WHAT TO EXPECT
I really think a champion is defined not by their wins, but by how they can recover when they fall.
23-time Grand Slam tennis champion
Simply put, the recruiting process boils down to communication. Recruiting is a series of communications between the key players in the process, namely the student-athlete, college coaches, admissions officers, and club staff. The recruiting process moves or doesn't move forward for an athlete based on the effectiveness of this communication.
In this section, we will dive into the nuances of how the recruiting process works. You will gain a deeper understanding of what recruiting looks like from the perspectives of its key players, most notably, from the perspective of college coaches. This insight into how the recruiting world operates will help give you a better grasp of the role you play within it. At every step of the way, you will not only learn how recruiting works, but also how you can leverage this knowledge in your process. Let's go!
Treat recruiting like a class. Since your daily schedule is already filled with classes, sports, and extracurricular activities, it's important that you set aside a block of time each night for your college search, the way you would with homework.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the recruiting process for a high school student-athlete is ensuring that you are eligible for NCAA competition. Failing to meet basic requirements in the classroom could derail your process before it really gets going.
Academically, the NCAA requires a mix of "core" courses (a 16-course list including a mix of English, Math, etc.), a minimum grade-point average for Divisions I and II, and a minimum combined SAT or ACT score based on a sliding scale.
These requirements are capricious, so be sure to check with your high school at the beginning of your freshman year to be sure you are on track. You can find these eligibility requirements in detail on the NCAA's website, but the key element here:
Don't get knocked out of the recruiting game before it starts by slacking in the classroom!
Other eligibility requirements include far less common instances such as ensuring you have never participated in a sport professionally. These occurrences for high school athletes are unlikely, but certainly possible. Review the NCAA guidelines if you think you may fall into this subsection.
Athletic scholarships at the NCAA Division I and Division II levels are a huge draw for athletes and families.
Keep in mind that for NCAA Division III and select Division I schools (notably those competing in the Ivy League), there are no athletic scholarships.
According to the NCAA, about 2 percent of high school athletes will receive some form of an athletic scholarship. Be realistic when exploring your options, and do your research!
The NCAA strictly limits the number of scholarships that each school can distribute. Athletic scholarships are divided into two types: headcount scholarships and equivalency scholarships. The most notable distinction between the two is that headcount scholarships award full-rides, while equivalency scholarships award partial aid. Head count full-ride scholarships are the more favorable award, but also very rare. Take a look at which sports fall under the head count scholarship sports category. You'll notice it's limited to only a handful of sports, as opposed to equivalency scholarships, which span a far greater range.
HEAD COUNT SCHOLARSHIP SPORTS
DIVISION 1 FBS ONLY
DIVISION 1 MEN AND WOMEN'S
DIVISION 1 WOMEN'S ONLY
DIVISION 1 WOMEN'S ONLY
DIVISION 1 WOMEN'S ONLY
EQUIVALENCY SCHOLARSHIP SPORTS
ALL NCAA DI SPORTS
EXCLUDING HEAD COUNT SCHOLARSHIP SPORTS
ALL NCAA DII SPORTS
All NAIA SPORTS
ALL JUNIOR COLLEGES
Equivalency sports award partial scholarships to compensate for the fact that scholarship money will be spread among many athletes. Typically, a coach divides the scholarship allotment into several partial scholarships, as opposed to giving only a few athletes full scholarships. It's a lower risk strategy because some of the scholarship recipients will fall short of expectations, get injured, become academically ineligible, or drop out. Also, realize that the scholarships are not just earmarked for incoming freshmen, but are used for all athletes on the team. It is very difficult for a coach to offer many "full rides."
What also may happen is that an upperclassman may have his or her scholarship amount increased in an effort to retain them. A quarter scholarship may be upgraded to a half scholarship. This means that the "extra" scholarship money has to come from another athlete. As a result, thousands of outstanding high school athletes are never offered even partial scholarships. Many don't even receive passing interest from coaches. Also keep in mind that scholarship awards are on a year-to-year basis. While a coach cannot guarantee you will receive the same award in future years, it is normal practice that it will be renewed at the same level.
