Athletic recruiting changes that affect high school athletes
Check out some important changes to the college athletic recruiting process including changes to financial aid, official visits, NCAA eligibility standards and more…
Check out some important changes to the college athletic recruiting process including changes to financial aid, official visits, NCAA eligibility standards and more…
My friend reached out to me recently and asked the following: In your expert opinion, for sports with factual results, like running times, or jump heights, how important is it for a college coach to see you perform? Or do they just pick kids in rank order based on their performance?
I try not to lump all college coaches into one category. They are all individuals who often look for different traits in a potential recruit and they all recruit differently. Most college coaches, however, need to see an athlete perform multiple times and usually in a meaningful game. What’s a meaningful game you ask? It’s an event where something is on the line if you win or lose, unlike say, a showcase game. This can give the college coach a sense of how you handle pressure, how you handle winning, how you handle losing, how you treat teammates, coaches, ref’s, opponents and so forth. This is an important step in the recruiting process. A college coach needs to know not only what type of athlete they are recruiting but what type of person. To many coaches, your character and desire is more important than your skill, especially when you start to look at colleges more focused on academics than athletics.
I spoke to a college coach years ago who went to a game to see a prospect and they left before the game started. Why? Because 10 minutes before the game the player had his shirt off and was talking to a bunch of girls. Maybe he hit 3 home runs that day, but we will never know! The coach wanted a player more focused on THE GAME. Maybe that player had amazing stats, but college coaches don’t recruit stats.
I also know coaches that coach in places that less people have heard of or at new programs and they will reach out to me and say “Dave, do you know any female golfers that want to play in college? At this point I will take anyone that knows what side of the tee to tee up the ball or else I won’t have a team to field this season!” Yes, that is a true story!
While sports that are timed like swimming or running can give you an advantage in the recruiting process because it’s a tangible score that can be compared to other high school or college athletes, the college coach will ask themselves three important questions when evaluating a high school athlete.
1 -What is this athlete’s technique like?
2 – How much will they possibly grow physically?
3 – Given question 1 and 2, how much better could more experience and my coaching make them?
If you were a track coach and saw Tom Brady glacially run his 40 yard dash at the NFL combine 20 years ago, you might say to yourself, “His technique is awful, but with a few years of training (both in technique and weight lifting and/or running drills), I can probably shave a few 10ths of a second off his running time, so he hasn’t peaked yet and I can make him faster!”
The same coach might see Usain Bolt and say ‘Wow, he’s peaked physically and his technique is amazing and there is nothing I could improve for him and he probably won’t get much faster!” Obviously no one is faster than Bolt, but you get the point! One athlete has peaked, and the other can only improve.
So a coach will look at a high school athlete and try to see where they are now and what their potential is. If they have peaked physically and their technique is good, the coach may think that they are, for example, running or swimming about as fast as they will run or swim. I say peaked physically with a grain of salt. Everyone can get a little bigger or faster or stronger, but some high school athletes have already hit their growth spurt physically where others have not. Lebron James in high school is a good example of someone who was physically ahead of virtually every other player at that age.
In this scenario, if your times are as good if not better than the college times of the school(s) you are interested in, it may be easier to get recruited purely on your times regardless of whether you have peaked physically because you are in a sense, already good enough and your times prove it!
If your times are slower and you have peaked physically to some degree, a coach might pass because they might not see the ability for you to improve much beyond where you are. So in this case your times can impact you negatively in the recruiting process.
On the flip side, if they see the potential to greatly improve your technique and improve your physical traits (think Tom Brady running at the NFL combine again) and your times are close to that of the college times but not quite there, the coach may realize that you will only improve with more training and experience. That is where your recruiting advantage can come with having a physical time to compare to someone or something else. As they often say, the scoreboard doesn’t lie! In reality, every college coach will try to project your potential regardless of what sport you play.
That’s a very long-winded way of saying it really depends on the individual coach and the individual athlete. If you are the fastest kids in the country and have good grades, a coach 3,000 miles away might take a flyer on you with some good recommendations about your work ethic and personality without having to see you actually perform. But you have to factor in grades, team needs, work ethic and desire and so forth, and none of that can be shown by simply telling a coach how fast you run or how fast you swim or how high you jump. Even at the pro level, there is a long list of athletes who were amazing athletes but didn’t stick around because of their work ethic, attitude or addiction to something detrimental. Antonio Brown come to mind?
