Fall Recruiting plans
By Dave Galehouse
Your individual time-line for recruiting will vary greatly depending on your level of skill and exposure, the sport you play, and the types of schools you are looking at. Football players have different time-lines than baseball players and coaches at elite D1 schools have different time-lines than D3 coaches at small colleges down the street from you. For juniors and seniors entering high school this fall, it’s important to have a plan for your recruiting process. Depending on what year you are, what sport you play, and where you live, different student-athletes will have to approach the process in their own unique way. I am not that big on time-lines, simply because there are too many factors that go into the recruiting process, to formulate a specific time-line. Some kids are way ahead in their athletic ability and can start to research schools and contact coaches earlier than others, some people will have more coaches calling them and others will need to call more coaches, etc.
While many seniors may have already finished the recruiting process and given verbal offers to schools in the summer, others can use their senior season to influence college coaches. Fall sports offer you the opportunity to impress college coaches one last time before applications are due and recruiting decisions are starting to be made. For coaches that haven’t received verbal offers yet, the fall season is their opportunity to finalize their roster and sports like football, soccer, and field hockey offer you the opportunity to display your skills one last time. Football is a unique sport in the sense that much of recruiting takes place from videotape and coaches recommendations. It is wise to put together a highlight video of your first few games shot by someone who knows how to use a camera and you can include live game footage on the back end in case a coach wants to watch more. As far as contacts go, you need to drop the hammer, call as many coaches as you think you need to, and progress your recruiting process on your own. Don’t wait for letters or phone calls that might not come, rather, take control of your process and force coaches to either recruit you or tell you they are not recruiting you.
Since many applications are not due till the spring, winter sports still offer you the opportunity to catch the eye of a college coach (hockey, basketball etc.) Much of the basketball recruiting process takes place in the summer at AAU games, tournaments, and camps, but coaches are still on the road in the fall or winter looking for players. Since you are at the height of your skill-level (we hope) this can be a good time to really influence a coach with your play. Coaches will be attending games (as time allows) of the top players they saw in the summer and identified as potential recruits they would like to have.
Seniors trying to get recruited for spring sports face a unique dilemma. Many have waited till their senior year to impress coaches, but in reality, it is often too late as many spring seasons don’t get going till May and applications are usually already due by then and the recruiting process is really in it’s final stages. While it is possible to get recruited late by a school looking to fill a few roster spots, many college coaches are at games in the spring already looking at sophomores and juniors. If you find yourself behind in the recruiting process, I would suggest you start calling coaches and trying to find out what the team needs are and find out if you can fill a need somehow. You will find some coaches who were strung on by other recruits and lost recruits to other schools or simply gave up on others, and there is always schools looking for players in the spring. For schools that have openings in the freshman class and beds to fill, it is possible to enroll up to the start of school. Just because the application process has passed, does not mean schools will not let you in. My suggestion is not to wait till May to try and get recruited, but if you find yourself in this position, be honest with coaches and tell them you didn’t know what to do, but are looking for a place to play.
NOTE: Upon graduation from high school, your counselor must send the NCAA Clearinghouse a final copy of your transcript that confirms your graduation from high school and will determine your eligibility for NCAA D1 and NCAA D2 athletics.
NOTE: You cannot take any official visits in the fall of your senior year until you have provided colleges an official transcript and scores from your PSAT, SAT, or ACT
It’s not a good idea to start contacting coaches your junior year, IT’S ALMOST IMPERATIVE YOU DO SO. In the past, the NCAA had rules that juniors could not be contacted until they completed their senior year (football and basketball being the exceptions) but a new rule changes some of that. Starting August 1, 2004, Division 1 coaches may make one phone call to a prospect during the month of March of a prospective student-athlete's junior year. It is now permissible for coaches to make one in-person off campus recruiting contact on the recruit's high school campus during the month of April of their junior year. Additional phone calls may not be made until after July 1 following the junior year, which was the standard contact time for most sports (football and basketball being the exception) at the D1 level. College coaches always have their eye out for talent and will follow juniors very closely to see how they progress. It is also permissible for recruits to call coaches on their own time at any time during high school, and while the NCAA has strict rules as to when coaches can call you, you are free to call a coach at any time in high school, even your freshman year if you want. However, if the coach does not answer, and you leave a message, the coach cannot call you back until the proper time, but you can keep calling him.
Junior year is really a time to research as many colleges and athletic teams as possible and start to formulate a plan as to what your approach is going to be, what type of school and athletic program you want to be a part of and think you can be a part of. Start sending letters and emails to coaches or filling out online recruit forms on team web sites and get your name in front of coaches by any means possible. Don’t be afraid to make phone calls to coaches either, you would be amazed at how few recruits actually call coaches personally and talk to them, mostly out of fear. Calling a coach is a good way to make an impression on a coach and doing this will have a lot of benefits down the road. The initial phone call is not to tell a coach that you are the next coming of Lebron James, it’s simply meant to introduce yourself and tell a coach that you are “possibly” interested in their program. “Hi coach, my name is Ryan White, I am a junior at [school name] and play shortstop and am possibly interested in your school or program.” Simply say something like this and watch what happens. The coach will ask you about your GPA and any test scores you have (PSAT, SAT, ACT) to see if you are possibly qualified for acceptance, and then they will get into more specific school and baseball stuff, positions you play, skill-level, what type of college you are possibly looking for and so forth. You are not going to get recruited off this first phone call, but then again that is not the point. In this case, you want to alert the coach who you are, where you are, what you do, and that you are interested in playing at the next level, and interested in finding out what information the coach needs from you in order to recruit you (schedule, video, tournament schedule, etc.), nothing more, nothing less. The coach will tell you what to do next, and if he/she doesn’t, simply ask.
NOTE: You need to register with the Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse at the end of your junior year if you want to be eligible to play at the NCAA D1 or NCAA D2 level. You can register online at ncaaclearinghouse.net or through forms your guidance counselor should have.
**There is one exception for high school basketball players. They are not allowed to call coaches until the completion of their sophomore year.
While very few if any sophomores have any clue about college athletics yet, this doesn’t mean that you can’t accomplish some recruiting tasks. My first suggestion is to educate yourself on the recruiting process and what is going to be required of you (that’s a nice way of saying purchase The Making of a Student-Athlete from varsityedge.com so you save yourself a lot of headache and heartache later). My second suggestion would be to fill out some online recruit forms at the end of your sophomore year at some lower level schools to simply get your name in coaches databases. You will find instances where coaches go to games to see seniors and juniors perform and if they have your name and know what school you play at, they may take a look at you as well when the time comes. While your skill-level will not be ready for college, college coaches can spot athleticism, size, and potential, and if they like what they see, they will keep you in mind for next year. Some families also like to find out what tournaments and showcases college coaches will be attending so they can plan their summer activities accordingly between their sophomore and junior year. At this stage, it’s not necessary to start calling coaches, as it’s a little too early for them to pay enough attention to you as they have their hands full with juniors and seniors, as well as their own team.
What makes this hard for sophomores is often the amount of playing time they have received in high school thus far. Some players are more physically mature and have had 2 years of varsity experience, while others are still playing JV ball and may not be ready to submit any information to a college coach as of yet.
Have fun, work on your game, study hard and try to be the best person, athlete, and student you can be. College is 3 years off and now is not the time to be worrying what you want to study in college or where you want to play.