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Perception vs. Being Realistic in the Athletic Recruiting Process

How Common misconceptions hurt families in the athletic recruiting process

Success or failure in the athletic recruiting process often is determined by a family’s beliefs about how they think the process works. Some believe good high school athletes will be found or discovered because that’s what college coaches do. Others think their high school coach will handle the recruiting process for their son or daughter. A few are also chasing athletic scholarship money that might not ever appear because of the sport you play and the level have the ability to play at. Learn some of the common myths and realities below.

 

I need athletic scholarship money so I should target D1 or D2 schools, because D3 schools do not offer athletic aid

There are two fully funded sports at the NCAA D1 level. Those would be D1 football and D1 basketball (for men and women) What’s that mean? It means if you are lucky enough to be offered an athletic scholarship in those sports, it will be for the full amount. There are no partial scholarships. No other sport at the NCAA level guarantees you will receive a full scholarship. Are there other NCAA sports that will potentially offer me a full scholarship? Yes, there are but it is more rare for two reasons. 1 – Virtually every other sport at the college level does not generate enough revenue to justify being fully funded. 2 – Most teams require more players on the roster than there are athletic scholarships available. For instance, NCAA D1 baseball is allowed 11.78 athletic scholarships, but most rosters are comprised of 30 players, so the coach (if they are lucky enough to be fully funded) will divide those scholarships up to more players.

So how does D3 fit into this equation if they cannot offer any athletic scholarships? Well, many D3 colleges offer very attractive financial aid packages for amazing students through grants and merit aid packages. What’s great about this money is, it is not tied to your athletic participation, happiness or success. If you accept a D1 athletic scholarship of any kind, your aid package is tied to your participation in your sport. If you accept academic grant money and also play lacrosse at a D3 school, but want to quit playing lacrosse after a year or two, you will still retain your academic money provided you meet the grade requirements of the academic money (assuming there are some.)

 

The major I choose is very important

Part of the benefits of college is living on your own for 4 years with new people and learning how to learn and learning how to do work on your own, or in a group and how to meet deadlines you might not want to meet. It’s a good primer for when you enter the working world and have to work both as an individual and as a team member in a company. That’s why employers like to hire college athletes. If you want to be a nurse, we would suggest attending a school with a nursing program and majoring in nursing. If you want to be an engineer, we would suggest attending a school with engineering and majoring in engineering because we want that building you design to stand up for a while. But some jobs and some majors can cross over and employers aren’t simply looking for employees that “majored” in something but employees that have various skills, drive and determination. Speaking and writing is extremely important and many successful business people were English majors. Business degrees where you study marketing, finance, or accounting can lead to jobs in thousands of additional areas. All Ivy League colleges are liberal arts degrees, but those students go on to careers in many different fields because they are smart, fast learners and highly motivated students who have been that way for years.

 

I don’t want to go to a small school because my high school was small and I didn’t like it

Two things that make your high school seem small is that it probably is small, a few buildings or one big building. But the bigger factor is that you know many or most of the students because you have lived in the same town and gone to school with them for 10+ years. Many high school students want to escape that small college feel after high school because of certain experiences they have had in high school. Any college you attend will be a fresh start. You probably won’t know a single person when you arrive and that’s a good thing. A small college with 2,000 students will have a campus much larger than your high school with students living in different areas or off-campus, so it will not be remotely like high school. You may also arrive at a school with 30,000 students and feel overwhelmed with its size.

Being realistic in the athletic recruiting process

Being realistic in the athletic recruiting process

The best players play at D1 colleges

We try to tell families never to judge a college athletic program by what division it is and to research every school and team on an individual basis. Past success, location or the uniqueness of a certain school can greatly affect the talent of individual athletic teams. Teams like the Wheaton (Illinois) swimming teams attract top talent from all over the country due to their unbelievable success at winning national championships. Teams like the Methodist University (North Carolina) golf teams attract top golfers from around the country because they are one a select few colleges that offer a PGM major, which is a major in professional golf management (think business major but for the golf industry). There golf teams have also won multiple national championships. College baseball teams in the State of Florida have extremely talented baseball teams because the State products a high number of high school players who play all year round and have little incentive to leave the State of Florida to play college baseball because the schools are less expensive and the level of play is high.  Hockey rules the northeast and many D3 teams have unbelievably talented players who didn’t play D1 for simply a lack of roster spots available.

 

I won’t qualify for a lot of financial aid

We could write for days on the financial aid process and we would be no closer to answering this question. There are many factors that go into how much aid a person gets and what one family might get is not necessarily what another family might get. We try to tell all families to never dismiss a college because of finances until you have gone through the aid process, either federally or institutionally or both. There are many factors that go into aid awards such as income, marital status, how many kids in the family, retirement savings, your house value and so forth. The federal government will also look at things differently than individual colleges will when determining institutional aid packages.