Every high school athlete involved in the athletic recruiting process needs to research different programs and reach out to college coaches to see what their needs are. Once you have done that, you need to find a way to display your talents, personality and work ethic to those coaches so they can evaluate you. That goes for every sport. If you play a sport with physical times, that can give you an advantage in the recruiting process, but there is so much more a college coach looks for.
There is a good quote. If you don’t have time to do it right, you sure don’t have time to do it twice. The college athletic recruiting process should not sneak up on you. It takes time, preparation, hard work and a little luck. Follow these 8 tips to help you be more successful
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!
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.
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 D3 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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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….
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.
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 certain colleges 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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
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
Some schools will 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.
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.
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
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.
Varsityedge.com has fielded lots of questions over the years. Here are some of the more common questions we receive.
Division 1 football teams are allowed to offer 85 athletic scholarships for their entire team and up to 25 new recruits each year. There is some discrepancy in football where teams can sign 28 players and then ask some to defer to the spring semester (gray shirt) which the NCAA frowns upon.
No, athletic scholarships are only offered at the Division 1 and Division 2 level. You may, however, find a more attractive financial aid package at a Division 3 schools if you are an outstanding student and apply to colleges looking for students from your State or region to enroll.
There are over 325 Division 1 baseball teams at the NCAA level as well as many at the NAIA and JUCO level.
NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball teams can offer 13 athletic scholarships for their entire team and NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball teams can offer 15 athletic scholarships for their entire team. There are no partial scholarships at this level, you either receive a full scholarship or are considered a walk-on.
Below is a graphic the NCAA puts out which I despise because in no way does it factor in the number of players in each sport who were even interested in playing in college or who had the actual skills needed to play in college. This is not a probability chart in any way. If you have the skills to play in college and apply some effort to your recruiting process, your probability of playing in college is 100% If you do not have the skills and athletic ability to play at the college level, your probability is zero percent! Read more about participation numbers
Division 1 baseball offers 11.7 athletic scholarships per team (11.78 if you want to be technical). These can be divided up to up to 27 players in the form of partial athletic scholarships. Please note, some teams will have more than 27 players on their roster but only 27 are allowed to receive aid per NCAA rules. The NCAA made several rules changes to D1 baseball a few years ago, among them: Rosters could not exceed 35 players. The Minimum athletic scholarship a player could receive was 25%. Players transferring from D1 to D1 in baseball must sit out one year. If a player on the fall roster is receiving aid and leaves the team, the coach cannot use his aid for the spring with another player. Coaches cannot use players in the spring that were ineligible in the fall. The 25% minimum scholarship rule creates a bit of a problem because many D1 baseball teams only have a few athletic scholarships to offer because it’s not a revenue generating sport. If a team has 3 total athletic scholarships available and divides that into 25% portions, they have twelve 25% portions to use. That means up to 20 players on the team will potentially receive no athletic scholarship money at all!
Yes and no. This is straight from the NCAA Division 1 Manual
126.96.36.199 Reduction or Nonrenewal Not Permitted
—After the Period of the Award. [A] If a student athlete receives athletically related financial aid in the academic year of his or her initial full-time enrollment at the certifying institution, the following factors shall not be considered in the reduction or nonrenewal of such aid for the following academic year or years of the student-athlete’s five-year period of eligibility:
(a) A student-athlete’s athletics ability, performance or contribution to a team’s success (e.g., financial aid contingent upon specified performance or playing a specific position)
(b) An injury, illness, or physical or mental medical condition; or
(c) Any other athletics reason.
188.8.131.52 Reduction or Cancellation Permitted. Institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics ability may be reduced or canceled during the period of the award if the recipient: (a) Renders himself or herself ineligible for intercollegiate competition;
(b) Fraudulently misrepresents any information on an application, letter of intent or financial aid agreement (see Bylaw 184.108.40.206.3);
(c) Engages in serious misconduct warranting substantial disciplinary penalty (see Bylaw 220.127.116.11.4); or
(d) Voluntarily (on his or her own initiative) withdraws from a sport at any time for personal reasons; however, the recipient’s financial aid may not be awarded to another student-athlete in the academic term in which the aid was reduced or canceled.
