Michael Scott ExplainWelcome to the debut of our weekly column, “Too Embarrassed to Ask,” where we’ll examine a hot topic from the world of recruiting that parents and student-athletes may want to know more about, but may shy away from asking because it is considered assumed knowledge.

Think of this column like a cheat sheet for those instances it is no longer acceptable to ask a question, say, having met someone three times but still not knowing their name.

This week’s issue: Early Recruitment

The question: Why are high school players committing so early?

The short answer: Nobody has done anything to stop it, so why wouldn’t they?

The actual answer: There are NCAA loopholes that do nothing to curtail an interested student-athlete from being in touch with a college coaches and vice versa (all of the rules/calendars are here), allowing contact to fall in the “well it’s not technically illegal” category. There are also an increasing number of participants at the high school level competing for a number of spots at the NCAA level that are not rising to match this increase. In fact, per an NCAA study, your odds of participating in a collegiate sport average around 6% for boys and 8% for girls (of course doesn’t include options like club, the NAIA, etc). While this study is only for select sports and obviously a rough estimate, the point is simply that it’s not easy to play at the next level.

While there are obviously other factors at play here, these are the two main underlying causes.

They act to create a perfect storm of sorts: College coaches get into an arms race for the next star – many times with trepidation, because even if they don’t want to recruit earlier, they feel they have to in order to remain competitive – and families wanting to get their recruitment out of the way to ensure their spot in a game where the odds are not in their favor. The result is recruiting happening earlier and earlier.

The movie quote that explains current understanding: “This entire year’s been a waste! I’ve just blown another year of eligibility!”
– Rudy Ruettigger, from 1994s Rudy.

What the quote says in our context: Parents and student-athletes often hear that a player has committed to a school – sometimes before playing in high school – and think they need begin rushing their recruiting process to keep up in some invisible race. Like Rudy, they think they are blowing their chance as the years progress.

However, this means that the process is becoming reactive v. proactive and as such, may rush to a decision that later doesn’t work out. With each passing year, the pressure feels like it’s mounting to an unbearable level.

Our Advice: Breathe. The merits of early recruiting are certainly debatable, but that is a rocking chair solution in the short-term: It gives you something to do, but it’s not getting you anywhere. Until the rules are hardened and loopholes closed by the NCAA (and if you didn’t roll your eyes and chuckle at that statement, Google the NCAA for 2 minutes, then roll your eyes and chuckle, and then return to this post), things are not going to change.

So instead, recognize that everyone’s journey is different. Enter the recruiting process with a plan, and be proactive. While it seems ridiculous to think of where you want to go to college before you can apply for a learner’s permit, start with bigger ideas and narrow them down as you go. Remember while daunting, the chaotic feel of the process is often the result of simply not understanding it fully and a lack of preparation. Arm yourself with knowledge and a proactive plan, and go from there.