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. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie is just one of many former college athletes 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.
At some point in your recruiting, you’ll find yourself throwing in the towel. You probably won’t get a response from every coach, and you most likely won’t be a perfect fit for every school you’re interested in. So, eventually, you’ll need to stop looking at a program and move on to one where you have a better chance at being recruited. It’s not a bad thing—it’s just a normal part of the process.
But those moments can be hard to identify, especially when you’re researching and reaching out to so many colleges. To help you know when to when, here are three ways you’ll know it’s time to scratch a college of your list.
Crickets: You haven’t heard from the coach
First, I want to clear up a common misconception: college coaches don’t just simply discover student-athletes. In reality, recruits need to put in a lot of work to establish a relationship with a college coach. You need to research schools, find the right person to contact at that program, and send an introductory email with your highlight video.
Then, you’re supposed to follow up with a phone call and another email to boost your chances of connecting with a busy coach. If you’re creating a target list of 20-30 schools, that’s a lot of research and emails. So, at some point, you need to recognize that the coach just may not be interested and move on to other programs.
Read more: The Best Strategy for Contacting Coaches
If you’re a junior or senior and you’ve attempted to contact the coach three times (email, phone call, and another email), and you haven’t heard back, then you should start focusing your recruiting efforts on other programs. If you’re a freshman or sophomore, you should follow the same plan, but also continue to send progress updates to coaches periodically. For example, if you have new test scores to share, an updated highlight video, or a recent accomplishment, you want to try and stay top-of-mind with the coach. As an underclassman, you still have time to build a relationship and it’s very possible they may not be responding because they can’t (see: the NCAA rules), or they’re not recruiting your graduate year just yet.
Read more: 25 Good Reasons to Contact a Coach
You don’t fit into the team’s roster
It’s pretty easy to identify the type of recruit college coaches seek out. All you have to do is visit their current roster—you can learn so much by simply checking out the history and athletic stats of the players on the team. For example, if all the athletes are from a certain region or area, you can assume the coach primarily recruits there. You should also examine their key stats, including height, weight and other metrics. Do you fit in? More importantly, you can tell if the coach is recruiting your position by researching how many departing seniors are leaving and how many current players are already in your position. Basically, if you look at the team’s roster and you realize you don’t fit in, or the coach most likely won’t be recruiting your graduate year, prioritize other programs where you have a better chance at getting evaluated.
You wouldn’t go to the school if you couldn’t compete there
So many recruits are zoned in on the athletic program that they forget to look at the college in its entirety. We always advise student-athletes to answer the question, “Would you go here even if you couldn’t compete in your sport?” If the answer is no, you need to start looking at other programs. Remember, this is where you’re going to spend the next four years and while a lot of your time will be dedicated to your sport, you can’t overlook the aspects that make up a college experience, including the academic opportunities, campus life, housing options, distance from home, etc. Like I said, being a recruit takes a lot of work and you want to maximize your opportunities by concentrating on schools where you have a chance to compete and that are a good fit for you.
Read more: How to Find Your Best College Match
Crossing a college off your target list may feel like rejection, but I really hope you don’t look at it that way. There are so many competitive opportunities out there, and recruiting is a two-way street. The college should be a great fit for you and the coach should want you there. Finding that perfect balance does take time and naturally, there will be some dead-ends along the way. But that’s okay. They all lead to your commitment, where you’ll feel absolutely confident you made the right choice. So hang in there, and keep your attention on the schools that are the best fit for you athletically and academically.
Read more: Learn More about the Recruiting Process