USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Nelson Gord is a former collegiate and professional ballplayer, successful high school head coach, and also the founder of the largest travel baseball club in Illinois. Nelson is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication, along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community, helped create NCSA Team Edition, the free recruiting platform for club and high school coaches.
Here’s a shocker: The best way to get recruited for an athletic scholarship is to be an incredible, stands-out-of-the-pack athlete. It’s the surest way to grab a college coach’s attention, but unfortunately, the vast majority of high school athletes just do not reach that elite level. The next best way is to be a good athlete and have perfect grades and amazing standardized test scores. Coaches love good students, but unfortunately, not everyone is a brainiac who can get into MIT. So, what do student-athletes who do not have superhuman athleticism and test scores need to do in order to get recruited? They have to excel in the recruiting process, which means hitting deadlines, filling out forms, doing research, keeping up with training, creating a highlight or skills video, attending the right events, and doing a good job of communicating with college coaches. It’s a time-consuming endeavor, and probably not the easy answer you were looking for. Fortunately, there are a few “hacks” that can be used in order to take full advantage of the process and win that elusive college roster spot.
Research college teams’ rosters for openings
When creating your target list of schools, research can go a long way in getting you a roster spot. The best way to focus your efforts is to look on teams’ websites for rosters and see which teams will be either losing a lot of graduating seniors or seem to have a shortage of athletes at the position you play. Reaching out to these programs automatically boosts your chances of getting interest from coaches and is time better spent than reaching out to programs with jam-packed rosters. To build upon that strategy, you can also use NCSA’s Roster Openings feature, which offers a view of college coaches who have open roster spots and the type of athlete they are looking for. For more info about how to use this feature, call NCSA’a team of recruiting experts at 866-495-7727.
Don’t slack over summer
Summer is a time when your recruiting efforts should not take a vacation. While many of the student-athletes that you’re competing against for college roster spots are away on vacation or hanging out at the beach, you can be making a big splash in your recruiting process. During this time, coaches have a bit more free time and are spending it checking athlete emails, organizing whiteboards, watching highlight videos, attending camps and tournaments, and visiting recruits on campus or at their homes. This is the ideal time to double your recruiting efforts, especially when the competition may be slacking.
Target a lower division level
Sure, almost every student-athlete thinks about what it would be like to play for a powerhouse D1 program under the bright lights, surrounded by the media attention. However, these D1 roster spots are extremely competitive, and sometimes do not have scholarship money attached to them. Instead of succumbing to D1 tunnel vision, expand your search to find the college that’s the right fit for you. Rather than competing as an average athlete at a particular division level, think about bumping down one level to be a more sought-after athlete at that level. This often leads to more scholarship money and playing time, which can lead to a much more enjoyable college experience.
Deliver your highlight video differently
Highlight and skills videos are very important in the recruiting process and should be updated every six months or so before being sent to coaches via email or getting posted on your NCSA recruiting profile. However, posting them on your social media and following coaches and programs on your target list can also boost views of your video. Try tagging and tweeting coaches, especially if they’ve had contact with you. Additionally, a creative way to get attention for your video is to send it on a DVD. While this sounds a bit old school, the fact is that many coaches are pretty old school and still like watching DVDs. At the very least, it’s a way to stand out and offers a physical reminder to coaches to watch your video.
While there are still many other hacks out there that can help you get recruited, these offer a great start for those who are looking to get a leg up on the competition.