Even if you are fortunate enough to get all or some of your tuition paid by an athletic scholarship, you may still have other significant costs like room and board, books, entertainment, and transportation to and from school.
HOW COLLEGE COACHES WORK
I want team-oriented players with the ability to make decisions quickly on the field. I look for speed, quickness and toughness. I use a lot of video in my decisions and I certainly like to see each player in person when possible.
Harvard University, Lacrosse Coach, NCAA D-I
A coach constantly keeps his eyes and ears open for athletes who can help his team. Naturally, he will spend the majority of his time focusing on his next recruiting class. However, if you are a talented underclassman and you impressed a college coach, either at a camp, a game, a meet, or from a newspaper article he read about you, he will probably keep your name in his recruiting database and follow your development.
Although they may not admit it, many selective colleges target certain groups of applicants for admission. They might want to increase the diversity of the student body, expand the physics department, or recruit a few potential future donors. To have the freshman community they want, colleges need musicians and athletes, leaders in publications and student government, a certain percentage of alumni children, minorities, and international students. Students in the targeted groups may have an easier time getting through the admissions process, and there is often special scholarship money available for people from certain backgrounds or those applicants who are interested in specific programs.
In order to help a coach understand who you are, it's crucial you emphasize what is unique about you. The things you take for granted as obvious facets of your identity and personality may be the very things that will set you apart from other athletes that a coach is evaluating. To identify your unique selling point, ask yourself these questions:
- What activities or hobbies do I enjoy the most?
- How do I like to spend my free time?
- What am I passionate about?
- What are my strengths? What am I good at? Or, more importantly, what do I enjoy investing the time to get better at?
- How would my closest friends and family members describe me?
- What role do I want to play when I arrive on my college campus?
If you don't already identify as a singer, thespian, math wiz, writer, or the like, don't fret. College is a time of discovery and finding yourself. In this case, consider:
- What clubs or niches would I like to explore?
Arming yourself with the knowledge of what makes you unique is crucial in more ways than one. Acknowledging your unique qualities allows them to shine through everything you do. It also helps you identify what to look for in a school to find the best social and academic (as well as athletic) fit for you.
THE COACHING COMMUNITY
The college coach community is a tight-knit group. While coaches are rivals on the field, they are very friendly off of it, and are in constant communication. Many are good friends, work the same summer camps, and socialize at annual conventions.
Also, many coaches change jobs frequently and devote a lot of time to maintaining their professional network of contacts.
Due to this high turnover within the collegiate coaching community, a coach you dismissed during your recruiting process may end up as your next head coach.
Negative communication with a coach can hurt your reputation within the greater coaching community.
Treat each interaction with a college coach as a chance to make an impression. Be polite, display your passion and most importantly, treat every coach with respect.
Maintain the same level of respect even after you've eliminated a college as an opportunity you'd like to pursue. If you are in contact with a school that no longer fits your plans, remember to be thankful and up-front about your intentions. Be considerate and let the coach know that the college is no longer on your radar.
This also goes for every college coach that reaches out to you, even if you are not interested in their program.
Beyond the fact that it's the right thing to do, being consistently respectful is important for another reason. You never know when a connection with a coach may be beneficial down the road.
COACHES HELP EACH OTHER RECRUIT
I have a circle of other college coaches who share knowledge about different players. I also try to attend high school and summer league games. It's tough to get to them all, so we like to work off each other and help each other out.
University of Missouri – St. Louis, Head Baseball Coach, NCAA D-II
Few college coaches can recruit every outstanding athlete he or his staff sees. If a desirable athlete's grades don't meet his school's requirements, or the athlete plays a specific position and the coach is already stocked at that position, the coach may recommend the athlete to other coaches he knows.
It's important to develop relationships with as many coaches as you can. If a college coach is really impressed with you, make an effort to stay in touch via the Messaging system. Update him on your development. Even if he doesn't coach at a school that interests you, he could be your ticket to another college commitment.
