There is another you out there.
You’ve worked hard in your sport for several years. You’ve taken private lessons and attended camps. You’ve played on an elite club/AAU team that’s traveled your region or country exposing you to other good players where you have held your own. You’ve spent time in the gym lifting weights and running to get stronger and faster, maybe even with a personal trainer. You’ve worked hard in school and have the grades and SAT scores to garner acceptance to many different colleges. Your parents have sacrificed their time and money developing your athletic career in the hopes you get a shot to play at the next level. You have a bunch of trophies on your dresser and articles in your local paper.
You’ve done everything right so far. Now it’s time to try and get recruited. There is one big obstacle in your way. There is another you out there. There is another 6-foot-tall athlete that weighs 180 pounds and runs a 4.3 forty. There is another pitcher that throws 89 with a good curve. There is another goalie with a .98 goals against average. There is another golfer with a 3 handicap. There is another tennis player undefeated in match play in high school. There is another lineman who weighs 297 pounds. There is another 6’5” receiver who jumps out of the building. There is another swimmer who swims a sub 22 second 50 freestyle. There is another athlete that runs the mile in 4:30
That other you has also worked hard on the field and in the classroom. That other you also wants to play college athletics. That other you might want a scholarship or partial scholarship. That other you might even want to attend the same school(s) you want to attend.
This is what makes the college athletic recruiting process so challenging. There are thousands of other high school athletes vying for a place on a college roster. There may be high school athletes 3,000 miles away from you who are applying to schools 20 minutes from your house because those schools offer something they want! You think the college coach won’t find them.
So how do you differentiate yourself? How do you beat out that other YOU for a spot on a college roster?
The key is to focus on things within your control.
Control how hard you work in the classroom. Admissions is no secret, the better your grades and test scores are, the more likely you will gain acceptance to more colleges. The first question college coaches will usually ask you is “so how are your grades and test scores?” If you can’t get in, your recruiting process is over. While there are recruits a coach might want to recruit, many of them simply will not be able to gain acceptance to many of the schools they might want to attend because of grades.
Control how hard you work on the field or on the court or ice, pick a surface! While we aren’t all as tall, fast, strong, or big as we might want to be, we can improve our skill in a given sport through hard work, practice and dedication. We can get a little better, a little faster and quicker, a little stronger, and a little smarter.
Control what colleges you choose to pursue recruiting opportunities at. The most successful families are those that have extremely strong academic records and strong athletic skills and combine those skills by targeting the right colleges. What are the right colleges? They are colleges where your academic record and athletic skills match or exceed what the college coach at that school looks for in a recruit. There are a 1,000+ colleges to play athletics at. If you target well-known programs that have thousands of applicants and hundreds of recruits trying to get in and play there, you probably won’t stand out. No amount of recruiting effort will get you recruited at colleges where you cannot gain acceptance or do not possess the skills to play at athletically. You can send all the highlight tapes and emails you want, but it won’t matter. If you don’t have good grades and test scores, you aren’t getting into Harvard. If you aren’t one of the elite basketball players in the country, you aren’t getting recruited by Kentucky!
Control how you conduct your recruiting efforts. College coaches need to see you play and they usually need to see you play in person in some capacity in a meaningful game. Playing high school games is usually not enough to get it done. You need to take your academic record, and your athletic skill and then find events where you can display your skills to the colleges that you choose to target and those that are a good fit for your abilities! The other you that lives 3,000 miles away might have the qualifications to play at a college down the street from you, but if they cannot find a way to play in front of that coach in some capacity, the coach is probably going to go with a recruit they have seen play in meaningful competition. If you want to play 3,000 miles from home, you too will need to find a way to display your skills to those coaches.
But to really separate yourself, control how you engage college coaches. When all things are equal (no two recruits are every really equal), meaning a coach is evaluating many players of similar skill level and academic qualifications, what often wins out is a player’s ability to articulate their maturity and desire to play for a given coach and program. Coaches love to recruit talented athletes, but they really want to recruit athletes that want to be a part of THEIR program and athletes that can play at THEIR program and students who can get into THEIR school. College coaches get tons of emails and online recruit forms from high school athletes, and they try to pick through it as best they can. They get lots of emails from recruiting services (that are quickly deleted.) You want to make some headway in the recruiting process, do all the steps above, identify 20 schools you potentially match up with and pick up the phone and call some college coaches to express your interest in their school and program. Ask them what their needs are and how you can go about being evaluated and considered for recruitment!
Some people will tell you that in the recruiting process, you don’t get to choose who recruits you, only the college coaches choose. You are as much a part of the process as the college coach is. If you are smarter and more talented than other recruits and reach out to the right programs and the right college coaches, you will find that you have multiple offers and multiple college coaches competing for your services. You will find that you have the ability to CHOOSE! You can out-recruit the other you!