Recruiting Column: Here’s what college coaches are looking for in a recruit

Recruiting Column: Here’s what college coaches are looking for in a recruit

High School Sports

Recruiting Column: Here’s what college coaches are looking for in a recruit


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 This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. 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 system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.

A successful recruiting experience isn’t all about how fast you run a 40-yard dash or how many points per game you score. Don’t get me wrong, those things matter. Absolutely, those things matter! But I can promise you this: college coaches are looking for so much more than just your stat line or your physical performance, if they’re recruiting you. Think about it. If it was all about the physical stuff, then why do you think coaches need to come see you play? Wouldn’t verified numbers be good enough to make a decision on you, sight unseen? Why is it coaches need to see you play, often times more than once, before they make you that scholarship offer?

Well, it’s simple. It’s because coaches are looking for the intangibles, as much as they’re looking for the tangibles. They need to see more. More than your Steph Curry pop top step back or your Drew Brees accuracy! Crazy, right? Listen, any coach that’s truly interested in you is going to want to see how you approach the game, how you react to different situations, and how hard you work. They want to see how you react after a strikeout or how you respond after a dropped pass. They want to see how you treat your coaches, teammates and opponents. Why? Because intangibles = character. And intangibles + tangibles = championships!

Physical talent aside, here is what coaches are looking for in a recruit.

  1. Effort

Believe it or not, college coaches notice effort and guess what, it doesn’t take any talent to give maximum effort on every play. Diving for a loose ball and finishing every play are both examples of effort. The offensive lineman who stays with his block or a midfielder who seems to be everywhere on the field is going to get noticed by a college coach.

  1. Leadership

College coaches are definitely 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 is the best way to be a leader.

  1. Sportsmanship

How you handle yourself on the field, with your teammates and with opponents are all important factors to college coaches. If you’re the type of player who enjoys taunting or mouthing off, an alarm goes off in a college coach’s head.  They begin to wonder if you will require babysitting or cause problems.

While helping the other team off the ground might not be as glorious as celebrating a 5-yard first down catch, college coaches will appreciate your sportsmanship much more than they will your unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. College coaches certainly want good players, but they also want good teammates, good students and good citizens.

  1. Coachability

Almost every athlete is coachable when they start their career. I have yet to coach a first-grader who doesn’t want to be coached.  However, for some athletes that changes over time and I’m really not sure why.

College coaches want players who are coachable. It doesn’t take long for a coach to spot an uncoachable player and very rarely can any coach transform a player from being uncoachable to being coachable.  So, how do you prove you’re a coachable athlete?  Coachable athletes are open to honest feedback, willing to change bad habits, humble and thankful when a coach takes the time to help them improve.  If a college coach is truly interested in you he or she will most likely ask your current coach about how coachable you are.

  1. Attitude

Good or bad, attitude dictates your entire approach to life. Is the glass half full or half empty? College coaches can smell a bad attitude from a mile away and they would like to stay away from those players who consistently feel like the glass is half empty.

They know that as a college athlete, you will go through some difficult times: early morning workouts, late night traveling, sleepless nights and homework-filled nights. Your attitude is an indication of how you will deal with those difficult situations.

Additionally, every mature athlete knows that the success of the team will result in individual recognition. College coaches are impressed with athletes who give credit to other players, 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.

  1. Work Ethic

Although there are others, the final intangible on my list is work ethic. A wise man (my dad) once told me, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” You can’t fake work ethic and your current coach isn’t going to say you’re a hard worker if you aren’t.  So, 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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