Yes, the numbers are a little lower in a few sports compared to Division 1, but they are offered.
Men’s basketball: Electronic correspondence can begin June 15th after sophomore year.
Women’s basketball: Electronic correspondence can begin September 1st of junior year.
Football: Electronic correspondence can begin June 15th after sophomore year. This was just changed in April of 2016 to be in line with men’s basketball.
All Other sports: Electronic correspondence can begin September 1st of junior year.
Swimming & Diving, Cross Country, Track & Field: Only email and faxes allowed until you provide a written commitment to the NCAA school
DIVISION 2 & 3
Texting is also allowed at the D2 level on/after June 15th of a prospects sophomore year.
The NCAA D3 council voted in January of 2012 on text messaging and it is now allowed at the D3 level for every sport.
The National Letter of Intent or NLI is a legal document signifying the award of athletic aid at an NCAA Division 1 or NCAA Division 2 school. When you sign an NLI, you must attend the institution with which you signed for a minimum of one year. Wondering what happens if you sign and then the coach leaves? You are stuck! You sign with a school, not a coach. You an appeal to the school for your release, but they do not have to let you out of it. This might be the first important legal document you sign, so when you sign it, understand with it comes responsibility and repercussions.
A verbal commitment to a college has no legal authority until a college coach offers an award letter and a recruit signs a National Letter of Intent.
By answering the questions the college coach asked. Even if you are not interested in the college at this time, respond to the coach in a professional manner by thanking him for contacting you. If you are truly not interested, we would advise you to say something like: “Coach (Name), Thank you for contacting me. Right now I am pursuing other opportunities, but if my situation changes I will contact you immediately!”
When you are born. Yes, we have all heard about the 7th grade phenom who already has a standing athletic scholarship offer from some college. This is nothing more than a publicity stunt and trying to get a kid excited about a school. Most of these usually fall through because kids don’t pan out or the coach is long gone from the school. There are specific signing dates for NCAA sports, and athletic scholarship offers can come before those. The offers coaches make to 7th and 8th graders are not real!
There are 120+ Junior College Football teams that compete at the NJCAA in three different divisions. These sports offer athletic scholarships and have national championships. See NJCCA.org
It depends on the sport you play. If you play a spring sport like baseball or softball, it is too late to have any real recruiting impact because applications have already been sent in, and in reality, college coaches are recruiting sophomores and juniors in the spring. If you play a fall sport like football, or basketball, a strong senior season can impact your recruiting process if the college coach has time to evaluate you before applications are due. Since colleges have different application schedules, it can vary from school to school and coach to coach.
There are 3 divisions of Junior College (D1, D2 and D3). D1 can offer full athletic scholarships. D2 can offer scholarships for tuition and books but not room and board. D3 cannot offer any athletic scholarships.
NCAA D1 – College coaches can begin to call you after September 1st at beginning of your junior year.
NCAA D2 – College coaches can begin to call you beginning June 15th before your junior year.
NCAA D3 – Unlike D1 and D2, there are no restrictions as to when a D3 coach can call a prospect in high school. The NCAA feels that smaller D3 schools do not have the time, money, or resources to abuse this privilege, which will often be true.
Football Specific (Junior Year): In Division I & IAA, one call from April 15 to May 31 of your junior year. Additional calls cannot be made before September 1st of your senior year
Men’s Basketball Specific: In the summer of 2012 The NCAA adopted new contact rules for men’s D1 basketball. Coaches will be allowed unlimited phone calls starting June 15 after a recruit’s sophomore year. Private messages on social networks also will be deregulated. Women’s basketball calls can begin on September 1st of your junior year. Once that begins, the calls from coaches are unlimited.
Women’s Ice Hockey – A college coach may call International college-bound student-athletes once on or after July 7th after sophomore year. One call per week beginning July 7th after junior year.
Men’s Ice Hockey – College coaches may begin calling on January 1st of your sophomore year.
Other Sports: Swimming & diving, cross country, track and field may not be made before July 1st following junior year.
As a league, the Ivy’s monitor athletic admissions via a concept called the Academic Index or AI. The academic index is not a secret, but it’s not something readily discussed by coaches and administrators. The academic index is a computed score of three components – SAT I, SAT II, and GPA (Class rank was removed in 2011 from the calculation). The minimum AI for all IVY League Schools was raised to 176 in 2011 (the max is 240). Also, the mean score at each school depends on the quality of the student body; therefore, it will vary (slightly) from school to school, so Harvard will have a higher AI than Dartmouth.
