On recruiting, the voice of experience

By Andy Nesbitt, Globe Staff, 4/25/2004

LEXINGTON — From his second-floor office in his family’s home in Lexington, Dave Galehouse works each day with the simple purpose of making more information available that will help high school athletes find the right college to continue their studies and extend their athletic careers.

For many high school athletes who star on their teams, the goal is to advance to the next level and play a sport in college. But finding that perfect school with the proper mix of sports and education and parlaying that into either a scholarship or an attractive financial aid package is not always easy.

Galehouse, a former baseball player who went through the same process in the early 1990s when he graduated from Lexington High School, understands firsthand how difficult it can be. He attended three colleges trying to find the right fit — academically and athletically. Eventually, he landed at Fairfield University in Connecticut, where he played two years on the baseball team.

After college, Galehouse often reflected on how unprepared he was for the recruiting process and how difficult it can be for high school athletes and their families to make it work.

Three years ago, Galehouse created a noncommercial web site, varsityedge.com, designed to help answer questions for prospective college athletes. Included on the site, which is constantly updated, is a selection of interviews Galehouse has conducted over the years with college coaches. Also on the site is a section containing questions and answers about recruiting from parents and high school athletes.

Galehouse took his operation one step further this past winter when he co-authored and had published a college recruiting guidebook titled “The Making of a Student-Athlete: Succeeding in the College Selection, Application, and Athletic Recruiting Process.”

The book answers questions on such subjects as filling out college applications, dealing with the rules of recruiting, and life as a college studenat-athlete.

“It’s something I’m passionate about,” Galehouse said. “I struggled through the recruiting process, and I want to help others through it. There’s a very small window of opportunity in the college recruiting process to succeed. Maybe you can transfer once or twice, but basically you have a five-year window to have a college athletic career.

“Our thought process is that whatever school you choose, first you need to base it on academics. There are really three components: academic aspect, social aspect, and the athletic aspect. What we’re trying to do is teach parents and students to take a proactive role in the process and evaluate as many schools and athletic programs as possible to find the best fit.”

The Internet boom has created an influx of online college recruiting companies that for a fee will create a resume for athletes. The resumes, including their performance on the field and in the classroom, are sent out to hundreds of college coaches.

While that system has paid off for many high school athletes, Galehouse, who makes no money from his web site but sells his book, believes there is a better way for students and their families to go about the recruiting process.

“I respect anyone that is trying to assist kids, but there are a lot of companies taking advantage of students right now,” Galehouse said. “They are getting people to pay for services that a lot of college coaches aren’t using, and I know because I talk to a lot of coaches.

Galehouse suggests that before athletes begin the recruiting process, they understand it’s going to take a lot of work.

“The first thing is they have to lose the notion that they are going to be discovered,” he said. “A lot of good players in high school assume college coaches are going to show up at their games or assume that [if they have good stats] or if their name is in the local paper that a coach is going to see it. College coaches don’t see the local town paper.”

Galehouse strongly suggests athletes and their families take an aggressive, but calculated, role.

“That doesn’t mean making 500 phone calls or sending out 500 letters or e-mails,” he said. “It means targeting programs that are a good academic, athletic, and social fit. If you do that, you are probably more likely to be recruited and probably more likely to receive some money.”

So, what’s the best way to achieve that goal?

“Coaches love to hear from recruits,” Galehouse said. “They want you to call, but a lot of kids are afraid or embarrassed to call or they don’t know what to do. They might have their parents call or send an e-mail.”

Galehouse knows the recruiting process can seem like a daunting task, but preparation can make a big difference.

“This is a big decision, and it’s something you need to make on your own,” he said. “If you don’t know what to do, then it’s really hard. But I think if you know how to go about it, it can be a lot easier.”

Andy Nesbitt can be reached at anesbitt@globe.com.