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.
Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, a goalie or point guard, if you’re a high school athlete looking to play in college you will have questions along the way. Unless you have a brother or sister who went through the process, you probably have no idea how college recruiting works. You don’t know when to start, what is expected, or how to react to the various situations you’ll encounter. For that reason, the question you’ll have over and over is “What should I do next?”
Being confused as you go through the process is normal. Your recruiting process will be completely different than anyone else’s. Don’t compare yourself to teammates or other players. That will drive you crazy! Stay focused on your goals and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Here are the five “What’s next?” questions we hear most often from high school athletes who want to play in college. Hopefully, our answers will help your recruiting experience be a little easier and less stressful.
“When and how do I get started?”
The college recruiting process should start earlier than most people realize. Many college coaches look to connect, develop and maintain relationships with athletes during their freshman or sophomore year. If you really want to play your sport in college should approach recruiting as a four-year process, starting in your freshman year. The sooner you start, the better chance you have to land the right scholarship.
How to get started is a little more complicated than when to get started, but it’s not as difficult as many companies/people would have you believe it is. There are many details you will face, but here’s a very simple four-step strategy to the college recruiting process:
- Identify colleges that match your athletic and academic abilities
- Reach out to the coaches at those schools via email, attending camps, twitter, etc.
- Ask your coach for an endorsement
- Go back to step 1.
For a more detailed explanation of the process, check out our column from last year entitled This is how college recruiting really works.
“College coaches aren’t responding to my emails. What should I try next?”
If you’ve truly contacted numerous colleges (more than 5), multiple times (more than once) and haven’t heard back (at all), then it’s time to wake up and smell the Gatorade! They probably aren’t interested. Their recruiting class might be full, they might not have a need at your position, or you might not be a match for their program.
Don’t take it personally or get discouraged, just move on. Re-evaluate the kinds of colleges you are targeting. Ask your current coach for his or her opinion about the schools on your list. Remember, many of the Division I recruiting classes fill up early, so if you’re starting late, you may have to consider another level of competition. Again, the point is to make an adjustment based on your situation.
“I’m a senior with no college options. What should I do to get recruited?”
If you’re going into your senior year with no college options, there are only two possible reasons why college coaches haven’t contacted you yet: (1) They aren’t interested, or (2) they don’t know about you. There’s not much you can do about the first reason, so let’s focus on fixing the second.
Make a commitment to find the time necessary to identify the right colleges, connect with the coaches and be persistent. This might take you a couple of hours per week or it might take longer, but at this point, it must be done religiously. If emails are not working and your coach can’t get their attention, try Twitter, go on an unofficial visit, and/or just pick up the phone. You need to do whatever it takes to get noticed. Once you are noticed, you might actually get recruited.
“I just got an email inviting me to a camp. What’s my next step? Should I go?”
The real answer to this question is “It depends”. Certainly, if the invitation is a personal email and you’re interested in the school you should make every effort to be there. If the email is not personal, then the answer is a little harder. Remember, the primary purpose of camps is to make money for the school and the coaching staff. There may be legitimate recruits at the camps, but 99 percent of the attendees are not on the school’s “short list” of scholarship candidates. That said, if you’re interested in the school, it’s a match for your abilities and the cost is within your recruiting budget, then go for it. If you make that decision, you should take the time to read our recruiting column from a few years ago entitled How to use camps and unofficial visits to get noticed.
“My current coach isn’t helping me with recruiting. What should I do?”
If your current coach isn’t willing to help you with recruiting or isn’t comfortable helping, you need to improvise. Use an assistant coach, a skills coach, your athletic director or even an opposing coach. If at all possible, you need a credible source to verify your abilities to college coaches. It just makes the recruiting process that much easier.
Here’s the deal
The college recruiting process has many moving parts and for that reason, you won’t always know what to do next. Don’t be afraid to do a little research on your own or to ask for help. You only go through the recruiting process once, so make sure you give it your best effort.