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 athletes, 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.
There’s no doubt your student-athlete needs to take charge of their own recruiting efforts. However, that doesn’t mean they need to go at it alone. Many people will want to help. Some are just waiting for you to ask. And like with any team, everyone has a specific role. Here are some of the key players your athlete will need on their team and how to best utilize them to help reach their recruiting goal.
High school counselor
Once your athlete has decided they want to compete at the college level, one of the first stops they should make is a visit to their high school counselor. Their counselor can help with two critical elements in their recruiting:
- Providing official transcripts
- Making sure they are on track to meet NCAA Eligibility Requirements
The first thing most college coaches are going to want to see is your highlight video. The second is your high school transcript. The reason is simple. They want to make sure you will be able to qualify for admission before they invest any time in recruiting you for their team. A high school guidance counselor can also work with your athlete to create class schedules that will meet the core requirements for NCAA eligibility. This is especially important since, for Division 1 eligibility for example, you must complete 10 of the core courses by the end of your junior year or before the start of your seventh semester.
READ MORE: What are the NCAA Core Courses?
If your athlete has a specific major they are interested in studying, they can work with their counselor to find the best schools offering that major and determine which of those would be a good, academic fit. Typically, counselors can also help with letting you know when and where ACT/SAT tests will be given and if there is any test preparation assistance available.
High school/club coach
You can think of your high school or club coach as the franchise player on your recruiting team. There is really so much they can do to help your athlete’s future success including:
- An honest and objective evaluation of your athletic talent
- A resource for game and practice video
- Recommendations to college coaches
They see your athlete at practice, the amount of effort and work they put in, how the interact with teammates, how they perform when it’s time to compete. Chances are they’ve coached a lot of different athletes and can provide a very good, honest and objective opinion regarding your child’s talent and can make recommendations at what division level would be the best fit. Knowing this will help your athlete create a much more realistic list of target schools.
As part of that evaluation your athlete should also ask their coach about where they need the most improvement and what can they do to help increase their odds of being recruited by a college team.
Most coaches can also help provide video but just don’t assume they always have it available. Your athlete should ask their coach if video is available and in what format so you can be prepared to edit or hand over the video to a third-party editing service. Sometimes, the issue around video involves getting enough playing time. If your child wants to see more playing time they (not you, parent) need take the initiative and discuss it with their coach and find out where they need to improve.
READ MORE: How to deal with playing time issues
College coaches know that your son or daughter’s current high school or club coaches can provide real insight as to what your child is really like as an athlete, teammate, leader, and human being. So, their recommendation carries a lot of weight. High school and club coaches often have their own network of college contacts that can open a few coach doors for their athletes.
There is so much your current high school or club coach can do for your athlete, however, you should keep in mind:
- They are not your child’s sports agent or promoter
- The cannot make a bad GPA disappear
- The won’t recommend an athlete whose character and behavior reflect poorly on their program
For parents who instinctively want to do everything to help their child, the key during the recruiting timeframe is that less really is more. Your athlete is the one who now needs to take the initiative to set meetings with their counselor and coaches, research schools and majors to study, send emails and have phone conversations with college coaches, and more. During the recruiting process, college coaches need to get to know your athlete through email at first and phone conversations and eventually in person. That becomes much harder to do when the parent is doing all the writing and the talking.
Where parents can be the most help is by simply being parents:
- Talk to your athlete about their college goals
- Stay positive, provide moral support for all the recruiting ups and downs
- Help with filling out financial aid forms (FAFSA)
- Plan travel for unofficial visits, camps, and combines, tournaments, etc.
…and the list, and the parenting goes on and on.
There are others you’ll want to consider adding to your support team including teachers who would write a recommendation, personal trainers who can help your athlete develop physically and mentally, and talking to older teammates who may have just gone through the process.
As recruiting continues to become more complex and competitive, we’re finding more and more families are turning to NCSA for greater exposure, knowledge and guidance. There’s just a lot to learn and a lot to do in a short amount time and NCSA provides the tools, the exposure, and expertise many families need to find the school that offers the best fit to compete on a college team.