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. Joe Lecessi is a former college athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe 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 have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
One of the toughest challenges in the recruiting process is just getting noticed by college coaches. For many recruits and families, this is particularly frustrating because some recruits have no trouble at all gaining attention and receiving multiple offers while you feel like you can’t get even one.
Recruiting isn’t going to be fair but there are some things you can do about it. Let’s take a look.
College coaches know making an offer to a top recruit is good publicity
Top recruits are covered by the media and have large social media followings. If a college coach can get that recruit to report their offer (even if the recruit isn’t seriously considering it) it gets their school some free publicity. This type of “scholarship offer” is leading some schools to offer 400+ scholarships a year. Keep in mind, there is a long path from getting offered a scholarship to picking up a pen on signing day. Even for those recruits with 100 or more offers, they are only really considering 5-10 schools and that really is the magic number that should be the focus for all recruits.
Elite prospects have all developed early
Virtually all top prospects in every sport are more developed physically than their peers. While that can be an advantage for gaining early recruiting interest, it doesn’t mean late bloomers need to give up hope. In fact, research shows that many later developing athletes who learned to succeed in sports despite developing late can become top athletes once their bodies catch up. Experienced college coaches are always on the lookout for a sneaker prospect, but just don’t expect them to come to find you.
Elite prospects really are that good, but not all recruits need to be elite
When college coaches are talking about an elite prospect, they are talking about the best of all the best athletes in the class. The problem for many recruits is they are only seeing themselves compared to their local competition. You might very well be the best in your area (maybe the best ever), however, you don’t measure up to a truly elite prospect. The good news is, you don’t have to be best-in-class to find great opportunities. With the right recruiting approach, you can find the school that is going to be the right fit and go on to have a very successful college career.
Elite prospects get to behave differently than you do
Despite what you may see from a top prospect, behaving badly on social media, decommitting from schools or not being focused on academics are all good reasons for a coach to drop an average recruit. College coaches have a simple calculation, they are willing to take more risks on a prospect with more upside and this is why elite prospects get 2nd, 3rd and 4th chances while other recruits might be shown the door after one problem. For 95% of recruits, your character and grades are going to be just as important in recruiting as your athletic ability.
For every YouTube discovery, there are 100 recruits found at college camps and in recruiting databases
There is no doubt that YouTube and social media have opened up opportunities for extraordinary recruits to get discovered when their videos go viral. For that reason alone, you should make sure you have a highlight video and have it online, but don’t just sit back and wait for it to be viewed. The vast majority of recruits are still getting discovered through national databases like NCSA Recruit-Match and college camps. Having a solid recruiting plan with targeted schools, making your information available to coaches where they identify prospects, and being proactive in reaching out to coaches will yield far more interest than waiting for a viral YouTube video.