While there are colleges turning away students, there are other dying for students and/or college off the beaten path that are trying to attract students from farther away in the country. If you live in New England, you might find a small D3 college a 1,000 miles away looking to bring in more students from your region and might offer you Merit aid. Why? Because colleges are businesses that constantly need new business each year, and if they expand their reach of students, they expand their brand and can/will attract more students from around the country.

 

My athletic skill will get me recruited even if my grades are low

Depends how low! College coaches are allowed to submit lists of players they are actively recruiting to admissions for consideration and how much impact this has is different at every school. In order to be on this “secret list” you need to be actively recruited by the coach and you have had to tell them that you are committed to their program. Then it’s up to the school to decide how many recruits they want to bend their admissions criteria for. If you are on the bubble academically of what that school looks for, this might help you squeak in. However, bad grades will get you un-recruited faster than anything you can think of. While Big State U might be able to slide a great football player in the back door of admissions, that’s not how most colleges operate. The first thing a college coach is going to inquire about is your grades and if they sniff a problem, they are going to pass extremely fast on you.

 

College coaches will find me if I am a talented athlete

College coaches work extremely hard at recruiting. Some recruit locally, others recruit in their State, and others recruit across the country or world depending on their needs and resources. Some recruit specific areas of the country because there is good talent there and/or they have created relationships in those areas with other programs and coaches. College coaches rarely attend high school games to scout random players. Not only is it not a good use of their time, but their season takes place during your season! Think about that for second. How is a coach supposed to come to your high school games when they are in the middle of their season? If a coach attends a high school game, it is usually on an off day to see a specific player they have or are currently scouting. Your job is to research colleges that might be a good academic and athletic fit and then to reach out to those college coaches to introduce yourself and to discover the needs of the coaching staff and how you might be considered for recruitment down the road. Most athletes are not discovered, they are recruited through hard work and contacting multiple coaches on their own.

 

College coaches need my stats to recruit me

College coaches could really care less about statistics. They tell coaches very little about you as an athlete or as a person. There are roughly 20,000 high schools in the country, and thus 20,000 leading scorers or leading hitters on every team. Not all those leading scorers or leading hitters are capable of playing in college, despite leading their team in some statistical category. I like to tell the story of Dave Winfield, the former pro baseball player.  Winfield was drafted in pro baseball, pro basketball and pro football. He was an extremely talented baseball and basketball player in college, but Winfield didn’t score a single touchdown in football. He didn’t have single tackle or sack. He didn’t have a single interception or fumble recovery. He didn’t kick a single field goal or extra point. He never blocked a single person on a football field. Not only did Dave Winfield never play a down of college football in college, he never stepped foot on a college football team or put a uniform on. So how does a player get drafted for football that doesn’t have a single “football stat” and never played? Easy, he was 6’7” 250 and excelled at two other sports and pro football teams saw his athletic ability as his biggest asset. While parents are assembling 5 pages of stats to send to college coaches, those coaches are looking for talented athletes who play the game well with good instincts and techniques. Not every coach is looking for a pitcher that throws 92, but they want to see if you can get players out with what you do throw. They want to know how you handle winning, how you handle losing, how you handle adversity, how you prepare for games before the game, how you interact with teammates, coaches opposing players and umpires. Virtually none of that can come from statistics.

 

I cannot control what college coaches recruit me

There are some things you cannot control the athletic recruiting process, namely who a college coach chooses to recruit or not recruit. However, you can stack the deck in your favor and improve your odds. First and foremost, college coaches want to recruit high school athletes that can get accepted to their college or university. If your grades and test scores are poor, it will not really matter who good your jump shot or fastball is, if you cannot get in, your recruiting process will not get off the ground. College coaches also like to recruit players of high work ethic and character. If they sense you will be a problem for four years, then they may pass on you. College coaches like to recruit good athletes. Some players are good at just their sport, but some coaches are looking for more well-rounded athletes that not only can run fast, or jump high but have great technique and intelligence for the game and are great all-around athletes. Now, let’s take those 3 elements (good grades, great work ethic and character, and great athlete), and see how those affect the recruiting process. If you are applying or looking at colleges where your grades and test scores are on the bubble for acceptance and your athletic skill is average for what that coach and program might look for in a recruit, then you are going to find that you have less ability to choose what college you attend. You have no leverage and the coach may have a list of 100 other recruits just like you. If, however, you have amazing grades and test scores, and are a hard working talented athlete who seeks out programs where your skills are above what that college coach might look for in a recruit, you will find that you can have multiple college programs that wish to recruit you. Ultimately, if you target the right schools and enough schools, you can have the ability to choose.

 

I can get recruited off of a good showcase performance

It’s possible, but coaches need to see more. Many a player dream of dinging a few home runs at a showcase while college coaches drool over your swing and in reality, that’s not often how it works. While a showcase performance can get the ball rolling in your recruiting process and get you on a coaches’ radar, most coaches need to see much more out of you before they potentially invest in 4 years of you as a player on their team. They need to see you play in meaningful games in some capacity! What is a meaningful game? It’s a game where there is something on the line for you. They want to see how you handle winning and losing, how you handle pressure, how you interact with your coaches and teammates, how you interact with your opponents or referee’s/umpires, how you handle making a great play or a bad play, or how you react to a teammate doing the same. These are things that can rarely be learned with a few shots or a few swings at a showcase so most coaches use them to decide whether or not they want/need to see more of you.

