college athletic recruiting process

Steps of the College Athletic Recruiting Process

What is the best way to succeed in the college athletic recruiting process?


Question: How do you eat an elephant?


Answer: One bite at a time.

I talk to a lot of parents about recruiting. The word I hear over and over again is “overwhelming.” The quote about eating an elephant was in a Navy SEAL book I read recently. The author says one of the keys to success at BUDS, possibly the hardest training program on the face of the earth, is to apply the elephant quote. Not simply one day at a time, but one exercise at a time. The author describes being able to get through the training by simply trying to complete the next exercise and then telling himself, “that’s one less set of log lifts I ever have to do, now let’s make it to lunch.” “That’s one less beach run I ever have to do, now let’s eat dinner!” Worrying about what was to come tomorrow or next week at BUDS was a sure form of failure he said. One bite at a time!

The recruiting process can be as overwhelming as you make it. It can be more overwhelming if you are a marginal student or athlete because your choices will be more limited. What often makes it overwhelming is that families make the recruiting process one all-encompassing process, rather than breaking it down into small steps. Where you live, or your personal finances can make it even harder to get recruited or pay for school, which again, makes it overwhelming.

Before you step onto the field for your first college game, there are (pick a number) of steps that need to happen before that happens. You cannot step onto the field, until you show up at college. You cannot enroll in college until you accept your acceptance and send in a deposit. You cannot get accepted until you apply. You cannot apply until you have toured the school. You cannot know if your finances are in order until you have crunched some numbers and compared different financial aid options. You cannot pay for school until your finances are in order. You cannot apply until you have decided this is a college you can get into and are interested in. You cannot decide if this is a college you are interested in until you have done some research on it. You cannot show up for practice or your first game until you have signed a letter of intent or were recruited by the coach. You cannot get recruited by the coach until you have accepted their offer. You cannot get recruited by the coach until you have personally met with that coach in some capacity. You cannot get recruited by the coach until that coach has seen you play in a meaningful setting. You cannot get recruited by the coach until you have expressed interest in that school and program. You cannot get recruited by the coach until that coach contacts you. You cannot get recruited by the coach until you have supplied them with something tangible to evaluate your skills. You cannot get recruited by the coach until your grades are within what that college looks for in a student. You cannot get recruited by the coach until you and the coaching staff have had multiple conversations. You cannot get recruited by the coach until you contact that coach or the coach contacts you multiple times. You cannot get recruited by the coach until you do some research on different colleges to see where might be a good fit. You cannot get recruited by the coach until you have a realistic idea of what your skills are and how they apply to different colleges. You cannot get recruited by the coach until you have decided to you actually want to play college athletics. You cannot get recruited by the coach until you are physically, mentally and emotionally ready to tackle this “overwhelming” list.

college athletic recruiting process

So, how do you get recruited? One step at a time!

There is a big list of steps up there. Very few of them cannot be accomplished in one day, nor should they be. You should spend months online forming a list of colleges that might interest you before you send a single email or make a single phone call to a coach. There are 1,200+ NCAA colleges and several hundred NAIA and NJCAA colleges that are a potential fit for you. If your list of colleges just includes those you see on CBS or ESPN playing football on Saturday, you will probably fail at the recruiting process. There are colleges you have never heard of in places you have never heard of. Every one of them is a potential college for you to attend! You must dismiss funny names and strange places in order to succeed, because Big State U down the street from you is getting 40,000 applications and recruiting athletes from all over the world.

You need to spend time evaluating yourself as a person, as an athlete, and as a student, to decide who you are and what you want in and out of college. This will help you decide what colleges you might be able to or want to attend and what colleges you can potentially play at athletically. This is the hard stuff, and it’s the stuff that unsuccessful families DO NOT DO! College coaches spend countless hours in meetings with families telling them that their grades or athletic ability will not allow them to get into or play at that school. The reason they do this is because these families tried to eat the elephant in one bite. They didn’t do the research and evaluations they should have. They didn’t go step by step and decided to call or visit a coach at a school they didn’t fully research and match with their abilities. One of the things I hear most from the families that purchased The Making of a Student-Athlete is how attentive college coaches were to them throughout the recruiting process. That’s because they learned to do all the hard work ahead of time so when they contact college coaches, there is already a potential match in place academically and athletically.

Do not try to eat the elephant in one bite.

Tackle the recruiting process step by step. Spend some time online evaluating not only colleges in your state or region but colleges outside of your region. I can spend 20 seconds looking at a college roster and tell you how competitive or well-known a school is, what the coaches recruiting philosophy is and how good the team is without ever looking at their record.

Do not try to contact coaches with the goal of being recruited. Contact coaches with the goal of introducing yourself to them and expressing your interest in their program. You cannot get recruited off of one email, one online recruit form, or one phone call just like you can’t get marriage proposal by asking someone out on a first date. There is a process, that is why it’s called the “recruiting process.” It takes time and effort and doesn’t happen overnight. Start at the beginning and slowly work your way through the long list of steps you need to take in order to succeed.

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