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.
So, you want to play your sport in college? Well, if you’re not a “5-Star” athlete, your journey to a college scholarship might require a little extra work. If you’re really serious, you have to make a commitment to pursue your goals. No one can do that for you.
The dictionary definition of commitment is “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause or activity.” Plain and simple, if coaches aren’t noticing you, then you have to dedicate yourself to doing the things that will make them notice you. This includes not only how dedicated you are to your sport, but it also includes your academic standing, your character, and how hard you are willing to work at the recruiting process. If you’re a good student, a good teammate and have some talent, it’s not that hard to get noticed. Make the following five commitments and your chances for a college scholarship will increase ten-fold.
Commit to doing things the right way
Like it or not, college coaches will assume that how you act in high school is how you will act in college. So, if it’s apparent to a coach that you don’t care about academics, then he or she will assume you will struggle in the classroom in college. Also, if you’re constantly in trouble, or you complain to coaches and officials, then most college coaches will immediately scratch you off their recruiting list. You have to make the commitment as a freshman to do things the right way on the field, in the classroom, and in your personal life.
There are many warning signals that college coaches watch for in a recruit. The first “red flag” is laziness. College coaches want hard workers that are all about the team. You really can’t compete at the college level unless you’re willing to work. If you don’t give 100% effort every minute of every game, college coaches will notice. The second red flag is selfishness. Most college coaches aren’t especially fond of selfish players. It’s easy for a college coach to spot a selfish player and for every talented kid who is selfish, there are two other talented kids who are not.
Finally, the third warning sign for a coach are athletes who are just lukewarm to the idea of playing their sport in college. Those athletes are going to be shocked by the commitment (there’s that word again) it takes to play at the next level. If you don’t love your sport in high school, then the commitment it takes to play in college is not a fit for you. A coach may not be able to tell if you love your sport by watching you play, but once a conversation starts it becomes obvious. Passion is a must for every student-athlete who wants to play in college.
Commit to behaving on social media
In today’s world, most high school students spend more time tweeting, posting and sharing than they do talking. In fact, last week I saw a survey that said most teenagers prefer texting to talking. For that reason alone, college coaches not only use social media to communicate with players, but they also monitor the social media accounts of all the athletes they are interested in.
College coaches can learn a lot about you based on your behavior online. If gaining followers, likes or re-tweets is your priority, then those habits might take away from homework, practice and/or just being a kid. Finally, if it is apparent from your posts that you don’t get along with your coaches or teammates, that you dread practice or hate homework, that might be a sign for a college coach to steer away from you.
Commit to being realistic
Perhaps the most difficult task in an effective college recruiting game plan is being realistic with who you are as an athlete and as a student. If you spend your time pursuing colleges that aren’t a fit, your recruiting experience will end in disappointment.
You need to know which level athletic programs to pursue and you need to qualify academically to be admitted to those schools. While it’s ok to pursue some “dream” schools, you should focus on the schools that will be as interested in you as you are in them. If you’re not sure which level schools are for you, ask your coach. He or she will know the answer.
Commit to the process
Committing to the process means taking ownership of your college search. You have to be involved and proactive. Being proactive means to reach out to the coaches at realistic colleges in which you have interest in and develop a dialogue with them.
Being proactive can be accomplished in several ways. You can send emails, use social media or even make a phone call. College coaches actually want to hear from qualified athletes that are interested in their program. Don’t try to hand the process off to someone else and hope that your National Letter of Intent is delivered by Fed Ex. That won’t happen.
Commit to being persistent
The commitment to being persistent doesn’t mean writing one email to a few college coaches and waiting for the scholarship offers to roll in the door. You aren’t going to land a roster spot with one email. In fact, it might take a few attempts before you hear anything.
Keep in mind that you really need to contact numerous schools, numerous times to find the right fit. Don’t get discouraged. There are thousands of other qualified athletes competing for the same roster spot you’re trying to fill. It might take some time for you to connect with the right coaches. You might find that perfect fit with your first email, or it might not happen until you contact your twentieth college.
Here’s the deal
If you truly have the desire to play your sport in college, the last thing you want as a college freshman is to be asking yourself “What happened?” It seems to me it would be a terrible feeling to wonder why you aren’t on a college roster if you really believe you’re good enough. For that reason, my advice to every recruit is to leave no recruiting stone unturned. Make the above 5 commitments and you’ll have a great chance to play at the next level.