What is your summer athletic recruiting plan?

How to maximize your summer to help your college athletic recruiting process

The summer can be one of the most important times in the athletic recruiting process. It is a time when college coaches are free to recruit and high school athletes are free to visit colleges and play in different athletic games, events and tournament that potentially have college coaches in attendance.

Ask yourself this question: When does my high school season take place?

Now ask yourself this question: When does a college season in my sport take place? The answer is the same time as your high school season does, which limits the ability of college coaches to find recruits during (their season) and your season. WHICH IS THE SAME SEASON!

While you may want to go to the beach this summer or play some golf, college coaches are at camps, tournaments, summer games and showcases. Your job is to make sure you are doing what is needed to put yourself in a better position to be recruited. The summer is an extremely important time for college coaches to recruit. It’s the time when they have TIME. Depending on their needs, their level of play and their resources, some will travel the country looking for recruits, others will stay more local to their school and hit known venues and tournaments that have potential recruits. But all view the summer as an extremely important time to recruit.

Here are several things you can think about heading into the summer….

LEARN HOW THE ATHLETIC RECRUITING PROCESS WORKS

Many families don’t learn the recruiting process until after it is too late, and they say, “Well, had we known this or done that, we might have gotten more interest or exposure.” Don’t let the recruiting process sneak up on you. You need to know what is required of you, what your role is and what actions you need to take. Spend some time learning about the college recruiting process on varsityedge.com and you will have a better understanding of how to proceed. The responsibility of researching colleges and contacting college coaches is yours and yours alone. Better yet, check out our 241 page guide, The Making of a Student-Athlete. Many of the parents purchasing the book tell us they have kids in 8th or 9th grade now and are trying to learn the process before the process begins.

COME UP WITH A RECRUITING PLAN

What do you want to accomplish athletically this summer? Do you want to play games, do you want to go to camps and clinics, do you want to work out in the gym, do you want to visit as many schools as possible, or do you want to go to Australia and surf?

Ask yourself what you think would be best and then find a way to accomplish that. Playing more doesn’t mean playing better. Lifting weights doesn’t mean you will get stronger unless it’s done properly. Attending camps at colleges you don’t have the skills to play at will be of no benefit! If you are receiving many inquiries or offers already from coaches, you might want to concentrate or skill-building this summer rather than working on more exposure. See our article on Exposure in the college athletic recruiting process and How to increase your ability to choose what college you attend.

Other players will need to focus on putting themselves in front of college coaches at schools they might want to play at through different tournaments and events. If you live in New England, where there are over a 100+ colleges, and you want to attend school locally, there are many different events that can help you get in front of college coaches in that area. If you live in Minnesota or Wisconsin and have aspirations of attending school in Texas or Florida, you are going to have to come up with a plan that helps you display your skills to coaches in those states, as most of them probably won’t be flying to Minnesota to recruit you unless you are 7 feet tall or weight 330 pounds or run a 4.3 forty. If you live in Florida or Louisiana, you might be dismayed to find out there is only one Division 3 school in either of those states (Louisiana College), and if you are not a high level D1 or D2 player, you need a plan to get out of those States to a State with a college you can potentially play at.

ATTEND AN ATHLETIC CAMP

Whether you were the star on your high school team this year or wore a hole in the bench, camps are a good way to learn new skills and gets more reps in. They are also a good way to meet other players in your state or region and get a read on where your skills fit in relative to those players. As an added benefit, many college coaches use camps as an additional recruiting tool as it gives them an opportunity to see you play for multiple days. It also gives that coach an opportunity to learn more about you as a person which is difficult for them to do simply by showing up at one of your games for a few hours. As an added benefit, attending a camp gives you the opportunity to spend some time at a college and to get a better feel for what life might be like at that college.

Simply showing up at a camp and expecting to be recruited is not a recipe for success. You need to research individual colleges and programs to find out if that particular school might be a fit for you, both academically and athletically. Once you have done that, initiate contact with the coach to express interest and find out their recruiting needs (yes coaches recruit on need). The next step after that is to see if there is mutual need and interest and then perhaps attending their camp is the next logical step in the process. Many naysayers who spout “camps are just money making ventures for colleges and coaches” either don’t understand how recruiting works and/or probably attended a camp at a college they weren’t qualified to play at. If you cannot play football at Notre Dame or basketball at Kentucky, plunking your money down and attending their camps will not get you recruited at those schools. But I know some college coaches where 80% of their roster consists of players that attended their summer camp! See Making the summer college camp circuit work for your recruiting process

Maximize your summer athletic recruiting process

Maximize your summer athletic recruiting process

PLAY ON A CLUB OR TRAVEL TEAM

If you have a desire to play college athletics further away from your home, you are going to have to go to where the coaches are and travel teams are one way to do so. Not only do travel teams travel to other parts of the country, they also give you exposure to other players throughout the country and that can help you get a better sense of how your skills match up to other players. Yes, we know the travel team experience is getting a little out of control and costing more money and pulling high school athletes in more directions than they want to go in, but they still serve a purpose.