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!”
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.
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.
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!”
Snowmageddon coming to New England and the college recruiting process.
With the impending blizzard rumored to be dumping 24 inches of snow on New England this week, thousands of college athletes who play spring sports are soon going to be wondering if they will have a season. And thousands of high school athletes are wondering if they want to stick around here for four more years to play college athletics. Two weeks ago, it was 70 here. People were at the driving range, flowers were coming up and life was good. Now, not so much.
The lure to play college athletics in a warm climate is a powerful one, but often one fraught with challenges. I myself was a victim who went south to Florida from Massachusetts to escape many things when I was younger. My college career in Florida lasted all of two weeks. The players from there were simply better and the recruits who were recruited from out-of-state were also better. While specialization is a controversial topic I have addressed in other articles, when given two equal players of similar athletic ability, the player that specializes in one sport is probably going to be a little better just like the lawyer who studies more law is going to be a better lawyer. In New England, you often have players that play football in the fall and basketball in the winter and maybe baseball in the spring, then they play their dominant sport in the summer! In Florida and other southern states, you have athletes concentrating on one sport more and athletes that can concentrate on one sport more because of the weather! There is simply 4 months in New England and other players where you simply cannot play baseball or softball outside because it’s simply too cold!
The high school baseball player from New England or Michigan (pick a place that is cold) has many disadvantages when trying to play baseball in a state like Texas or Florida. Let’s stick with Florida. It’s a state with thousands of high school baseball players who play their sport year-round. It’s a state with many talented college baseball programs at all levels, even the D3 programs. If you are interested in playing against the best, you don’t have to leave the State for college and you can attend a State School for half the money of a school in another State. On a side note, Florida also guarantees admission to State Schools in a program called the Talented Twenty program for academic qualifiers.
From a college coach’s perspective, you can fill your roster with recruits in your own backyard without having to leave the state. Teams like Saint Leo, Nova Southeastern, or Florida Southern have rosters comprised of virtually all players from the state of Florida. Even big schools like Miami and Florida State recruit almost exclusively in the state. If you are a college coach at a State School, you have the added benefit of being able to stretch your precious scholarship dollars further with in-state recruits who qualify for a lower tuition number. While a star player from Minnesota might want to come to Florida to play baseball, a college coach may have little or no college scholarship money to offer them. Now that player must decide if they want to turn down offers locally to pay full freight at a school in another state just because it’s warmer!
So where does this leave the out-of-state recruit who doesn’t want his arm falling off playing in New England in the “spring” where it’s 39 degrees out for half your games? On the outside, unfortunately!
The biggest challenge for out-of-state recruits is that not only do they have to be as good as their Florida counterparts, they have to be better! Here’s why. When a northern kid comes to Florida, they have different expectations. They were a star on their team and they expect to play. When they don’t play right away, they realize they could be playing at the long list of schools that were recruiting them locally back home. What happens now is they get frustrated and leave. Southern coaches have seen it time and time again, and they are often weary of recruiting kids up north because of this. When the Florida player doesn’t play right away, they don’t flee home, because they are home! Not playing right away is not as much of an issue. They understand the talent in their state and that they must bide their time. They don’t pack their bags and call the coach in Maine to fly 1,500 miles from home to play baseball in an igloo!
1 – You have to be extremely talented and confidant in your abilities.
2 – You need to see how your skills match up with local players somehow, possibly through a team that travels down south to play local teams! Simply assuming your skills will translate to a given state or school down south “just because” won’t cut it. This goes for any college really. You can never assume you can play anywhere until you have done your research on what types of players a school recruits!
3 – You have to really connect with college coaches and try to understand what their plans or expectations are for you. This isn’t always easy and some coaches will be more honest with you than others.
4 – You have to be patient. You might now be a small fish in a big pond. You might not play right away. This is hard for every incoming freshman athlete, but can be harder for the elite high school players who haven’t sat on the bench since 5th grade!
5 – You have to be willing to potentially pay more for college. Any state school is probably going to recruit more in-state players simply because their scholarship dollars can be stretch further. They may want you on their team, but they might not have any or very little money to offer you.
