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.
If you’re a high school athlete going through the college recruiting process, you will have questions along the way. Which schools should I contact? Which showcases should I attend? What should I do next? What does it mean if a coach sends me an email? Should I ask my coach for help? The entire recruiting process is confusing and can be overwhelming.
Well, as the old saying goes, “There’s only one way to eat an elephant; one bite at a time.” If you apply that principle to the college recruiting process you end up with, “There is only one way to a successful recruiting journey; one small task at a time.” When it comes to finding the right college, if you try to do it all at once or too quickly, you’ll end up frustrated and disappointed. Here are a few simple tasks you can do one at a time to move your “recruiting needle” in the right direction.
1. Get an honest evaluation of the kind of colleges to pursue
Identifying the right colleges to pursue is the most critical step in any recruiting process. If you aren’t a fit on a coach’s roster, then you can forget about being recruited by that school. For that reason, you need an honest, objective evaluation of how you stack up with other athletes in your sport. Ask your current coach for that evaluation and be ready to accept his or her opinion. Then target schools that “match” that evaluation.
2. Research the colleges you are interested in
Although it’s tempting, you shouldn’t choose a college based on their uniforms or athletic facilities. You really need to choose the college that is the right fit for you in all regards if want to have the best college experience. You have to be comfortable with the atmosphere, the location, the school size, the cost and perhaps most importantly you need to make sure they offer the major you want to study. Contrary to popular belief, not every college offers a degree in Chemical Engineering, Nautical Archaeology or Biological Oceanography.
It shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes per school to do a little reconnaissance about the colleges you are considering. All you really need to do is find the college website and first make sure your grades and test scores are good enough to be admitted. Many athletic careers have been stalled by the admissions office. Then make sure the cost is in line with your family budget, particularly if you play an equivalency sport. After that, check out what is important to you personally.
You’d be amazed at the kind of information that is available online. You can check on things like average class size, extracurricular activities and even boy-girl ratio! The point is, make sure you are going to be happy at the school even if athletics doesn’t work out.
3. Complete the recruiting questionnaires
Most college programs have a recruiting questionnaire for each sport on the school website. The questionnaires are easy to fill out and it’s a great way to get on a coach’s radar. And, if you pay attention to the stats and questions on the questionnaire you should be able to tell what is important to that coaching staff. If your statistics and metrics match what they are looking for, then you will most likely pique their interest.
When providing your stats to a college coach, you need to provide honest, accurate statistics and metrics. While it may be tempting to “project” a little extra velocity to your fastball or to round down on your 40 time, that will eventually do more harm than good. Every college coach is going to verify your stats before they waste the time to come to see you in person. If the stats you provide don’t match what they are being told by your coaches or other scouts, then you will NEVER have a chance to compete for a roster spot with that school.
4. Review the team rosters
Unless you’re a 5-star athlete, you have to approach the recruiting process like a job search and try to find colleges with an open roster spot for you. If a company is looking for accountants and you’re a chemical engineer, then you probably should move on to the next opportunity. The same logic rule applies to your recruiting process. If a college has an overabundance of players at your position and no one is graduating, then that school probably isn’t a good school to pursue. Basketball teams don’t need 6 power forwards, soccer teams don’t need 5 goalies and football teams don’t need 4 punters.
Nearly every college website in the country has the team roster available and most can be sorted by position and graduation class. In less than 5 minutes you can review the team roster and the incoming recruiting class to get a pretty good idea if they might have a spot for you. With a little work, you should be able to target schools that actually need a player like you.
5. Get your current coach involved now
Your current coach can be a difference-maker in your recruiting process. If your coach is willing to contact college coaches on your behalf and vouch for your abilities, that goes a long way with a college coach.
Don’t be afraid to ask your coach if they are willing to contact a few colleges. Don’t ask them to contact your dream schools, give them the colleges where you definitely have a chance to make the roster. Then provide them with the contact information for the colleges and a copy of your athletic/academic resume. This makes it easy for them to talk intelligently about you as a player and as a student.
Here’s the deal
If you really want to play in college, you need to commit to the process, but break it into small tasks you can do over time. That will make your recruiting journey digestible.