If you head down south to play against players that have the opportunity to play their sport 365 days a year and you struggle, that might help you assess your skills as they apply to different levels of college. From a college coach’s standpoint, travel teams offer the ability to see 30 or 40 players in one place (a big plus for them) who all have an interest in continuing their career at the college level. That is something they cannot get at an average high school game where they might see one or two players who have the skills (and desire) necessary to play at the college level.

ATTEND AN ATHLETIC SHOWCASE

The word showcase has almost become a four letter word and there are so many showcases now that parents and college coaches have a hard time deciding which ones to attend. While showcases are one tool in the recruiting process, they can be an important tool in the recruiting process, and allow a large number of coaches to see an even larger number of recruits in one place. Buyer beware, not all showcases are the same and some will have 40 college coaches in attendance and some will have 7. You should try to find out the format of each showcase and what schools will be in attendance prior to the showcase. If you are a D3 talent and a showcase is attracting D1 coaches, then what benefit will that be to you? If there are schools you have no interest in going to, what is the benefit of attending? If you have a 2.3 GPA and a low SAT score, attending a showcase with Ivy League or Patriot League coaches who have very high academic standards will not get you recruited either.

Much like summer camps, to make the showcase route work for you, you need to do your research on individual showcases and contact college coaches prior to the showcase to alert them not only of your attendance, but to make them aware that you are possibly interested in their program and potentially meet some of the qualifications they seek in a recruit.

Another buyer beware. While many coaches attend showcases, they will rarely recruit players solely off of a showcase alone, so the home run you pimped might not be enough to get you recruited by Big State University. Like video, college coaches will use showcase performances to see whom they want to pursue further and ultimately, college coaches want to see you play in meaningful games with something on the line, as opposed to you taking some cuts off of a pitching machine at a showcase. Showcases are great for showcasing but they rarely are able to re-create the sweat, tension and pressure of a meaningful game that has an impact on your season! What is a meaningful game you ask? it’s a game where something is on the line and a coach can see how you handle pressure, how you interact with your coaches and teammates, how you interact with ref’s and umpires, how you interact with your opponents, how you handle winning and losing, how you prepare for the game before the game. All of that is hard to see at a showcase. See Making the summer showcase circuit work for you

EVALUATE YOUR STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING

If you just came off a spectacular high school season and you don’t foresee the ability to gain a lot of skill or exposure over the summer, you may want to look into a strength and conditioning program. Becoming a little stronger, bigger, or faster, may be the extra edge you need to separate yourself from the competition.

WORK ON YOUR WEAKNESS

Everyone has a weakness, but no one likes to work on things that are difficult or hard. How many kids do you see down at the courts on the summer shooting free throws, dribbling with their left hand, working on their backhands, working on passing? Find out what your weakness is and work to eliminate it. Every time I turn on a college basketball game, I see 6’11” guys playing basketball that can’t make a shot unless it’s a dunk, which is a product of them being really tall and athletic in high school and not having to actually shoot because no one can guard them. Once they face other athletic 6’11” guys who have the same scholarship they do and they can’t get to the rim, they turn into a puddle!

VISIT DIFFERENT COLLEGES

While colleges are out for the year, you can visit schools and college coaches and until you visit multiple schools, you will have a difficult time deciding what you are looking for. Inevitably, you are going to visit schools you do not want to attend to find one you might like to attend. Some tours fill up fast, so when in doubt, schedule a tour ahead of time if need be. No two schools are alike. Take for instance Boston College and Boston University. While both technically in “Boston”, the schools have completely different campuses. Boston University is a city campus spread out with buildings that go down several city blocks. Boston College is outside of the city and is more contained in a central campus like its own little city. At BU, you can walk to the city of Boston or take a very short subway ride. At Boston College, you are far removed from the city and if you want to go to Boston, it might be a 40 minute subway ride. It’s important to see how a school with 2,000 students compares to a school with 10,000 students before you dismiss one or the other or how a school in the middle of nowhere compares to a school in or near a city.

campus_tours

CALL COLLEGE COACHES

Now that college coaches are done with their season, they have a little more time to field calls. Calling a coach directly can have a powerful effect on your recruiting process, but this is something that is rarely done by recruits. Often, high school players are shy or don’t know what to say to a coach or ask a coach and they settle for a letter or email. Pick up the phone and dial, and watch what happens. Call some coaches and tell them who you are and where you live and that you are interested in their program and they will take over the conversation from there. I will give you the first and only line you will need:

“Coach ____________, my name is __________, I am a junior at ___________ high school, and am interested in your school and program. – Let the coach take over from there. A lot of players and parents call coaches armed with stats and accomplishments and none of those are going to get you recruited off of the first phone call. Simply introduce yourself and the coach will ask the questions that he or she wants answers to. Please note, while the NCAA has different rules for when college coaches can call you for D1 and D2 coaches, you can call them anytime as often as you want on your dime. If you leave a message and it’s not the proper time to call you back, you may have to call them again until they answer. If you leave a message, please let the coach know your year and graduation date so they can determine if they can call you back per NCAA rules.

