The USA TODAY High School Sports Recruiting Tips are provided by our recruiting partner, Playced.com
Every January I try to write an article or recruiting tip directed at high school seniors who want to play in college, but don’t have any options yet. The advice applies to all high school athletes who want to play at the next level, but it is geared toward seniors. My message to these seniors can be summed up in just a few words: WAKE UP AND SMELL THE GATORADE! It’s January and you’ll be leaving for college soon, with or without your cleats. It’s time for “Panic Mode”. Creating another “online profile” isn’t going to do it! And neither will sending emails to elite Division I colleges. Those rosters are full.
If you believe you have the talent to play in college, you’re a good student and a good teammate, then there’s still time. The unfortunate reality is that the chances of a college coach suddenly finding you without some help is like trying to find Waldo. You’re just another face in the crowd of thousands of high school athletes. For that reason alone something needs to change.
In my opinion, there are only two possible reasons why college coaches haven’t contacted you yet: (1) They aren’t interested, or (2) they don’t know about you. There’s not much you can do about the first reason, so here’s some advice on how to address the second one.
Be really, really realistic
While everyone wants to play football at Alabama or basketball at Duke, the last semester of your senior year is no time to try and make that a reality. Your only real hope is to be really, really realistic.
If you’ve been reaching out to college coaches and they aren’t responding, take the hint and move on. You might need to reassess the kinds of colleges you are contacting. To do that, have an honest conversation with your current coach about your abilities and take his or her input to heart. No matter what their evaluation is, don’t take it personally and just be thankful that they care enough to shoot you straight. You have to concentrate on the colleges that are just as interested in you as you are in them. Plus, it’s a lot more fun and productive when you send an email to a coach and they actually respond.
Find the time to be proactive
Make a commitment to carve out the time necessary to find the right colleges, connect with the coaches and be persistent. This might take you a couple hours per week or it might take longer, but at this point it has to be done religiously.
Since it’s your senior year, you need to start yesterday. First, follow up with any colleges you previously contacted and eliminate the ones that don’t respond. Then, identify at least 20 additional schools that make sense for your athletic and academic abilities and send emails to those colleges also. It’s critical that you personalize your emails. Sending a “canned” email and not addressing the coach by name will get you nowhere. At this point in the recruiting process, college coaches want players who are truly interested in their program.
Get your current coach involved now
Your current coach can make a huge difference in your recruiting process. If your coach is willing to contact college coaches on your behalf and vouch for your abilities, that goes a long way with a college coach.
If you can, ask your current coach to review your list of colleges before you spend any time contacting the coaches at those schools. Your current coach really needs to agree with the colleges you are pursuing. Then, ask if they are willing to contact a few college coaches on your behalf. Don’t give them dream schools to contact, give them the colleges where you definitely have a chance to make the roster. Give your coach the contact information for the colleges he or she will be contacting and a copy of your athletic/academic resume. This makes it easy for them to talk intelligently about you.
Make sure you have a quality highlight video
A clear, concise highlight video is critical if you want to have a chance with a college coach this late in the game. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you really need to have a short (2-3 minute) video showcasing your athletic abilities. Since you’re a senior, most college coaches don’t have time to visit your games and/or a showcase event you might attend. They need a way to efficiently determine if they are interested in you as a player. Your highlight video can provide that information.
Be prepared to do whatever it takes
If emails are not working and your coach can’t get their attention, try Twitter, go on an unofficial visit, and/or just pick up the phone. You need to do whatever it takes to get noticed, because once you’re noticed, you might actually get recruited.