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 software identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting advisers provide a recruiting experience that is trusted by college coaches and backed by a money-back guarantee.
For many athletes, the thought of talking to a college coach who is considering you for an athletic scholarship is intimidating. I get it — you don’t want to say or do anything that might hurt your chances. But believe it or not, college coaches are people just like you and me. They aren’t analyzing your body language, or making mental notes on every word you say. An athletic scholarship is a big investment for a college and the coaches take the process of handing out scholarships seriously. They are just trying to make an informed decision.
To make the best impression you really need to be prepared for any question a coach might ask, and since you don’t know when that first phone call might come, you need to be ready now. In preparation for your first/next conversation with a coach, here are 10 questions a college coach might ask and some help with your answers.
- “How are your grades?”
For many coaches, this will be one of the first questions asked. Academics are a priority at most colleges and coaches don’t want players who are going to struggle to stay eligible. You need to be truthful about your grades. Guesstimating your GPA or not knowing your GPA is an indication that academics aren’t a priority for you.
If your grades aren’t great, don’t fake it. Just make sure the coaches know you understand the importance of academics, and that you are taking steps to improve in that area. Find a tutor and/or consider taking an ACT or SAT review course to improve your academic standing. Finally, understand that if you don’t meet the admission requirements at a coach’s university you have no chance for an athletic scholarship from that school.
- “What sets you apart from other recruits/players?”
The answer to this question is different for every athlete, but a strong answer can go a long way toward separating you from the competition. Give this question some thought and consider qualities like academic achievement, work ethic and leadership. Explain how you will contribute to their program both on and off the field.
This is your chance to convince them that you are an outstanding player, a good student, a community leader, and a great candidate for their program. The more a coach knows how good you are the more attractive a recruit you become.
- “What are your strengths and weaknesses as a player?”
Keep in mind that everyone has weaknesses. No one is perfect. You shouldn’t spend too much time focusing on your weaknesses, but you should address that you have areas of your game that you are working to improve. When you’re answering this question, it is not the time to be modest. Be confident but not boastful in your strengths. Give specific examples, but don’t overdo it. For example, if you’re the team captain say something like “I was lucky enough to be selected as team captain this year and I think I’ve tried to be a leader on the field and in the locker room.” College coaches want self-confident, respectful players who will represent their school in the right way.
- “What other colleges are recruiting you?”
You always want to make the coach you are talking with feel like they are your top choice, but if you are being recruited by other colleges, it’s okay to let them know. The coaches absolutely want to get to know you, but they also want to know if any other colleges are interested also. You don’t need to provide details, but you do become more desirable when other schools (especially rival schools) are interested. Everyone wants to date the popular girl/boy and every coach wants to sign the popular recruit.
If you aren’t currently being recruited, there are many ways to answer this question. For example, you could say “I am just starting to communicate with some schools” or “I am waiting to hear back from several colleges.”
- “Why do you think you can play at this level?”
Be confident, but not arrogant when you answer this question. Let the coach know that you have the skills and athletic ability to compete at their school. Also, make sure the coaches know you’ll be working to get better every day. If possible, mention that you’ve competed against top athletes and you truly believe that you are as good as or better than most. Finally, make sure to tell the coach that you understand the commitment it takes to compete in intercollegiate athletics and you are ready for the challenge.
- “What things are you looking for most in a college?”
There are many aspects of this question to consider. They can range from your expectations regarding playing time, to whether or not the school offers the major you want to study. Decide early what is important to you. Is it the quality of the education? Location? Tradition? Boy-girl ratio? Once again, be honest with this answer. This is no time to tell them what you think they want to hear. This is not a 4-year decision; it’s a 40-year decision.
- “What do you like about our program?”
Before you talk with a coach, know a little bit about the college or university. If you do, it will show the coach that you have genuine interest in playing there. The more you know about the school and coach, the more it looks like you are eager for the opportunity to attend that school. There are thousands of athletes looking to play in college, you need to do everything you can to separate yourself from the pack. I’m not telling you to research the coach’s family tree or when the college was founded, but the more you know about the school and the program, the better impression you will make. If you do a little homework, you could mention things like “Congratulations on winning the conference last year”, or “I think I’d fit well in the offense you run”.
- “What activities are you involved in besides your sport?”
Most college coaches want well-rounded student-athletes. They understand that every potential college athlete has spent an inordinate amount of time working on their sport, but it shouldn’t be all-consuming. Whether you’re involved in community service or enjoy hunting and fishing, your outside interests allow a coach to get to know you on a personal level.
The goal is to show to the coach you are a well-rounded person. That is an indication that you most likely have the discipline to succeed at the collegiate level. College coaches ask us all the time: “What kind of person is he/she?” Which is code for “Will I have to babysit them?”
- “What type scholarship are you looking for?”
When answering this question, be honest about your financial considerations, especially if that is a determining factor in your decision. Learn the scholarship rules for your sport. If partial scholarships are the norm, be open to other forms of financial aid. You should also know the “all-in” cost at any college you are talking with, so you can compare “apples to apples”. A 40 percent scholarship to a private school is not the same as a 40 percent scholarship to a state school. Your out-of-pocket cost will be significantly different. Finally, if your sport is an equivalency sport, don’t expect a full scholarship. In fact, a 40 percent scholarship would mean you are a much-desired athlete.
- “Do you have any questions for me?”
You will most likely be asked this question and you need to be ready. Start a list of questions to ask today and add to it as you think of things. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- What information do you need from me?
- What would I need to do to be evaluated by your staff?
- What does a typical weekly schedule look like?
- How many roster spots are available my graduation year?
- When would be a good time to visit your campus?
Prioritize your top five to seven questions and ask as many as the conversation will allow.
Here’s the deal
Any time you talk to a coach, just be yourself, be relaxed, and be confident. When you’re on the phone, be respectful, talk slowly and calmly. When you go on a recruiting visit, stand up straight, look the coach in the eye, be confident and polite. Take advantage of every opportunity to start building a relationship and find out if he or she is someone you want to play for.