Many recruits or parents who call coaches arm themselves with a long list of stats and accomplishments. College coaches do not recruit stats and they could care less about them. In order to be recruited they need to see you play in some capacity so they can evaluate your skills and abilities, and then they need to learn more about you as a student and a person. Be prepared to talk about your academic record, what you might like to study in college as well as your skills and desires for your future. See How to contact college coaches

MAKE AN ATHLETIC RECRUITING VIDEO

Find someone with a video camera, a tripod and a brain; possibly the kid who works in the school library, give him $40 and go down to the field and shoot footage of various drills from different angles with your dad or coach or another player. If that doesn’t work for you, find a video service in your area. Compile a tape about 5-8 minutes long and send it to coaches you have spoken with previously at schools that are a potential fit for your skills. Add on some game footage at the end. While a video alone won’t get you recruited, it will help a college coach decide if they want “or need” to invest more time in seeing you play in person, which is the ultimate goal. See video making. If you aren’t sure what to make, ask college coaches you are communicating with what they like to see. Some like highlights, some like actual game footage so they can see you make mistakes that you won’t show in your highlight video. See How to create successful athletic recruiting videos

WHAT’S THE RECRUITING TIMELINE?

Some schools will even have their recruiting wrapped up with commitments before seniors step foot in class in the fall depending on the sport or program. When people ask me when coaches make offers or when coaches recruit, there is no one answer I can give. It is different for every coach and every team and every school. The lacrosse coach at John’s Hopkins is probably recruiting players at a younger age and extending offers before those kids step foot in class senior year because competition for the players who can play at that level is extremely intense. A small D3 school and lacrosse coach probably has a less aggressive recruiting timeline and might not be following any sophomores yet or might not extend offers until the fall or winter of senior year.

FRESHMAN AND SOPHOMORE ATHLETIC RECRUITING TIME TABLE

All (nearly all) college athletic websites have online recruit forms that you can fill out that go directly to the coaching staff and let a college coach know you found their website and are taking an active interest in their program and your recruiting process. A college coach that knows you play a sport and knows you exist can get you started in the recruiting process. While that coach cannot call you or really email you, they can see you play at a particular showcase or tournament should you alert them to your attendance. And a year or two down the road, that can work to your advantage. Many families and even some club programs think emailing coaches your freshman year will help you. While it might get your name in a system, both you and the college coach are not in a position to evaluate a particular program or a particular recruit at such a young age so try to hold off on communication until you are at least into your sophomore year, unless you are an athletic phenom.

JUNIOR ATHLETIC RECRUITING TIME TABLE

If you just wrapped up your sophomore year, you are entering an 18-month time period that is very important for recruiting purposes. Over the next 18 months (June of the end of your sophomore year to December of your senior year), it is important to start to research colleges, put yourself in a position to be recruited, communicate with college coaches and narrow down a list of potential colleges. At the end of this 18 months, it will be the fall/winter of your senior year and by then applications will start to be due and most college coaches will have extended offers to you either in the summer or in the fall. College coaches at the NCAA D1 and NCAA D2 level can begin to call you. See specific Contact Rules for each sport and division

SENIOR ATHLETIC RECRUITING TIME TABLE

If you just wrapped up your junior year, it is time to get going in the summer and get going quickly. The summer before your senior year is for many, the most important time in the recruiting process. As we have discussed in the beginning of this article, it is the time when most coaches have time to recruit and are on the road at different camps, tournaments and showcases evaluating prospects they are actively recruiting or prospects that have contacted them and expressed interest in their program. This is the time when you need to plan your summer schedule both for what events you will be attending and what colleges you will visit based on feedback and ongoing communication you are getting from college coaches. By the end of the summer, you should have a clear indication of what colleges are interested in recruiting you and you can use the fall of your senior year to narrow down your decisions. For some fall sports such as football or soccer, a strong senior season can help you get recruited, but for many winter or spring sports, your senior season will be too late in the recruiting process to have any real influence.

 

Will Specializing in One Sport help me get Recruited?

How does specialization play a role in the athletic recruiting process? Do I need to specialize?

I field many questions from parents and recruits via email. I often find myself repeating the same line, “what is right for one family is not necessarily right for another family!”

Do I need to play one sport in high school in order to be recruited?

