Millions of student athletes go through the recruiting process every year. There are many stories of positive experiences where the process went well and the athletes landed at the right colleges.
But there are also many nightmares where the process did not go so well and did not end well. These are two extremes, and most of the millions of student athletes probably fall in the middle somewhere along the continuum.
Which do you prefer?
We think we know your answer. To best help you navigate positively, here are some tips to help you:
It all begins with you. Be honest with yourself about what you are looking for. If you are not sure yet, that’s ok. Now is the time to find out. Picture what your ideal college experience looks like and try your best to find that place.
Be honest with yourself about what level you want to play. If you are a Division I player, great. If you are a Division III player, great. If you are an NAIA player, great. You can find the right place for you no matter what level you play.
College coaches are in this with you. They ultimately want what is best for you as well, but they are going to recruit you hard if you are good enough because they want your talent on their team. Sometimes, in that process, the relationship piece gets lost. It is up to you to make sure relationships are part of the recruiting process.
Answer questions truthfully when asked by college coaches. Be upfront about where you stand and what you are looking for. From the very beginning, college coaches can be an asset to you whether you attend their college or not. They are a resource for you. Ask a lot of questions.
Communication is an absolute necessity in helping your process go smoothly. Open communication between you and college coaches, your parents, your high school and club coaches is very important. When everyone is on the same page, it is easier for college coaches to know what you want, what you need and where you stand.
I was told a story by a recent college coach that a student athlete verbally committed to College A in the summer before her junior year of high school. A verbal commitment is a word-of-mouth handshake, and all further recruiting from other schools stops at that point.
The college coach told the other recruits that they got a verbal and let them go. Two days later, the coach found out that the player who verbally committed was on another campus visit. He dropped her immediately. If there is no trust in the recruiting process, there will be no trust when the player and coach are at the same college.
This trust in communication works both ways. It’s good to know this upfront.
There will be thousands of decisions that must be made in the recruiting process. When you make the decisions, you own the process. When you decide what is important for you, you own the process. When you make most of the decisions, you feel better about the outcome.
Going to college is part of growing up, and, to this point, a lot of you may not have had to make a lot of decisions because a lot of them were made for you. This is a good time to start thinking on your own and making choices that will affect your recruiting process and your future.
If you are stuck on a decision or a choice, then bring your support people in, but try to figure it out on your own first. This works for all those smaller decisions where you learn about yourself and the process.
Then, when it’s time to make the final decision, you have all the information and can bring in your reinforcements to help confirm your decision. You will be happier knowing it is yours.
The process of going through the recruitment process is a lot of learning and researching. So is college. This is a good practice for what it is going to be like when you get to college and have a 10-page research paper due in two days. You have to put a plan together, research and then write a great paper.
It’s the same with the recruiting process, only you hopefully have given yourself plenty of time to do the work. The less you know, the higher the chances that you will transfer to another college down the road.
There will be times when you just want to stop and let someone tell you where to go. That is a big mistake. Stay in it for the long haul. It will be worth it in the end.
There will be times when your response is necessary. When college coaches call, text, email or send something through social media, they are doing so to get a response. Not responding to coaches who are trying to figure out if you are interested or not is not good etiquette.
If a coach is being inappropriate or texting at the wrong times, such as when you are in school, that is different. Coaches can get obnoxious, but I’m not talking about those times. You should not respond to obnoxious coaches. You should only engage the coaches who you feel really care about you and your future, aside from your talent and the sport you play.
When you don’t respond to coaches, they don’t think you are interested. If you are not interested, you should tell the coach so they do not make assumptions on their own.
Responding is two-way. If coaches do not respond to you, you may not want to play for that coach. If they are not responding during the recruiting process, how will they respond when you are on campus and in need of something outside of your sport?
Learn from everything.
This sounds a lot like “respond,” but it goes way beyond that. Being responsible means doing what you say and saying what you mean. If you tell a college coach, for example, that you will be on campus at 2:20pm on Saturday, then show up at 2:20pm on Saturday. In other words, be on time. A little earlier would be even better.
Be responsible for your actions in high school with your academics, on your team and in your communities. Coaches are looking for dedicated, determined and committed student athletes who can help them and their programs win games.
Your actions and words matter.
Always say please and thank you. Whether you are going to go to a certain college or not, always be grateful for being recruited and thankful for the college's and coach’s time, money and evaluation.
At this point, you don’t know where you are going to attend college. You need everyone in your corner. Coaches call each other and talk to each other. If College A is no longer interested in you and College B is, then, if College B talks to College A, you want only good things to be said about you.
You are lucky to have the opportunity to potentially play in college. Use every minute and every opportunity to make the best decision you can make on where your future will land.
No matter where you are on your journey, always be polite and grateful for the opportunities. Chances are they are leading you somewhere special.
Download our 8 Tips That Will Positively Affect Your Recruiting Process guide!
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