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.
The college recruiting process for high school athletes is fairly logical and pretty much the same regardless of your sport. Whether you’re a power forward or a pitcher, a running back or a goalkeeper, if you aren’t a 5-Star recruit then your recruiting process is going to take a little work and you have to realize that is the norm. College rosters are built with a few top recruits and completed with quality athletes who have some potential and the right attitude. The recruiting process is easy for the top recruits (2% of athletes), but by my math, that leaves 98% of high school athletes to fend for themselves. If you’re a member of the 98% club (and 98% of you are), you have to commit to this simple, logical, three-step process:
- Identify the right colleges to pursue
- Connect with the coaches at those schools
- Get your coach involved to vouch for you
With most high school athletes about to start playing for their summer teams and attending showcase camps, now is a good time to discuss how college recruiting really works.
Step 1: Identify the right colleges
To identify the right colleges to pursue, you need an honest, unbiased evaluation of your abilities and you need to be willing to accept that evaluation. To have the best chance of success, you also need to be evaluated academically.
Contacting the wrong schools and hoping for a miracle is the No. 1 disconnect for most college recruits. If you reach out to the wrong schools, you’ll be disappointed with the results every time. Anyone can contact a college, but the key is getting a response. There is no combination of words that can convince a coach you are qualified for his or her roster if you aren’t. That’s why you have to pursue colleges that match your academic and athletic resume.
There are companies that can help with your evaluation, but you can also ask your current coach for an honest assessment of how you “stack up” with other athletes and what level schools you should be focused on. If you need help with the academic side of the equation, check with your guidance counselor. Trust me, when the dialogue starts with a college that fits your combined athletic and academic resume, the fog clears leading to a fun and more tangible recruiting process.
Step 2: Connect with the coaches
Once you’ve created a list of colleges to pursue, you need to introduce yourself to the coaches at those schools. There are many ways to do that, but let’s just talk about the most effective ones.
In today’s world, sending an email is probably the most efficient way to start a dialogue with a college coach. Potential recruits and their parents underestimate the impact an email can have on a college coach. When a player expresses sincere interest in a program and their abilities are a fit, then at a minimum it will spark interest from the coach.
Many college programs have a limited recruiting budget and therefore focus on a particular geographic area to observe potential recruits. A compelling email and a link to your highlight video might open the door to a college that would otherwise never even see you.
Camps and showcases can also be a great way to connect with college coaches if you are strategic about which ones you attend. Don’t waste your time or money on a camp unless coaches from the colleges you are interested will be there.
Once you sign up for a camp or showcase, notify the coaches from the colleges you are interested in that you will be there. Then, introduce yourself to those coaches during the camp and before you leave, thank them personally for the opportunity. Finally, follow up with an email to make sure they realize you are serious about their program.
The third method I might suggest is to use Twitter. Many college coaches are actually “plugged in” on social media and active on Twitter. Take the time to create your own Twitter recruiting account, separate from your personal account. It should only have posts related to your sport or your recruiting process.
Finally, if you have a real desire to play at a school, but the coaches haven’t responded to your other attempts to “connect”, pick up the phone and call them. The phone numbers for most coaches are available in the athletic staff directory on each college website. Once you decide to call, make sure you’re ready, because they might actually answer! Know what you want to say before you dial the number and be respectful of their time. If you get voicemail, leave a message telling them who you are and the reason for the call.
Step 3: Get your coach involved
The third step of this process is really pretty simple. An email or telephone call from your current coach to a college coach can make all the difference in the world. Your current coach is the most credible source to vouch for your abilities and character. Don’t be afraid to ask your current coach to contact a few colleges on your behalf. That could pay big dividends. To make it easy for your coach provide them with the contact information for the coaches at a few of your favorite colleges.
Here’s the deal
For a high school athlete, the college recruiting process can be intimidating. You will have questions along the way, but if you follow the three-step process outlined above and you commit to the process, you should have a great chance to play at the next level.