Specialization is a controversial topic. I was a multi-sport athlete and I think it made me a better overall athlete. I played a ton of pick up basketball and for some reason, by the 11th grade at 5’11”, I could dunk a basketball. I played a lot of golf and baseball in the summer. I was a skier. I played hockey and soccer when I was younger. I golfed right handed but played hockey left handed. In this day and age, some specialization is necessary to stand out from the pack from a recruiting standpoint, but how much is too much is not a question for me to answer. Some kids love one sport and just want to play one sport. If you feel that is the right path for you, then I won’t tell you otherwise. This doesn’t mean play one sport every day for 12 months of the year until you need Tommy John surgery because your arm cannot make another throw. You need to understand your body, your limits and how rest (both mental rest and physical rest) will aid in your athletic development.

From a recruiting standpoint, there are advantages and disadvantages. College coaches want to recruit high school athletes that are really good at their sport, and getting really good requires some form of specialization unless you are just naturally talented at your sport. But college coaches also like to recruit really good athletes and becoming a really good athlete often requires playing multiple sports. There is a fine line between stretching yourself thin with many sports and seasons and playing, say, baseball 12 months out of the year.

But what is right for you and your family, may not be right for another family. There are two huge challenges in the athletic recruiting process. The first is when and where college coaches recruit. College coaches rarely if ever attend high school game to discover recruits. Why? Well, one, it’s not a great use of their time. Given the opportunity to attend a high school game where they might see one or two athletes that have the ability to play in college or a high level tournament with 200 players that all might be able to play in college, they will choose the event that maximizes their exposure to the most high school athletes. Two, and this is the big one, they cannot attend high school games because your games take place at the exact same time as THEIR games! This is a concept lost on many families in the recruiting process. If you see a college coach at a high school game, there are two reasons they are there. One, to scout a specific recruit they are actively recruiting and have already communicated with! Two, because they had a day or night off and are at a game with two schools that might have really good teams and players that might be close to their college.

Where are college coaches recruiting high school athletes?

Most recruiting takes place in the summer because college coaches are free that time to recruit. Some host their own athletic camps on their campus which is a great way for them to see kids perform over several days and a great way for you to get the feel for a school and coach. Please see our article What is your summer athletic recruiting plan? for more detailed information on how to maximize the athletic camp process for recruiting purposes. Others attend regional showcases and AAU/Club tournaments either to see players that have already expressed interest in their school or players that are of higher skill than your typical high school game.

Do you need to specialize in one sport to be recruited

Do I need to specialize in one sport to be recruited?

So this creates a dilemma. We have doctors and trainers and other sports professionals telling us that too much specialization is detrimental to the development of young athletes (and detrimental to their parent’s wallets), but we have a system where they need to specialize in some capacity if they wish to get recruited to play college athletics. We even have college coaches telling high school athletes to play multiple sports because they like to recruit multi-sport athletes, but those same coaches are not able or willing to attend your games when your main sport takes place in high school so if I am trying to get recruited for baseball how will playing golf in the summer help me when college coaches are running baseball camps and at baseball tournaments? And herein lies this huge problem without an acceptable or clear answer. This makes me circle back to the “what is right for one family is not necessarily right for another family!”

There are so many factors to consider. You could be counting on an athletic scholarship because it’s the only way you get to attend and pay for college. You might live hundreds of miles away from the nearest college and need to travel out of your State to simply be seen by ANY college coach. But there are so many factors to consider in those variables. For instance, you might play a sport where there just isn’t that much athletic scholarship money to go around (which is every sport not named football and basketball). Years ago I read an article about a family spending $40,000 a year to send their son to one of those private sports academy’s that pretend to also be a high school where you live at the school like a college. Their goal was to get a soccer scholarship in college. Think about that for a second! You are spending more money than you will probably get back!

The bottom line is many families are chasing the pot of golf at the end of the rainbow in the form of an athletic scholarship and when they get to the end of the rainbow there isn’t much gold to go around. If a college coach is lucky enough to have a decent amount of scholarships for his or her team, they are dividing that money up to 15 or 20 recruits in some cases. Some coaches are dividing one athletic scholarship up to 5 or 6 players, if not more.

You need to evaluate your situation and evaluate what you are trying to accomplish. A high school athlete in Massachusetts where there are 46 colleges at multiple levels that are both public and private may have much different goals and a much different recruiting process than a high school athlete in Louisiana where there are only 12 D1 schools that are mostly State schools and only two Division 3 school to choose from. It will be even different for the high school athlete in Minnesota where there are only 2 Division 1 Universities in the entire State.

And remember, “what is right for one family is not necessarily right for another family!”

How do Summer Athletic Camps Help my Athletic Recruiting Process

Will a summer athletic camp help high school athletes get recruited?

How do college coaches use summer athletic camps for recruitment?

Many families inquire as to the effectiveness of attending college athletic camps for the purposes of getting recruited. Some people will have you believe that college camps are a waste of money if you are trying to get recruited and others believe they are the best thing since sliced bread. The truth lies somewhere in between.