THE COLLEGE COACH'S A-LIST
When the recruiting process begins each year, coaching staff assemble an "A-list" of student-athletes they are interested in recruiting. The names on this list represent athletes that the coaches have seen in action at camp, state and regional games, or tournaments. They also come from referrals by trusted sources, like other college coaches, boosters, former athletes, and some high school coaches. Last, but not least, the list includes athletes who put in the work and got themselves on the map by reaching out to their Target List of Schools and providing video to be evaluated.
Place yourself in a position to be noticed and / or evaluated by college coaches. This can be accomplished by:
- Playing for prominent league teams outside of school
- Participating in college camps held by coaches at schools that interest you
- Attending showcase camps with Target School coaches in attendance
- Personally notifying the coach of your interest in his program and letting him know your qualifications
SportsRecruits is a great way to get on a coach's radar as you can put your profile and video in front of all the coaches that interest you from the comfort of your couch. One click and the coach is viewing your profile and video. If you are the type of athlete he is looking for, you are now on this coach's radar.
Questionnaires are sent to every athlete on a coach's "A-list," as well as to any athlete who writes or phones the coach's office expressing interest in the program. Some elite athletes on the "A-list" who do not return their questionnaires may receive a follow-up phone call to determine their interest level, but most will not.
If you receive a questionnaire, you will be asked to provide detailed academic and athletic information about yourself and to return the form promptly. If you neglect to return it quickly, be aware that you are sending a strong message that you are not interested in being recruited.
Returning the questionnaire promptly does more than tell the coach you are interested in his program. It also tells him you are conscientious, able to follow instructions and pay attention to detail. Sometimes, little things like that can make all the difference in the world. While you may not stand out from the crowd by doing this, you'll definitely stand out if your questionnaire comes in late, is completed in a sloppy fashion or lacks important information.
A SportsRecruits Athlete Profile presents your information in a professional manner and allows any coach to watch your video with the click of a button.
NARROWING THE A-LIST WITH COLLEGE ADMISSIONS OFFICERS
Coaches meet periodically with their college's admissions officer liaison to discuss prospective recruits. This is where your ability on the playing field can help you get admitted to a good academic school to which you might not qualify on grades or test scores alone.
A coach will compile a list of his top recruits so the liaison knows which athletes are the coach's highest priorities. Based on academic credentials, the liaison will often tell the coach who has a chance to be admitted and who does not. Some admission departments will be flexible and accept top recruits who may fall slightly below the academic requirements, but this happens only if you are in high demand by the coaching staff.
The coaching staff can now begin to reduce the "A-list" to a more manageable and realistic pool of candidates. It will only contain students who can contribute athletically, fill a position of need on the team, and possess the academic marks to get accepted to the school.
If you have not achieved the NCAA required grades and test scores or have not taken the right courses, the coach will immediately eliminate you from his recruiting list.
Don't get knocked out of the recruiting game before it even starts by underachieving in class.
COACHES DO THEIR HOMEWORK
Before a coach decides to offer you a scholarship, he will do an extensive background check to find out everything he can about you. A scholarship is a big financial risk for the coach and his / her college, so coaches can be very thorough in their research in order to improve the chances of making an intelligent decision. A few phone calls to your high school coach, club coach, guidance counselor, teachers, friends, and any local contacts he has will provide the information he needs.
To understand how you may come across from a coach's perspective, ask yourself these questions:
- Is there anything I am doing now that will negatively affect a college coach's opinion of me?
- Do I attend all of my classes?
- Do I get along with my teammates?
- Am I a leader or a follower?
- What kind of crowd do I hang with?
- How is my work ethic, drive, and integrity?
SCHOLARSHIPS AND WALK-ONS
Once the coaching staff have finalized the recruiting list, the question becomes which incoming freshman or transfer students will receive athletic scholarships and how much money to offer each.
Recall that Division III athletes do not receive athletic scholarships.
The remaining athletes on the recruiting list continue through the application process. If they end up attending the school, they will be invited to join the team as walk-ons.