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 and is the affordable solution to high-priced recruiting companies. 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.
A few months ago, I wrote a column titled “The top 10 recruiting red flags we hear from college coaches”. I guess a few coaches read it, because I’ve received some great feedback and some suggestions for additional recruiting red flags. As I discussed in that column, nearly every college coach in the country has a few warning signs or “red flags” they look for when considering a high school athlete. If they see or hear about a red flag for a player, that player’s name may get scratched off the recruiting list immediately. Quite simply, it’s one less player they have to consider. It’s important for every potential recruit to know and understand the warning signs college coaches are looking for, so here are five more recruiting red flags to avoid at all costs.
1. Athletes who post negative messages about their coach, teammates or practice
College coaches can learn a lot about a recruit based on their behavior online. That’s why nearly every program in the country has a person responsible for monitoring the social media habits of prospective recruits. If your social media posts indicate that you don’t get along with your coaches or teammates, that you dread practice or hate homework, that is definitely a red flag for a college coach. In fact, negative posts in general and consistent profanity could cause a coach to go on to the next athlete. And finally, if a student-athlete has the time to be on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook 24/7, coaches will question a recruit’s priorities. If gaining followers, likes or re-tweets is your priority, then those habits might take away from homework, practice and/or just being a kid.
2. Athletes who overstate or exaggerate their stats
You can’t “fake it” when it comes to college recruiting. In fact, one of the worst things a potential recruit can do is exaggerate his or her abilities or statistics. I get it, it seems harmless to round up the velocity on your fastball, or project where you might be athletically in a few months, but that’s the fastest way to get your name permanently scratched off a recruiting list. If you think college coaches don’t cross-check this information, think again. Before a college coach ever becomes really interested in an athlete, that athlete’s abilities are verified with his or her current coach.
I can assure you that college coaches understand that for underclassmen they need to project where a player might be as a senior. They also know that some athletes develop later than others. If you’re realistic about your abilities, your chances to find a college scholarship increase dramatically. If you overstate your statistics and abilities, how do you think a coach is going to react when he or she finds out you were faking it?
3. Athletes who don’t know anything about their program
Knowing a little bit about each team/college you’ve decided to pursue will pay off, especially when you talk to a coach or show up for an on-campus visit. You don’t need to know everything about a team, but if you know the basics like the conference they compete in, their record the prior year, any current events and/or a little about the institution you most likely will be ahead of your competition.
It only takes a few minutes per school to do some research about the teams and coaches on your list. A quick review of the team page on the college website will give you all the information you need. The more you know about every program you are interested in, the better your chances to land a scholarship.
4. Athletes who send canned or form emails
I don’t know about you, but when I receive a “canned” or “form” email, I almost always delete it. If it’s obvious that the sender doesn’t know me, doesn’t know anything about me and doesn’t pique my interest in the first few sentences, I’m not even going to take the time to read the second paragraph. So, if you think a general email with no personal touch will be well received by a college coach you’ve got another thing coming.
Suzie Fritz, the Kansas State Volleyball coach perhaps said it best when she told us “We simply don’t have the time to spend 20 minutes on every recruit that sends us an email of interest. So realistically speaking, you have about 2-3 minutes of our time to make an impression. The more personal and genuine you can be about wanting to play for us, the better impression you will make.”
When it’s obvious you’ve taken some time to write a thoughtful, well-written email, there’s a much better chance you’ll get a response. Here’s a real example of what not to do in a recruiting email (the names have been changed to protect the innocent):
My name is Davis Kramersville and I want to play collige (yes, that’s how he spelled it) baseball for your team. I am a junior at Marcus Senior High School and I think I will make the varsity team this year. When do you start handing out scholarships?
Needless to say, this email did not lead to a college scholarship.
5. Athletes who are under-achievers
There is nothing more frustrating for any coach than to see a player with great athletic ability who doesn’t reach his or her potential because they are lazy, or they have a bad attitude. Neither is acceptable, and neither is going to work on a college team. Once you get to college, all the players are the best in their sport. The ones that work the hardest and have the best attitude are usually the ones who succeed. A college coach can smell an under-achieving athlete from a mile away. Don’t let a lack of effort or a bad attitude spoil your chances for a college scholarship.
Here’s the deal
A red flag doesn’t always mean a coach will lose interest in an athlete, but it is definitely a factor. A red flag gives a college coach a reason to question if a recruit will be a good fit. Knowing all the “red flags” will help you avoid them and avoiding them might be the difference between a coach contacting you or passing on you.