Most college camps are run for a few purposes: (1) to provide the coach, staff, and program with some additional income and (2) to provide a venue to see several hundred players who may be interested in attending your school and playing for your program. There are other coaches that simply love coaching and run camps as a benefit to local athletes and the community because they enjoy passing on their knowledge to younger students but let’s stick with the first two.

A summer camp for a college coach is an easy way to see several hundred players in one place over the course of a week. Not just to see them play but to meet them and learn about them as a person. The summer for a college coach is the time of the year when they are free to really recruit at camps, tournaments, summer games, and showcases and they take full advantage of the summer in any way they can. During their season, they are not really afforded the opportunity to attend your high school games because they are playing their games at the same time.

With that being said, it’s extremely important to be realistic about certain camps. Many kids sign up for camps at schools they have no realistic shot of playing at and they then wonder why they weren’t recruited after the camp. This sometimes has a residual affect as they tell future families not to waste their money attending camps for recruiting purposes because “you won’t get recruited!”

How do I choose what college summer camp to attend?

The first step is to identify this school as a school you “might” like to attend. If you honestly don’t have any interest in a school, then going to that camp for the purposes of trying to get recruited doesn’t make sense. If you want to go for skill-building purposes, then that is up to you.

The second step you need to take is to identify whether your skills would allow you to play for this particular program in the near future. If you are a 170-pound linebacker, attending camps at Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State won’t get you recruited by those programs to play linebacker. This is a fact of life that some people don’t want to accept and they keep attending camps at colleges they won’t be able to play for. There are 1,100 NCAA schools and your ability to find a program where your skills match up will in the end be the most important recruiting task you can perform.

The third important step is communicating with the college coach. Many people simply sign up for camp, run past the coach for a few days and then expect a phone call a few weeks later from the coach because they scored a bunch goals at camp. Some college camps may have 100 players or multiple sessions so if the coach doesn’t know who you are or that you are interested in their program, they simply may not notice you the way you want to be noticed.

Summer Camps and the Athletic Recruiting Process

Summer Camps and the Athletic Recruiting Process

If you call the coach before the camp and begin to build a relationship with them and communicate that their school is a place of interest for you, you will have a far better chance of being noticed by that coach and making the camp circuit work. But you have to do some research on the school and program first and you have to be realistic about your athletic skill. It doesn’t matter if you attend 1 camp or 100 camps, if you cannot realistically play for that school, the camp circuit might not work for you. If you find schools and programs that better fit your skills and desires, and you communicate with the coach prior to the camp, you will have a far better chance of getting recruited via a summer camp at a college.

At the end of the day you have to realize that the coach may only be recruiting 5 or 10 players a year and may already have recruits in their pipeline or committed, so the odds of you simply being discovered at a camp are not always in your favor. There is a process that needs to take place before you attend camp. We also know that virtually every college coach we have spoken to places a great deal of emphasis on their college camp each year and sees it as a valuable tool in allowing them to see athletes and allowing athletes to see them and we have met many players who have all benefited from attending college camps.

There is also a hidden benefit to some camps. Many college camps have other college coaches working at the camp. A rule of thumb is that two colleges that compete for the same type of recruits will not work each other’s camp, but many D1 camps have D2 and D3 coaches working and vice versa. This allows you the opportunity to be seen by other coaches from other schools where you might be a better fit at and we have met several players who were discovered by coaches working at an entirely different camp.

A college camp is one step in the recruiting process and requires some research and communication with coaches on your part prior to the attending a camp. You may find you are getting many camp flyers in the mail or personal requests from college coaches you are speaking to. It doesn’t mean they are recruiting you, but it’s an opportunity to possibly get recruited.

View it as an opportunity to expand your skills, meet some new players, get a sense of your ability, and as a way to be seen by college coaches.

How Do Athletic Showcases Help Me Get Recruited?

Do athletic showcases help high school athletes get recruited?

Do high school athletes need to attend athletic showcases?

Players looking to broaden their exposure in the college recruiting process will often turn to showcases. These one or two day events offer high school players the opportunity to display their skills to college coaches and are a way for coaches to prospective recruits display their skills. While showcases offer can offer exposure to a larger number of schools in one place, a college coach will rarely recruit from a showcase performance alone, but use that event to decide if they want to pursue certain players further. One of the challenges of showcases is that despite the attendance of many colleges at a given event, a certain recruit might not have the skills or academic background to play or gain acceptance to several of the schools in attendance.

While you may be “showcasing” your skills to 30 colleges in one day, realistically, a recruit might be only to play at 4 or 5 of those schools based on their ability. Rather than attending random showcases, it is important to evaluate your ability as it may apply to different colleges in the area and then try to determine what colleges will be attending a given showcase. Northeastern University assistant baseball coach James Pinzino approaches showcases as follows. “Showcases have become an important recruiting tool because of the numbers of players we can see at once. However, a player’s ability to compete, particularly in the pressure of an important game, is a huge component of success at the college level. The only way to evaluate this is to see players compete in real games where something is on the line. So like video, we use showcase performances as a tool to decide who we want to pursue further!”

