How do I get recruited to play college sports? Here are 8 tips to help you succeed in the college athletic recruiting process
How important are academics in the athletic recruiting process?
1 – Be a really good Student. While big-time football and basketball programs may have some lax academic standards for recruits, most college coaches will not recruit you if you are not close to what their college looks for academically. You need to focus on your grades and research colleges where your academic record is a fit with what that college looks for in an applicant. While coaches have the ability to submit lists of student-athletes they are actively recruiting to admissions, this varies at every college as to how effective it can be!
How important is athletic skill in the athletic recruiting process?
2 – Be a good athlete. My summer coach used to talk about the pyramid where you have all the high school athletes here, then you have college athletes above and then you have pro athletes above. Some athletes are simply better than others, a fact you must accept. This doesn’t mean you cannot work on your game as well as your physical attributes (size, speed, stamina, coordination) to get better. Work on all aspects of your game. Work on your weaknesses. Work on how you approach the game mentally. Work on learning the rules of the game and so forth to try and get better.
How realistic do I need to be in the athletic recruiting process?
3 – Be realistic. You may have aspirations of playing football for Alabama or Basketball for Kentucky, but only a select few high school athletes have the skills to play for programs of that caliber. There are over 1,000 NCAA colleges and several hundred NAIA and Junior colleges that you can potentially play your sport at. It’s important to try and find a college where your skills match up with the level of play in a given program. You might not be able to play at a high level D1 program (or even a highly skilled D2 or DS3 team), and you might not qualify for athletic scholarship money, but if you have the skills to play in college and apply yourself in the athletic recruiting process, there is a place for you to play! See: How do I determine what level I can play at?
How proactive do I need to be in the athletic recruiting process?
4 – Be proactive. While a few students are “discovered” being found is mostly a myth. College coaches rely on high school athletes reaching out to them for the purposes of being recruited. You need to fill out online recruit forms on the college’s website, email coaches directly and in many cases, call them to introduce yourself. Do not try to get recruited from one email or one phone call, rather focus on simply introducing yourself to them as a person who is potentially interested in their school and program. See: How do I contact college coaches?
How many programs do I need to research for the athletic recruiting process?
5 – Do the research. The mistake many families make in the recruiting process is they reach out to colleges and coaches at schools they are not qualified to play at. While college coaches like to hear directly from recruits, they like to hear from recruits that have done some research on their school and program and think it might be a potential fit. So, before you are proactive in contacting them, you need to be proactive in researching many different programs. Who does the school play? who does the coach recruit? Where does the coach recruit?
How do I evaluate my athletic skill for the athletic recruiting process?
6 – Evaluate your athletic skill. Determining your athletic skill can sometimes be tricky but self-reflection helps. How do you perform against other players at your high school? How do you perform vs. other players in your league? How do you perform against other players in your State? How do you perform against other players in the country? The recruiting process is a global process. You are not competing against players on your high school team, you are competing against every qualified high school athlete in the country if not the world in some cases! You need to play in different events and venues against different competition in order to understand how your skills compare to other players. See: How do I determine what college level I can play at?
How much athletic scholarship money is out there?
7 – Be prepared to pay for college. Many parents are chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to recoup the investment they have made in their child’s athletic career thus far. After Division 1 football and Division 1 basketball, there is very little money in the form of athletic scholarships for other sports. In reality, you might have a better chance to be an academic star and apply to colleges that have a hard time attracting applicants in the hopes of receiving academic aid and grants. Sports like baseball with 11.7 D1 scholarships or Lacrosse with 12.6 athletic scholarships divide their athletic scholarship money between many recruits, and that is if the program is even fully funded which many are not. Despite your talents, if you receive a one third athletic scholarship at a private college, you will be on the hook for an additional $40,000 in tuition money each year if you don’t qualify for financial aid. See: What are the odds for an athletic scholarship?
How hard is it to be recruited by college athletic coaches?
8 – Get off the beaten path. There are colleges that receive 30,000 applications a year and colleges that many recruits gravitate to because of the success of the program, reputation, coolness factor and so forth. The John Hopkins Lacrosse team is not hurting for recruits as just about every lacrosse player of note in high school probably wants to play there. Then there are programs like Occidental College that just canceled the remainder of their D3 football schedule because they lacked enough players to continue the season. When you subtract the colleges you know from watching football or basketball on TV and the colleges you know near where you live, there are another 900+ colleges you have never heard of that all potentially offer an opportunity to play college sports. The more research you do, and the more college coaches you reach out to, the more recruiting opportunities you will create.
For more information on succeeding in the college athletic recruiting process, check out The Making of a Student-Athlete our 241 page guide.