Two additional points. Many of the things you need to succeed down south are things you need to succeed at any college. Two, don’t simply try to go down south just because it’s warm. There may be hundreds of great colleges in your area that you can both play at and get a great education that you might dismiss otherwise. We met a player years ago, who was a top golfer getting recruited by many colleges throughout the country. He chose to go to school in Michigan. When we asked why he simply said, “I need to go to a place where it snows so I have time of mentally and physically from golf and I know if I go down south, I won’t have that!”
There are many things to consider in the college athletic recruiting process for high school athletes and their parents. What works for one family will not work for another. Where one family succeeds, another might fail. While there are some best practices, there is no set path to success and no road map to follow that will guarantee the outcome you desire. There is a lot of luck too! With that being said, I believe there are 5 non-negotiable factors in the recruiting process that you must check off in order to succeed as a college athlete and graduate with a degree.
This one is pretty simple. Your grades will ultimately determine what colleges you can get accepted to. The first question a college coach will usually ask you is “how are your grades?” For them, if they aren’t up to par, it’s not worth their energy to pursue you because no amount of athletic skill is going to get you accepted at most institutions if your grades and test scores are too low. We aren’t even discussing NCAA eligibility, because the criteria for that is far lower than what most colleges require academically for acceptance. Do coaches have some sway on the acceptance process? They sure do. College coaches can submit lists of high school recruits they are actively recruiting and would like to see attend their institution for consideration to their admissions department. This practice and the strength of this practice varies at every school. Regardless of how prevalent this practice is, the most important factor needs to be that your grades and test scores need to be extremely close to what the school considers in every student that applies each year. Want to go to Vanderbilt? Fantastic, 94% of their admitted applicants in 2016 were in the top 10% of their graduating class. The next important piece of this puzzle is that while schools may bend, they will only bend in a few instances, meaning they might let one fringe student-athlete in for the soccer team and one for the baseball team and one for the field hockey team and so forth. Since you cannot control who the coach is recruiting and who the other 20 coaches at that school are recruiting, you might be on the low end of the low end of recruits who are on the bubble academically. At the end of the day, if you cannot get into the school with your academic record, your recruiting process is over and no amount of skill or ability is going to change that for many schools!
Once you have cracked the academic challenge, the next biggest factor is your athletic skill. There are 3 NCAA divisions and roughly 1,200 colleges that compete and several hundred NAIA and NJCAA schools. No two schools or programs are alike. What one college coach values, another may not. Where one college team succeeds, another in their conference may not! While Rudy was a great movie, Rudy would have been better served attending a small D3 college if his goal was to play college football. While your desire may be to play basketball at Kentucky or Baseball at LSU, or football at Notre Dame, only a few elite high school athletes have the skills to play at those levels. While we encourage high school athletes to aim high, you need to aim where your skills and abilities will be a good fit! At the end of the day, if you cannot play at a given school given your athletic abilities, your recruiting process for that school is over. Matching your athletic skills with a given program is challenging. You need to do some self-reflection, seek out opinions of other skilled coaches who have seen you play and you may need to get out of your town or league and compete against other high school athletes to get a better sense of where your skills lie. Once you have done that, you need to research different college programs in detail. Who do they play against? What is their success rate? What types of players does the coach recruit and from where? The very best programs recruit players from the entire world. The smaller programs might recruit players within 50 miles of their school but it’s different for EVERY school!
College is expensive, even the public colleges are creeping up in price. Finances plays a role in every family’s college choice and no one wants to leave school with massive student loan debt that will hound you for years after graduation. We always tell families to never dismiss any college until you have explored the financial aid process for that college to see what aid you might qualify for but past that, finances must be considered. With the exception of football and basketball at the D1 level, there is very little athletic scholarship money to go around. Other sports simply do not generate revenue at the college level and less resources are given to those programs in the form of athletic scholarships. I know many D1 programs that have one or two scholarships for the entire team. The other factor to consider is that even if a team is fully funded with the max level of athletic scholarships, the coach usually divides those to many players. A D1 baseball team is allowed 11.78 scholarships per team, but most rosters will contain 30+ players. If you are an elite player, you might get some full scholarship offers in baseball, but in most cases, the coach will divide those scholarships up into percentages like 33%. If you want to attend private school and receive a 33% athletic scholarship, you may need to find an additional $40,000 to cover tuition. You must explore all your options financially. Grants, loans, merit aid, financial aid and academic scholarships. At the end of the day, you must be able to pay for college and/or decide how much student loan debt you can tolerate after graduation.
