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.
Since you’ll only go through the college recruiting process once, you will have questions. In fact, you’ll most likely have quite a few questions. I know this for a fact, because over the years we’ve been asked thousands of recruiting questions by high school athletes and their parents. We’ve been asked everything from “When does the recruiting process start?”, to “What song should I use for my highlight video?” and everything in between.
This year there have been three questions we’ve been asked most often. All three stem from a misconception about how college recruiting really works. Student-athletes and their parents just want answers, so here are the top three questions so far this year and my 3 answers. Hopefully, the answers will make sense and help ease the stress related to college recruiting.
“I’ve sent an email to several college coaches. Why haven’t I received any responses?”
There are many reasons why your email might not have been answered. Here the most likely ones:
- There isn’t a need at your position.
- The coach was on vacation or just didn’t open your email.
- Your email wasn’t compelling enough to warrant a response.
- The program isn’t a fit for your athletic or academic abilities.
None of the above reasons are good news, but there’s a lesson to learn from each response. One thing for sure, you will never know the reason unless you follow-up. You should send a second email, but before you send it, review the team roster and the incoming recruiting class on the school’s website. By reviewing this information, you can get a pretty good idea if there is a need at your position.
If you believe there is a need, then take a look at your first email. If you didn’t express specific interest in the program and personalize the content, then change your approach on the second email. It’s really simple, if your stats and metrics aren’t compelling enough to separate you from the pack, then you have to somehow make the coach interested in talking with you. The best way to do that is to show you know something about their program and explain why you would be a great fit.
Finally, if you didn’t receive a response, that might actually be a response. If the programs you are contacting to are not realistic for your academic and athletic abilities, your recruiting journey is going to be difficult at best. Make sure you are pursuing schools that will have as much interest in you as you have in them.
“Are showcases and college camps helpful?”
The real answer to this question is, “It depends”. Yes, showcases and college camps can be helpful IF you are ready to be seen and IF you are strategic about the ones you attend. There are really 3 kinds of camps: (1) developmental camps, (2) camps hosted by colleges and (3) third party showcase camps. Don’t sign up for a developmental camp if you’re looking for exposure. These camps are really geared to the younger athletes and are just a way for college coaches to make a little extra money. Prospective recruits should focus on college hosted camps and showcase events.
No matter which kind of camp you decide on, if you aren’t ready, then stay home. For example, if you’re a freshman and haven’t started to mature yet, you might want to wait for Mother Nature to kick in. If you’re not sure if you are ready, ask your current coach.
Once you are ready, you need to be strategic with which camps to consider. Do your homework before you pull out your parent’s credit card. Which college coaches will be there? How many athletes are signed up? Is the college sponsoring the event one you might consider?
Once you decide on a few camps, notify the coaches from the colleges you are interested in that you will be there. Most of these camps have hundreds of athletes attending. College coaches have to be efficient, so they spend their time watching the athletes on their list. Your goal should be to get on as many lists as possible before the camp starts.
If your name isn’t on their list before you show up, your name won’t be on the list when you leave. Hopefully, by notifying them early, they will put your name on their list and try to make time to watch you compete. During the camp, introduce yourself to the coaches and before you leave, thank them personally for the opportunity. Finally, follow up with an email to make sure they know you are serious about their program.
“How do college coaches find players?”
Most college coaches build their rosters by first identifying their positional needs. After that, they spend their time identifying and evaluating potential athletes at those positions. Really there are only three ways coaches find potential recruits. Here are the three ways and how to take advantage of each.
1. College coaches “beat the streets”
In their off-season college coaches live out of a suitcase. Although watching film can be helpful nothing replaces live competition. For that reason, coaches attend camps, showcase events and high school games to watch potential recruits compete. There is no better way to identify potential athletes than the “eyeball test”. While the eyeball test is primarily to watch an athlete compete, you need to understand that college coaches notice a lot more than just your athletic abilities. They pay attention to how you handle yourself with your coach, your teammates and even the officials.
2. Coaches rely on their coaching staff and the athlete’s current coach
Typically, college coaches don’t listen to anyone’s opinion about a player other than their coaching staff and a player’s high school or select/club coach. They may listen to a few individuals with whom they have a personal relationship, but they seldom listen to anyone else.
College coaches want an unbiased opinion of a player’s abilities and character. They can assess ability by watching games and/or video; however, they can only verify character by talking with individuals that have a personal relationship with the athlete. If a coach is interested in an athlete, there is no question that they will talk with their coaches.
3. Coaches want athletes who want to play for them
The third and final way coaches fill their rosters is with athletes that express an interest in their program and are a good fit for the team. Believe it or not, it is important to a coach that his or her recruits actually want to play for their school.
If you are hesitant to contact a coach on your own, just remember this: If you don’t ask, the answer is always “No.” If you are polite, succinct and respectful when you contact a coach, you won’t look desperate, be a pest, or annoy the coach. In reality if you’re a good fit for the program athletically and a good fit academically you are cutting down a bit on a coach’s recruiting work and they’ll be glad to hear from you.
Here’s the deal
The college recruiting process can be frustrating, time-consuming and confusing. You will have questions along the way. Ask as many questions as you need to. Playing your sport in college can be one of the best experiences of your life, don’t miss out on the opportunity because you didn’t understand the process.