The following information is provided by our national office at US Youth Soccer.
For many high school athletes, college recruiting is at best a mystery and at its worst, it can be overwhelming. The hardest part is often just knowing when and how to get started.
That’s why we’ve partnered with NCSA Next College Student Athlete, the world’s largest and most successful college athletic recruiting network. Every day, the many former college coaches and athletes at NCSA are helping high school athletes:
- Gain exposure to get discovered by college coaches
- Ensure they are on track to become NCAA and NAIA eligible
- Effectively contact and communicate with college coaches
- Find the best schools based on athletic and academic goals
NCSA is also the official recruiting partner of USA Today High School Sports and offers practical advice and guidance every week on a wide range of recruiting topics.
The following information will help athletes and their families better understand what the recruiting process is about and how to put together a more effective recruiting game plan.
HOW COLLEGE COACHES RECRUIT
Coaches methods may vary, but all of them agree that recruiting is one job that seemingly never ends. There’s the immediate need of filling this year’s recruiting class, but also looking ahead to the following year at potential recruits and so on.
Recruiting also varies by season. So, when fall sports are finishing up their recruiting, spring sports may still have some late recruiting to do. There are also recruiting differences by division with NCAA DI programs usually out in front trying to secure recruits as early as possible.
The following outline gives a very basic look at how most college coaches approach the recruiting process.
- Determine recruiting needs (position, grad year)
- Search online recruiting profiles, talk to high school and club coaches
- Evaluate prospect video, academic information, check social media accounts
- Begin contacting athletes, follow profiles, extend camp invites, hold camps
- In-home meetings, meetings with current coaches
- Check NCAA/NAIA eligibility status, extend official visit offers
- Make initial verbal offers
- Sign players, look for last-minute recruits or transfers
THE THREE MOST COMMON RECRUITING PITFALLS
There are three common mistakes athletes and families tend to make when it comes to recruiting. They are:
- Assuming someone else is handling their recruiting
- Not putting enough emphasis on academics
- Selling themselves short by not exploring all opportunities
For athletes, your high school or club coach will play a big role in your recruiting, but it is up to you to decide where you want to go to school and your coaches can help from there.
Despite what you may have heard, talent and athletic ability are only part of the package. Below average academics will seriously limit your options. Period.
Finally, it pays to seriously explore all of your options. Many athletes start with just one or two target schools in mind only to find a college they love is one that wasn’t even on their radar.
CONSIDER THE TYPE OF COLLEGE EXPERIENCE YOU REALLY WANT
Once an athlete has decided they want to commit in competing in college, it would be a good idea to sit down with their parents and discuss some basic education goals and college preferences. This will help focus your school search and college coaches also like working with athletes who know what college experience they are looking for. Some of the initial topics to consider would be:
- Education/Major – Is there a field of study you are really passionate about?
- Geography – Would you like to be close to home or across the country?
- Experience – Do you want to compete all four years? Do you want a sport/social balance?
SEARCHING FOR SCHOOLS THAT OFFER THE BEST FIT
It should be no surprise that not everyone can compete at the Division I level. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of competitive programs at every NCAA level, as well as in the NAIA and with many junior college programs.
Some of the oldest, but wisest recruiting advice is to ask yourself if you could be happy attending a school even if you could no longer play your sport.
Finding your best fit means really taking a close look at all the schools that offer what you’re looking for athletically and more importantly, academically. The goal is a four-year degree and a transfer situation can extend your time in college and increase your expenses.
Transfers are not uncommon and some are made for really good reasons. From a financial standpoint, it is definitely worth investing some time to find a school where you can feel at home, enjoy the experience, get the education you want, and success in earning a degree in four years.
PREPARING FOR NCAA, NAIA ACADEMIC ELIGIBILTY
Next to highlight videos, your transcript is probably the most reviewed item by college coaches. They want to know before they invest the time and effort in recruiting you that you will be academically eligible.
This is a good time to get to know your guidance counselor or advisor at your school. They will be able to provide copies of your transcript. They can also be of assistance when it comes to preparing for NCAA and NAIA eligibility, which is something athletes and their families need to review early on in high school.
CREATE A PLAN FOR TAKING YOUR STANDIZED TESTING
Most colleges and universities accept both, the SAT and/or ACT. A good way to determine which test you should choose is to take the PSAT and Pre-ACT, which are the respective practice tests. If you do much better on the PSAT than the Pre-ACT, for example, you should consider the SAT over the ACT.
The best time to take these practice tests is the summer before junior year. You will discover what sections you need to better prepare for before taking the actual test for the first time.
It is preferred that student-athletes take the SAT and ACT at the beginning of their junior year. Student-athletes who are able to give coaches concrete test scores early on give themselves a leg up in the recruiting process, as it makes it easier for coaches to determine who to follow.
