Recruiting Tip: Do intangibles matter?

Recruiting Tip: Do intangibles matter?

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Tip: Do intangibles matter?

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 is an industry leader in college recruiting.  Their technology-based recruiting software identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting advisors provide a recruiting experience that is trusted by college coaches and backed by a money-back guarantee.

Every sport has statistics, but having a high batting average, scoring three goals per game, or leading the team in shooting percentage are not the only things you need to play at the next level. Coaches look at more than just statistics. Why do you think they come to see you play? They want to know who you are, how you approach the game, how you react to different situations, and how hard you work. Seeing how you react after a fumble tells a coach a lot more about you and your character than your strikeout to walk ratio.

Many times the intangibles can be the difference between being a mediocre player and being exceptional. Intangibles are the attributes an athlete possesses or the behavior he or she exhibits that don’t require talent but are crucial to success. Intangibles are sometimes difficult to measure, but they can be the difference maker when a coach is trying to decide between two athletes of similar abilities.

College coaches have the difficult task of trying to project the development and maturity of a 16 or 17-year-old athlete and how successfully they will adapt to college life. They have to try to address this question, because once an athlete makes it to the next level, they find out that nothing less than perfection and excellence is tolerated. This means taking pride in what you do and doing the little things the right way even when no one’s watching is expected. It is a lot easier on coaches if you do that on your own, without having to be constantly told to do so. Intangibles are an indication that an athlete will work on their own and without constantly being pushed.

Here is my list of six intangibles college coaches consider when evaluating an athlete. 


It doesn’t take talent to go all-out every play. Diving for a loose ball or running out every play doesn’t take talent, it takes effort. A wide receiver who stays with his block on every play, or a point guard who seems to be everywhere is going to get noticed by a college coach. Coaches can emphasize giving great effort, but realistically it is a quality the athlete possesses, and what brings it out is personal pride and self-discipline. 


How you handle yourself on the field, with your teammates and with opponents are important factors to college coaches. If you’re not a team player or if you are the type of player who can’t control your emotions, then you will most likely not be the type of player that a college coach wants to babysit. College coaches certainly want good players, but they also want good teammates, good students and good citizens. 

Be Coachable

The textbook definition of coachable is (1) capable of being easily taught and trained to do something better, (2) able to be coached effectively. Almost every athlete is coachable when they start their career. For some athletes, that changes over time and I’m not sure why.

It doesn’t take long for a coach to spot an uncoachable player and very rarely can a coach make a player coachable, so college coaches tend to stay away from uncoachable players. You can’t ever get better if you’re never wrong, won’t work hard, won’t listen to honest feedback and/or aren’t willing to change. So, what does it take to be coachable? Here’s my list:

  • Be thankful someone is willing to take their time to help you improve
  • Be open to honest feedback
  • Be willing to work hard
  • Be willing to change bad habits
  • Be humble 

Team attitude

Every mature athlete knows that the success of the team will result in individual recognition. College coaches are impressed with athletes that give credit to their teammates, compliment the coaching staff and are not self-centered. If you are good, everyone knows it. You don’t have to broadcast it to the masses.


College coaches are looking for athletes who are leaders. Leadership isn’t always quantified by how vocal a player may be. In fact, leadership is better defined by a player’s actions than his or her words. Coaches look for players who perform on and off the field in a manner that their teammates want to emulate. We’ve all heard the cliché that he/she “leads by example” and in my opinion, that’s the best way to lead. 

Work Ethic

Although there are others, my final major intangible is work ethic. A wise man once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” If you want to be lucky enough to play in college, then you need to work hard to earn that scholarship.

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Recruiting Tip: Do intangibles matter?
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