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. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of Playced Athletic Recruiting. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology-based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting platform for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.
High school student-athletes spend hours in the weight room. Typically, the harder they work, the better the result when it’s time to compete. Any coach will tell you, if you don’t train hard, you won’t get stronger or faster. If you aren’t going to give maximum effort, then don’t waste your time. The same holds true for college recruiting.
The college recruiting process is a lot like the weight room. It involves improving your abilities both academically and athletically. It also involves putting in the time to identify the colleges that match your abilities, connecting with the coaches at those schools and being persistent in the process.
Know your starting point
If you don’t know where you are, you will never be able to find your destination. Even Google Maps can’t give you directions if you don’t tell them where to start. Understanding your starting point in the recruiting weight room is your starting point and is the foundation of a game plan to land a college scholarship. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior when you start the recruiting process, you need a realistic assessment of your athletic and academic abilities in order to create a realistic game plan to achieve your realistic goals.
Go to your current coach and ask for an honest evaluation of how you stack up and what you need to work on. Ask for specifics. If they tell you that “You’re pretty good” or “above average”, that isn’t much help. If you want to get to the next level, you need specific areas to work on. If your coach is honest with you and you aren’t happy with the assessment, don’t take the feedback personally. Just be thankful that they care enough to shoot you straight and develop a game plan to get better.
Next, go to your college counselor to determine which colleges are appropriate for you, academically. If you are an average student with average test scores, you aren’t going to play basketball at Princeton, no matter how many points you score per game. For that matter, if you did end up at Princeton and were overmatched in the classroom, the college experience wouldn’t be a good one.
Create a plan
Once you’ve established your academic and athletic starting points, you can develop a workout schedule to get to the next level. Develop short term goals and long-term goals. Write them down. Share them with your coach and college counselor. Tell your friends. If you do, you will be much more likely to accomplish those goals.
Your short-term academic goals might be just to commit an additional 15 minutes a night to studying. Put your phone away, turn off the TV and focus on algebra or chemistry or whatever is your most difficult course for an extra 15 extra minutes a night. It might make a difference in which colleges you can even consider. Athletically, your short-term goals might be to work harder in practice or stay a few minutes after to improve your skills. Hard work will pay off.
Your long-term goals should include improving your standardized test scores. You might want to consider an ACT or SAT prep course. Again, the higher your test scores, the more colleges you can consider. Athletically, your long-term goals should be to achieve the physical benchmarks necessary to compete for a roster spot at colleges in which you have an interest.
Finally, your short term and long-term goals have to include being persistent and proactive in the recruiting process. You have to be involved in the process if you want a successful recruiting outcome. Commit a few hours a week to identifying the right colleges and expressing sincere interest in their programs.
Do the work
Unless you’re in the top 2% of athletes, you won’t get where you want to go without committing to the grind in the recruiting weight room. It’s not always going to be fun or exciting. You might get sore or tired, but it’s ultimately worth it. Academically, spend the time necessary to improve your grades and test scores. Athletically, outwork your competition.
With respect to the recruiting process, you have to be involved and commit to being persistent. Don’t try to hand the process off to someone else and hope that your National Letter of Intent will arrive in the mail. That won’t happen. Committing to the recruiting grind means contacting coaches at numerous schools, numerous times until you find the right fit. To some extent your recruiting process is a numbers game. 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 20th college.