-do list

“I got my wake-up call at one of my first tournaments when I heard some college coaches were there. I thought great, they’ll probably come over to my court and watch me play,” remembered another volleyball player. “But then I realized they were here to watch other players who had reached out, emailed and contacted them. From then on, I knew I had to step up my game.”

Other student-athletes chimed in that, recruiting was a lot like their sport– you get out of it what you put into it. You’ve got to work hard, be persistent, be patient, and not be afraid to fail.

And they are right. Your athlete is not only going to competing with many other recruits, in many ways, they are also going to have to challenge themselves, too. Checking boxes and just going through the motions doesn’t work at practice and it doesn’t work in recruiting.

Start your recruiting journey early

Looking back now, virtually every college athlete wishes they had just started the recruiting process earlier.

“I started at the beginning of my senior year, and it was difficult to start from scratch so late. The more time you have, the more you can really process your options,” noted a recent women’s track commit.

The recruiting process is often a great unknown for families. There’s a lot to learn and a lot to do. And when you combine that with an already busy high school athlete schedule, it can seem overwhelming. Getting started and committing to the process early gives you a lot more time to not only put together an effective game plan, it also gives you time to really figure out what you what kind of college experience is going to be best for your student-athlete in the long run.

The “student” part is just as important as the “athlete” part

With so much emphasis put on athletic performance, it’s hard not to make that your focus. However, the best recruiting plan is a balanced attack with an equal amount of dedication (if not more) to classroom studies.

One football commit put it best, “Put your education first and then your sport. Most of us will not be playing professional sports, so our degree will be crucial to life after school.”

The best recruiting approach keeps education front and center. That’s why finding a school that’s the best fit for your student-athlete is so critical. We often refer to it as more of a forty-year than a four-year decision. When deciding on a college or university make sure it delivers everything you need to put your child on the right career trajectory.

Get on Twitter but use it wisely

Everyone by now has heard the recruiting horror stories of student-athletes losing big because of some kind of social media blunder. On flip side, however, Twitter has become a favorite for many college coaches when it comes to recruiting. For student-athletes it’s an effective channel for gaining exposure and communicating one on one with college coaches.

In a recent article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, football prospect Adam Bay reflected on his recruiting experience.

I thought it was going to be emails and texting,” said Bay. “But 95 percent of it was through Twitter and keeping my profile clean for the coaches to see.”

It may not be for every athlete in every sport, but Twitter is just one more tool your student-athlete can use to gain a recruiting advantage. To use it effectively, you should add ‘How to write DMs that open coaches’ doors‘ to their summer reading list.

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