Recruiting Column: The No. 1 reason why many gifted athletes don’t play in college

Recruiting Column: The No. 1 reason why many gifted athletes don’t play in college

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: The No. 1 reason why many gifted athletes don’t play in college


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 is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology-based recruiting software identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting advisors provide a recruiting experience that is trusted by college coaches and backed by a money-back guarantee.

There are thousands of high school athletes every year who have the ability to play in college and who want to play in college, but they don’t. And the reality is that most of them have no idea why. Could it be that they don’t take the time to contact coaches on their own? Maybe. Are academics limiting the number of colleges they can pursue? Possibly. Are they pursuing the wrong colleges? Probably. While all of those are possible reasons, I believe the real reason is much simpler. They hesitate.

That’s right, even if they have no college options, they don’t do anything about it until it’s too late. They convince themselves they are just too busy, they don’t know exactly what to do, and/or they believe that college coaches will suddenly come to their senses and miraculously contact them. I hate to say it, but those are excuses not reasons, and none of them are acceptable if you really want to be a college athlete.

When it comes to the college recruiting process, he or she who hesitates is lost. If you wait too long to get off the couch and take charge of your recruiting process, landing on a college roster is extremely difficult. To deal with the “College Recruiting Hesitation Factor” you need to understand why athletes hesitate, the consequences of hesitating and how to overcome it. Here’s my take on those issues.

Why athletes hesitate

There are many reasons why high school athletes hesitate when it comes to college recruiting. Here’s the top 6 along with my reaction to each:

  1. You don’t think college coaches really want to hear from prospective athletes. Over the last several years we’ve had the great opportunity to interview college coaches in nearly every sport and at every level. When asked what athletes should do to get noticed, 100% of those coaches responded that athletes should proactively contact their coaching staff. Not most of the college coaches, not 90% of college coaches, but 100% of the college coaches we interviewed recommended that student-athletes contact their program.
  2. You don’t know what to say or which coaches to contact. I know it’s uncomfortable to email, call, or talk to someone you don’t know, but if college coaches don’t know you exist then your chances for an athletic scholarship drop pretty dramatically. If you don’t know which coaches to contact, ask your current coach for some guidance on which level schools you should focus on.
  3. You think your current coach will find your scholarship. It’s not in your current coach’s job description to find your scholarship. They can help, but it’s really up to you.
  4. You don’t want to say or do the wrong thing with a college coach. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. College coaches are humans, just like you and me. Be yourself. They aren’t psychoanalyzing everything you say!
  5. You created a profile on a few recruiting sites and really believe that will get you recruited. An online resume can be useful, but why would you think your resume will stand out among thousands of others? And what are the chances that the coaches at the right colleges will see your profile?
  6. You have a lot of homework. Really? Stay up 15 minutes later three nights a week and make something happen.

We all procrastinate, it’s the American way. It’s easy to think ‘I’ll do that tomorrow’ or ‘I just don’t have time right now,’ but your recruiting window of opportunity closes a little more as each day passes. If college coaches aren’t contacting you, then you really can’t afford to wait.

The consequences of hesitating

Every decision has consequences. If you don’t study, your grades will suffer. If you’re always late for work, you might get fired. And if you hesitate in the college recruiting process, the potential consequences are many. Here are the ones I can think of and my comments to each.

  1. College rosters fill up quickly. Most sports have a limited number of scholarships and many are claimed early. If you wait too long, even if the coaches like you, they may not have room for you.
  2. Your options may be limited. If you procrastinate, you may have to sign with a school that isn’t at the top of your list.
  3. You’ll be at a competitive disadvantage with every other athlete who started before you. If you start later than your competition, they definitely have the upper hand.
  4. You might run out of time. The college recruiting process is a commitment and takes some time. You have to identify the colleges to pursue, check the admission requirements and reach out to the coaching staff. Those things don’t happen overnight and if you wait until you’re a senior, you might not have time to cram it all in.
  5. Being late to the party just doesn’t look good to a college coach. If you wait until your senior year and you don’t have any options, don’t you think a coach might think “I wonder what’s wrong with him/her?” Also, won’t they know you’re desperate? Neither one helps your bargaining strategy.

How to overcome hesitation

The best way to overcome the tendency to hesitate is to simply quit making excuses. Here are my thoughts on what might help motivate you.

  1. There’s no reason to be intimidated by a college coach. College coaches just want to get to know you as a player and a person. They understand and appreciate your desire to continue your athletic career. They were most likely in your shoes when they were in high school.
  2. The downside of procrastinating can be pretty bad. If college coaches haven’t noticed you yet, the chances of them suddenly “finding” you are slim unless you do something to help move the recruiting needle.
  3. You have to realize that not all the college coaches you contact will respond. Don’t take this personally. Their roster might be full, they may not have a need at your position, or they might have missed your correspondence. Make an adjustment and move on.
  4. What’s the worst that can happen? If you reach out to college coaches and they don’t reply or don’t take your phone call, who cares? It’s really not that big a deal. Either try them again or move on to the next option.

Here’s the deal

I am totally convinced that the No. 1 reason many gifted athletes don’t play in college is because they hesitate. What in the world are you waiting for? You have nothing to lose and a college scholarship to gain!

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