Many families attend showcases hoping for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and it’s not that simple. Simply showing up, hitting a few home runs or 3-pointers probably will not get you a scholarship offer the next day!

How do I choose what athletic showcase to attend?

1 – WHAT COLLEGES ARE GOING TO BE IN ATTENDANCE? That’s so important that I put it in capital letters! As I mentioned above, there may be 30 colleges at a given showcase, but if your academic record or athletic skills do not warrant acceptance or recruitment to 25 of the schools in attendance, then you will not get the benefit of showcasing yourself to the 30 schools in attendance. Do not focus on how many schools are there, focus on what schools are there! More on this below!

2 – What facilities are being used? Some showcases take place on multiple fields. A coach cannot be in two places at once, so if you are on field 1 and the coach is one field 2, you might not get the benefit of performing well.

3 – Is the event a multi-day event? Some coaches do not attend the second day because they have seen what they need to see in day one.

4 – What drills and/or tests will be required. Will there be any weight lifting tests or running or agility tests that you can prepare for in advance? We have heard instances of 60-yard dashes being run on gravel or high grass which hadn’t been mowed in two weeks, now 80 recruits have a slow 60 yard dash time listed on a sheet of paper.

How do I use showcases to help me get recruited by college coaches?

1 – Communicate with college coaches prior to the showcase. In step 1, we recommend trying to find out what colleges will be in attendance at a given showcase. In order to accomplish this, you often need to perform some type of communication with college coaches prior to the showcase. While coaches have different rules as to when they can communicate with you via phone (at the D1 and D2 level), they can respond to email and they can receive your phone calls at any time. Trying to find out what showcases a given coach/school will be attending is an innocent way to introduce yourself to a college coach. I don’t want to get into researching colleges at this point as that is an entirely different and long topic, but a simple email or phone call saying “Coach Stevens, my name is Dave Smith, I am completing my junior year at Town High School and am interested in continuing my baseball career at the college level and am interested in your school and program. I am trying to plan my summer recruiting activity and wanted to inquire as to what showcases if any you will be attending this summer?” Coaches like to recruit good athletes, but they also like to recruit athletes that want to attend THEIR college. It is important in the recruiting process that you indicate to college coaches that you are interested in their program time and time again.

2 – Follow up with coaches you are in communication with prior to the showcase. Finding out what colleges might be in attendance in step 5 above and following up with college coaches are two different things. In this scenario, you have developed a prior relationship with a college coach through previous recruiting activity and in this case, you are communicating with the college coach that you are attending a specific showcase that he/she is attending and that you look forward to meeting them and speaking to them personally! The goal here is to one, alert the college coach that you are attending a specific event that he/she is attending, and two, that you are being proactive about your recruiting process. If the coach is interested in watching you perform and you have developed a prior relationship with them, they will be more apt to watch YOUR showcase performance amongst all the other athletes in attendance.

3 – Manage your actions and emotions. Several years ago, I met a coach who attended a baseball game to see a particular recruit. The coach arrived prior to the game and saw the player with his shirt off talking to a bunch of girls when he should have been getting ready to play the game. The coach packed up his stuff and left. Coaches watch and notice everything, so conduct yourself accordingly. Run hard, accept feedback, don’t take plays off, don’t berate your fellow athletes, don’t style a home run and so on!

4 – Follow up with college coaches after the showcase. You are as much a part of the college athletic recruiting process as the college coach is. You have dreams and desires and will be paying for college, so it is important that the decisions you make about college are made for you, not by someone else. If there is a particular school you are interested in, you need to communicate that to the college coach to move the process to the next step. If the coach is interested, they will most likely tell you. And, if the coach is not interested, they will most likely tell you. You don’t want to string them along and they do not want to string you along. Following up with the coach after a showcase performance will get right down to it. They may want to learn more about you, they may request video, they may tell you they want to see you play more, or they may tell you they have other recruits they are evaluating right now but to keep in touch. Getting a NO from a coach may be devastating to you, but it’s simply an indication that you need to focus on other schools. In reality, getting a no is a good thing, it tells you where you might be at in the recruiting process and frees more time up for you to research other colleges that might be a better fit! If there isn’t a match right now, do not burn any bridges with that college coach. That coach might have a list of 50 other players they rank higher than you, but 49 of those players might fall of that list for one reason or another over the next 5 months. Thank the coach for their time and tell them to keep in touch if anything in their recruiting process changes!

Showcases are not magic; they are one recruiting tool that you can use to increase your chances to be recruited. College coaches really need to see you play in person in some capacity, but seeing you play in person in a showcase is not the beginning or end of your recruitment. It is important to evaluate your abilities, evaluate different colleges and communicate with college coaches as to what they look for and what their needs are and then find way to display your skills to them. Don’t simply show up at a showcase hoping to be noticed or recruited by any college.

Want more? See our new article, How do I Get Recruited to Play College Sports

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