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. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason 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.
How would you like to know what schools will be graduating several seniors who play your position? Or, on the other hand, would you like to know if a school already has several people competing in your event/at your position? What would you give to know how big, fast or what rankings you need to get the attention of a particular program?
Doing research on the right colleges for you is the first step in the recruiting process. If you do your research well, you’ll take the time to review the roster of the current team. In this article, we breakdown what to look for on a current college team’s roster and how to use that research to effectively reach out to college coaches.
Is the program going to be recruiting your position/event?
The first thing you want to know for any program is how many seniors are on the team the year you are graduating high school. As a general rule, if a school is going to be losing several players the year you are graduating high school, they will more likely to be looking for recruits foe those events/positions that year. Similarly, if a school has several upperclassmen in your spot, you shouldn’t expect them to be recruiting your position/event.
Insider Tip: If you are researching rosters several years out (i.e. you are a freshman/sophomore trying to project the roster needs three or four years out), try to determine if schools recruit a lot of transfers. You want to know if a school uses a lot of JUCO and transfer athletes because that could change the roster composition by the time you are ready to graduate.
How good are the current team members?
While you are reviewing a college team’s roster for grad years of the current team members, take a moment to do a little extra research on the athletes at your position or in your events. Ask the following questions:
- How big are the current players? For sports like football, basketball, volleyball and other sports, size has a direct impact on a coach’s ability to project an athlete’s potential at the college level. Are you close in size to the team’s current players? If you are undersized, do they recruit undersized players or does the program like to recruit for size?
- Are your times or results close to the current athletes? For sports like track and swimming, are your times or results comparable to current athletes? If you don’t have times that are even close to the current athletes, it is going to be difficult to get the coach to take notice.
- Do you have the rankings to get a coach’s attention? In sports with well understood rankings like tennis and golf, look to see what the rankings of the current athletes are. If the program has athletes ranked by the AJGA (golf) or USTA Rankings (tennis) and you aren’t ranked—or you’re ranked lower than you would like—you know where you need to focus.
- Does your club team play in the tournaments the program recruits from? Knowing what level of club team the coaches typically recruit from will give you a good idea of where you need to be. If the basketball team is consistently recruiting from the Nike EYBL and Adidas Uprising tournaments, you need to be competing in those events as well.
Insider Tip: If you play a sport with a heavy reliance on club teams, it is good to know what club team the programs you are interested in typically recruit from. If you are regularly competing against that club team or in the same competitions, let the coach know in your emails. This gives them more familiarity with your current level of competition.
Does the team recruit locally, nationally, internationally?
Like people, college programs are creatures of habit. If you fit the type of athletes they typically recruit, you are more likely to get the coach’s attention. If you fit the region or area from which a coach typically recruits, great. If you don’t fit, that means you will likely need to take extra steps to get their attention. If you are reaching out to a school that doesn’t typically recruit from your area, consider attending their camp or scheduling an unofficial visit to get the coach attention.
Researching the roster will give you an idea of fit for a potential school. Taking 30 minutes to better understand the school and opportunities available can save you hours of wasted effort writing ineffective emails and chasing schools that won’t work for you.