Another reason it’s important to take standardized tests during junior year is that many colleges have application deadlines of early November of your senior year; not leaving much time to get test scores up as a senior. It is recommended that you take the SAT or ACT again during your junior year if you’re looking to improve your score. When summer hits, if you’re still dissatisfied with your test scores, this is your chance to do final study prep for the beginning of your senior year. The last ACT for early action/decision is held in October; and can be October or November for the SAT depending on the college’s deadline. For regular-decision applicants, December of your senior year is the last time you can take the SAT or ACT.
College recruiting begins early and for the majority of student-athletes, it begins online. Recruiting budgets are tight and with so many prospects to review, many college programs begin their search and initial evaluation of recruits with information they find online. That’s why it’s important to create a searchable online profile complete with the information coaches want to see, including:
- Name, high school, grad year, position
- Physical stats (height, weight)
- A key sport measurable (like a 40-yard dash time)
- Your high school transcript with GPA and ACT and/or SAT scores
- Highlight video or skills tape (if applicable)
NCSA provides a free recruiting profile to all of its members. More than 35,000 college coaches actively search NCSA profiles every year, looking for athletes to fill their open roster spots.
Creating a good online presence also means taking a hard look at all of your social media accounts and making sure there is no content that may adversely affect your recruiting.
Most everyone is familiar with the stories of scholarships being pulled because of inappropriate posts; however, social media can also be a great tool for your recruiting. Well-managed social media accounts can give coaches a good look at who you are as a person, allowing you to show your passion for your sport, and to demonstrate your maturity in how you treat others.
Over the last couple years, Twitter has become a college coach favorite and is often used to follow and contact student-athletes by direct messages.
For many sports, coaches obviously want to see you in action and videos posted to your online profile make it easy for them to get a look. Keep in mind, coaches may be looking at dozens of videos in one sitting, so it’s important to follow these rules when creating your highlight video:
- Keep it short, 3-5 minutes at the most
- Don’t save the best for last, put your best plays first
- Keep the camera steady
- Capture the play not just the player
High production value, music, and graphics are not important. Keep in mind, coaches are also not seeking out spectacular SportsCenter-type plays in game-winning situations. They want to see footwork, speed, size, athleticism, game intelligence, and solid fundamentals at your position.
As you begin your recruiting efforts, you may often hear or read that, “If you’re good enough, coaches will find you.” While this is true for some elite athletes, the great majority of high school athletes must reach out directly to coaches to make their presence known.
- Email is often a great first step. Before hitting send, make sure you’ve done your homework about the coach, the school, and the program. Include your basic athletic information and GPA. You should be able to explain why you are interested in the school and how you could contribute to the team. You should also include a link to your online profile as well as your best contact information.
- Phone is always a good call. As you can imagine, a coach’s email is often overloaded with incoming messages. What many athletes don’t know is that coaches receive very few actual phone calls from recruits. A phone call is a great way to introduce yourself in person and to make a memorable impression. But don’t pick up the phone until you are prepared with questions to ask the coach and also prepared for questions directed to you. Chances are you may not get through on your first call, so be prepared to leave a voicemail as well.
- Social Media is being used more and more. Some athletes are reaching out and connecting with coaches through social media. Only reach out if you are active and monitor the channel (you don’t want to miss any messages) and that there is nothing questionable posted in your account.
- In Person introductions can’t be beat. Camps and unofficial visits are a great time to introduce yourself to a college coach. Coaches understand you might be a little nervous, but if you’ve done your homework you should do fine. Remember not to fall victim to one-word answers and to stay off your phone. This is a great opportunity to make a personal connection with a college coach.
One of the necessary parts of any well-rounded recruiting process is attending camps, combines, showcases and tournaments. These events give college coaches the opportunity to watch a larger number of recruits in a single place or allow top recruits to compete against one another. The challenge for any family is deciding what events to attend. Here is a guide for understanding the value of different recruiting events:
- College Camps – The camps hosted by individual colleges are great opportunities to get in front of a specific program. Before investing any time and money to attend a college’s camp, you want to make sure you have the ability to compete at their level.
- 3rd Party Camps – The goal of these events can range from pure skill development to “made for recruiting” events where top recruits are brought together to compete against each other. Just be sure you are clear on what you want to get out of any camp you are attending and what that camp is going to provide.
- Combines – Coaches in many sports are starting to rely more and more on standardized athletic measurables like 40-time (football) and 60-time (baseball), for example. It is a great idea to get your combine numbers once or twice a year from events with stats that can be trusted and verified.
- Showcases – These are made for recruiting events and popular in many sports. Whether conducted by your club or a third party, these events attract several college coaches who all come to watch a group of recruits run through drills and compete. Make sure the coaches you are interested in or would be interested in are attending any showcase you’re also considering attending.
- Tournaments – Large tournaments have become the go-to recruiting events for many college coaches.
Once you have decided on an event, make sure you contact coaches prior to the start to let them know you will be attending, and always follow-up with coaches afterward.
This information briefly covers some of the major milestones and interactions that take place during a typical recruiting journey and having this knowledge now will help get your recruiting effort off to a great start.
If you have any more questions or would like more information about getting your recruiting plan in place, you can always contact NCSA at 866-495-5172.