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 service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting experts provide a recruiting experience that is backed by a money-back guarantee.
In our USA TODAY recruiting column last Friday, Texas A&M-Commerce Football Coach Colby Carthel said: “I firmly believe there’s an appropriate college level for every football player, beyond high school.”
I personally 100% agree with Coach Carthel. So, if we’re right, you might be wondering why you haven’t locked up that college scholarship yet. Well, here’s the reality: Only 2% of high school athletes are “highly-recruited” athletes. Let me break that down, if there are 100 athletes in your district competing with you for scholarship opportunities, then 2 athletes in your district will be highly-recruited. Are you sure you’re in the top 2%? If you’re not, that doesn’t mean you’re not good enough to play in college, it just means you may have to do a little work on your own.
Just because you’ve been selected First Team All-District, you’re the captain of your team and/or your parents are telling you a college scholarship is inevitable, college coaches won’t necessarily be burning up your cell phone. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an athlete with exceptional skills and stats to go unnoticed, especially by NCAA Division II, Division III or NAIA colleges. There are, in fact many possible reasons why you aren’t being recruited yet, but here are my top five.
1. You believe the myth that “if you’re good enough, college coaches will find you.”
There are many high school athletes every year who could play in college, but believe that just because they haven’t been discovered, they aren’t good enough. The truth is that college coaches have recruiting budgets, and except for Division I football and basketball, those budgets are limited. They simply can’t afford to travel the country looking for athletes. For that reason, if you wait around to get recruited, it may never happen even if you are good enough. If you’re a junior or senior in high school and you feel under-recruited, reach out to colleges on your own. If you don’t, your college career will be on the intramural fields.
2. You believe someone else is taking care of your recruiting process
Here’s a comment we hear all the time. “Oh, we don’t need to worry about contacting colleges, our coach is taking care of that.” I can’t tell you how many times this attitude ends up in disappointment. Most coaches want to see their players make it to the next level, but don’t assume your coach will find a college scholarship for you. The recruiting process is your responsibility. High school and select coaches can help, but they may not have the time or even know how to help. Your high school coach is an important contributor in your development as an athlete; they can vouch for your character and can give college coaches an honest evaluation of your abilities. The rest is on you.
Earning a college scholarship can be a life changing event. Why in the world would you leave something so important in the hands of someone else?
3. Your grades and/or test scores are limiting your college options
It’s a fact, the more colleges you qualify for academically, the more colleges you can pursue athletically. Let me put this into perspective with a real example. If you’re a Division I caliber basketball player with an ACT score of 17 who wants to go to college in California, you have 11 colleges you can legitimately consider. If you raise your ACT score to a 22, the number of colleges you potentially qualify for academically almost doubles to 21. To put it simply, your grades and test scores may limit the number of colleges you should consider because you have to meet the academic admission requirements at any college you hope to attend.
If your academic profile is limiting the number of colleges you can pursue, do something about it. Sign up for an ACT or SAT review course, find a tutor for any courses you are struggling with and/or spend an extra 15 minutes at night studying.
4. You aren’t being proactive
The definition of proactive is “creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.”
Being proactive in recruiting does not mean creating an online profile and waiting for the scholarship offers to roll in the door. That won’t happen. First things first. Get familiar with how recruiting really works. Do some research on how college coaches evaluate talent in your sport, learn the rules on communication with college coaches and understand how academics factor into the equation.
After that, if you aren’t being recruited, then to some extent your recruiting process is a numbers game. You have to introduce yourself to college coaches and the more appropriate colleges you reach out to, the better your chances are to find a scholarship. You might find that perfect fit with your first email, or it might not happen until you contact your twentieth college.
5. You aren’t being realistic
Being realistic about who you are as an athlete and a student is the most important part of the recruiting process. Coach Carthel may have said it best in last week’s article when he said: “The key to being recruited is going where you’re wanted. Honestly assessing your own abilities is going to point you in the right direction and will most likely lead you to the schools that will reciprocate your interest. Who should be recruiting you? That’s really the question that needs to be answered.”
Let me translate Coach Carthel’s quote: If you aren’t pursuing appropriate colleges, you’re wasting your time. To be sure you are pursuing the right colleges, first make sure that you qualify academically for each college on your list.
Sure, there might be a little academic “room” for an athlete, but don’t count on that when deciding which colleges make the most sense to pursue. Second, make sure the schools on your list of colleges are a match athletically. If you don’t have any other way to determine which schools are right athletically, ask your current coach for an honest evaluation and be prepared for an honest answer. Most athletes already know how they stack up, so your coach’s answer shouldn’t be a surprise. The key is to focus on colleges that will be as interested in you as you are in them.
Here’s the deal
College recruiting isn’t rocket science. A lot of it is common sense. If you’re not a highly-recruited athlete, then your success in finding a college scholarship will largely depend on how much effort you are willing to put into the process.