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 Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology-based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Over the last year, we’ve been fortunate enough to interview some of the best college coaches in the country. From Chris Petersen with Washington Football to John Cook with Nebraska Volleyball, these coaches have given us valuable insight into the world of college recruiting. The reason we interview these coaches goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway; we want you, the high school athlete, to understand how college recruiting really works! With each interview and article, we want you to better understand what college coaches are looking for, how they recruit and what it takes to play at the next level, academically and athletically. Let’s face it, no one knows recruiting the way these coaches do!
When it comes to physical talent, every coach we’ve interviewed told us that the recruiting process starts with a simple evaluation. It’s the first thing they need to see. Let me sum it up like this, “The kid has got to be able to play!” What does that mean? Basically, it means a college coach will notice you first because of your athletic skill set and how you physically perform. And, since your talent is what college coaches will notice first, today’s column is dedicated to understanding the skills it takes to play in college.
Skills that matter
Coaches evaluate every position within every sport differently. For example, the way a baseball coach grades a pitcher is different than the way he would grade a second baseman. A pitcher’s arm strength and size matter more than his footwork and hands, whereas a second baseman’s footwork and hands mean more than his arm strength and size. Likewise, a volleyball coach evaluates an outside hitter entirely different than how she would grade a libero. Outside hitters need to be able to jump out of the gym, while a libero is graded more heavily on her digging ability. I think you get it.
The point here is to understand exactly what skills matter for the sport you play and more specifically, the position you play. Do a little research, ask a coach or pay attention to the physical skills of the best players in your sport. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what skills matter and what skills don’t. One thing that you can bank on in nearly every sport though is having good size, strength and speed will always make you stand out among the crowd.
Understand your skills
Now you know that college coaches will first notice your physical skills during the recruiting process, you have to assess what you’re working with. Whether you’re a freshman or you’re a senior in high school, knowing where you stand, from a skills standpoint, will help you better navigate your college recruiting journey. Establishing those baselines: 1. Help you understand why you’re being recruited or why you’re not being recruited and 2. Gives you an idea of what areas you might need to improve upon. Both are crucial to the outcome you’re looking for.
The physical skills you need to set your baselines for might include your height, weight, speed (40-yard or 60-yard dash time), vertical leap, velocity (how hard you throw, mph), agility, etc. I would recommend writing down all of your baselines and keeping them somewhere you can see on a regular basis. You won’t know what you’re doing right or what you’re doing wrong unless you can honestly assess what your current skills are at any given time. And keep this in mind, when coaches come calling, they’re definitely going to want to know how you measure up.
Hone your skills
If you know what college coaches are looking for and how you measure up against those expectations, you’ve got everything you need to pursue your dream of playing at the next level. The real question you need to ask yourself is, “What am I going to do to turn that dream into a reality?” Or in other words, what are you going to do to get better?
I’m not telling you that just because you know what it takes to play at the Division I level means you can actually play at the Division I level. But you should absolutely be motivated to use that knowledge of what it takes to get the most out of your career. Continue to hone your strengths and identify areas that need improvement. Identify the skills that are holding you back and develop a game plan to get better. The more skills you develop, the better chance you have at a successful college career, and maybe beyond!