Let’s stick with the theme here, every college is different. Some colleges have 40,000 students and some have 2,000. Some are in big cities and others are in the middle of cornfields. Some are sprawled across 20 city blocks where you take buses to classes or dorms and others can be walked end to end in 10 minutes. Some will have students from all over the world and others will have students that all live within 50 miles from your hometown. Some colleges might be too liberal for you, while others might be too conservative. The social aspect of a college and how that will affect you might be harder to figure out, but you need some understanding of who you are and what you are looking for. If you dislike cities or crowds, then I wouldn’t suggest going to a big school in a city. If you think you will be bored at a small school with 1,500 students’, you very well might be. You need to spend some time on college tours to try and understand the school and understand whether you will be happy there for four or five years. And if your athletic scholarship is tied to you being happy, then you really need to pick the right school socially for you.
The geography of a school can play a dual role in your success as a college athlete. One, geography can determine how good a given athletic program is. Colleges that play in warmer climates often attract better players who want the ability to play more games in better weather. The State of Florida is a great example of this, not only does the State produce many talented high school baseball players, but top players from throughout other parts of the country gravitate to colleges there from colder climates because playing baseball in April in Michigan or New England in 40 degree weather simply isn’t that enjoyable. The second factor that geography can play is how far you want your safety net of home and how involved you want your parents in your athletic career. My parents drove down from Massachusetts to Connecticut every weekend to see me play. Had I been somewhere else, they might not have gotten to experience my college athletic career. I was also afforded the ability to travel home more easily given the shorter distance when I needed to. But geography can play opposite role as well. Several years ago we met an extremely talented golfer who was being recruited nationally. One would think he would have chose a school where it is warm year-round so he could play year-round. The opposite happened. He chose a school in a colder climate that had a real winter. When we asked why, his answer made sense. He said, “I needed to go to a place where it snowed in the winter so I would get a mental and physical break from golf, and I knew if I went down south, I would be at the range or the course every day for 9 months and that is simply something I didn’t want to do!” It’s really important to understand how geography plays a role in the skill of a given college program and how the coach recruits. Geography can play a huge role in your success or happiness. There are fewer elite players in warm climates beating down the doors to go play at colleges where it snows in the winter, but there are thousands of elite players beating down the doors of other colleges where the weather is better. It’s also important to understand how being 20 miles from home or 2,000 miles from home is going to affect your psyche. Some high school athletes cannot wait to get far away from home, and others struggle with distance.
So how do these five concepts affect my recruiting process? Excellent question! The first two will greatly impact your recruiting process. If you cannot gain acceptance to schools you are potentially interested in, or schools where coaches want to recruit you, your process is over! If you do not have the skills to play at certain programs (or any program), your recruiting process is over. The financial, social and geographical concepts are tricky. You might not be thrilled with any of the three but you might be able to function and succeed as a college athlete depending on how tolerant you can be with any and all of them. Perhaps your parents are happy flying out once a year to see you play. Perhaps playing baseball or soccer in colder weather isn’t terrible because you are at a great school and getting a great education which will have value down the road in your professional career. Perhaps you don’t have time to interact with the students that are too liberal or too conservative at your school because you are so busy with your studies and your athletic career! Perhaps you absorb some student loan debt at a better college because it will offer you the chance at a better job upon graduation and will be easier to pay off.
I read an article recently about a recruiting seminar by a “renowned speaker.” He says: “You don’t choose the colleges. The colleges choose you.” I beg to differ!!!
While your non-athletic classmates are busy researching, applying to and “choosing schools”, high school athletes seem to think they are “chosen”, and they often wait for the process of recruiting to unfold around them and wait to see what coach calls them and what offers they get!
There are three kinds of student-athletes vying for college athletic roster spots, – athletes that get recruited – athletes that recruit – and athletes that do neither but expect to be recruited. While athletes that get recruited often have an easier time with the recruiting process, it’s the student-athletes that recruit a school who often are the most successful in the process and find a good balance of school and athletics. This is because the latter group chose colleges based on certain criteria, rather than having a college and a coach choose them. Many blue-chip athletes allow themselves to be chosen by a school solely based on athletic prowess and could care little about what else the school offers. One highly touted football recruit a few years ago when asked why he chose the school he picked over several others simply said, “The cafeteria had a soft serve ice cream machine!”
The recruiting process is about discovery, knowledge, desires, and making an informed decision that is the best decision for YOU, not right for the coach, not right for the school, and in some cases not even right for your parents. Best doesn’t mean the most scholarship money, the best team, the team on TV every Saturday, or the team featured in Sports Illustrated every week, or the strongest athletic program. Best we believe is the school that provides you the combination of these four ideas.
1. The athletic program that allows you to participate at your desired level against the best competition you can compete with and against.
2. The academic programs that allow you to learn and succeed, and prepares you for gaining employment and a successful working career after college in a subject, field, or major you have an active interest in.
3. A social environment that allows you to go grow as an individual, experience things you may not otherwise get the chance to experience and make life lasting friendships.
4. A school that you can afford to pay for without incurring large student-loans that will hang around after you graduate.
Again, geographic location should be considered if you think you will be unhappy far away from home, if traveling back and forth may be a problem, or if your family will want to watch you play often. If any of these four attributes are out of balance, it can cause major problems for student-athletes.
Now, back to the question of whether the colleges choose you! There is some truth to this because college coaches will contact or come into contact with perhaps a few hundred high school athletes and then based on the coach’s needs, and the feedback they get, they reduce that list of potential recruits and eventually make offers. The coaches in a sense choose who they want. But the process works both ways and you have to take control of what you can control in your process.
You can control how hard you work in school. If you want straight A’s, that is achievable, it will just take a lot of hard work! What will straight A’s get you, you ask? Well, it will open application doors to colleges other recruits might not be able to gain acceptance to on their academic record and it will make you more attractive to admission boards and college coaches. While a college coach may start with a list of a few hundred recruits each year, I can guarantee you that list becomes pretty short when grades and test scores start arriving on the coach’s desk. Grades alone might wipe out half of their potential recruits.
What else can you control? Well, you can control how hard you work on the field or in the gym. Some high school athletes are just naturally good at sports; others have to work harder. The harder you work, the more you will improve. If you are weak in a particular area, work on your weaknesses!
What else can you control? How about how far you extend your recruiting reach. If you are simply playing high school ball for 2 months and not getting out on the road in different tournaments or camps against higher level competition, you are reducing your exposure. Very few college coaches have the time, resources or desires to recruit athletes at high school games in this day and age. Their season takes place when your season does and much of their recruiting efforts take place in the summer when they are free to recruit.
What else can you control? How about how many schools you research! We spoke earlier about how many high school athletes wait to be recruited, but it’s the families that kick the most tires that create more recruiting opportunities. If you live in New England, there are probably a 100 colleges within 200 miles of your house in ANY direction. There is no excuse for not getting out on the road and touring different colleges or spending more time online researching different colleges. If you live in a place where there are fewer schools, you are going to have to find a way to research more colleges.
The ultimate control you have is how you package this all together. College coaches want to recruit smart, talented, hardworking and dedicated athletes who express a desire to attend their college or university. It is as simple as that. They start with academics. If you cannot get in, they will not recruit you. Then they move onto athletic skill and they ask themselves if this recruit can play and succeed at their program. Then they move onto personal character, meaning is this recruit a good person? Then they move onto desire, meaning, does this recruit have a real interest in being a college athlete and attending my institution? And somewhere in that process they might ask themselves if this recruit can afford to attend their institution?
Ok, let’s tie all this together. If you are a successful academic student who is a good person and a successful athlete who works hard on the field and you research colleges that will be a good fit for your skills and you connect with coaches personally to express your desire to attend their institution, you can increase your ability to CHOOSE what school and program you attend. The best blue chip athletes in the country are choosing the schools they attend because their skills are so high and every coach wants them. You have that same ability, but you cannot apply to the same schools they are applying to or take the same approach! You have to find colleges where your “skills” might exceed what the college coach typically looks for in a recruit. When you package that with a strong academic record and the desire to succeed on the field, in the classroom and in life, you will have the ability to choose what college you attend and what athletic program you play for!
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.