5 Tips for Parents to Succeed in the College Athletic Recruiting Process

Five tips to help parents and high school athletes succeed in the college athletic recruiting process

1 – Understand who is responsible. Many families assume that their high school coach is responsible for their recruiting process. High school coaches are great people; they work really hard and usually don’t earn much money. Often, they are teachers who have papers and tests to grade or work other jobs to make a living, and most of them have families to take care of as well. The recruiting process is ultimately your responsibility. You are responsible for researching and evaluating schools, contacting college coaches, visiting schools and making decisions along the way. Your high school coach can help you with the process by determining where your skills might fit in with different college levels and programs, writing recommendations, and even placing phone calls on your behalf to college coaches after you have initiated contact. Don’t be the parent that senior year says, “I thought our coach would take care of the recruiting process for us.”

2 – Be proactive in the college athletic recruiting process. Now that you know the process is your responsibility, it’s important to be proactive and research as many schools as possible. The recruiting and college selection process is not something that should sneak up on you senior year. Success in recruiting is about matching up your son or daughter’s academic talents, athletic talents, and desires with a given college program. The families that come the closest to finding an athletic, academic, and social match are the ones who usually have the best success in the recruiting process. They have already done much of the work for the college coach, and the coach has confidence in recruiting a smart and talented athlete who wants to attend their school. There are over 1,100 NCAA colleges at the D1, D2, and D3 level, and 500+ Junior College and NAIA schools, most of which you have never heard of.

How to succeed in the college athletic Recruiting Process

Stay on track in the college athletic recruiting process

3 – Don’t follow the herd in the college athletic recruiting process. Many students put themselves in a position to fail by simply following the herd and applying to well-known popular schools. The problem is that everyone is applying to these schools and competition for admission is extremely difficult. Harvard annually receives over 30,000 applications and admits roughly 10% of applicants each year. Despite your academic record, Harvard is going to turn down over 28,000 students each year, some of them being incredibly smart and gifted students. Juniata, a small D3 school in Pennsylvania received just over 1,500 applications last year and accepted about 1,100 students or roughly 75%. Few have heard of Juniata because they are not Harvard and you won’t find their basketball team on TV in March Madness or their football team in a bowl game. Juniata recently appeared in the Unofficial Guide to the 320 Most Interesting Colleges, published by Kaplan Publishing and their girls volleyball team won the 2004 D3 national championship. If your list of colleges includes only those well-known schools everyone has heard of, you will find competition for athletic spots and acceptance extremely difficult.

4 – Be realistic in the college athletic recruiting process. One of the best quotes I ever saw was the following, “There are roughly 20,000 high schools in the country and thus 20,000 leading scorers on every team at every high school, but it doesn’t mean those 20,000 leading scorers are all talented enough to play college athletics.” – The love, time, money, and passion you have poured into your son or daughters athletic career can often cloud your judgment of their potential for a college scholarship. Most parents’ dream of athletic scholarships and all the money they will save and are not realistic about the chances of receiving athletic scholarship money. While your talents may garner some athletic scholarship money, after D1 football and basketball, there is very little scholarship money to go around. Most coaches, even at the D1 level, have a limited amount of money for their team that they divide up amongst 10-20 players (even more for some sports). There is far more money in the form of grants, Merit aid, outside scholarships, institutional aid, and federal financial aid, than there is athletic scholarship money. You need to explore your options at all programs at all levels, and not focus your search solely on an athletic scholarship. You also need to seek out people that can give you a realistic evaluation of your son or daughters ability and how it applies to different levels. Ultimately, only a college coach can determine whether or not you can play for them.

5 – Be Educated about the college athletic recruiting process. There are a lot of confusing topics and terms that you will come across in the recruiting process; official visits, early decision, EFC, red shirts, scholarship blending, head-count sports, NLI, Clearinghouse, Dead period, and so on. Your job is to learn the basics, understand your role in the recruiting process, understand how coaches recruit and what they look for, and understand what admission departments and schools look for. It’s not about rules; it’s about understanding and working with the process. That’s why we developed The Making of a Student-Athlete, the most complete college recruiting guide on the market today! We took the secrets out of the recruiting process and provide you everything you need to know to succeed!

How Important Is Exposure in the Athletic Recruiting Process

What is the most important factor in the college athletic recruiting process?

Can I increase my exposure in the college athletic recruiting process?

If I asked you who Phillip Phillips, Carrie Underwood, or Kelly Clarkson are, that might be an easy answer for you. They were all American Idol winners and immensely talented singers who have gone on to successful music careers since the show. But can you tell me who Shannon Magrane, Paul Jolley, or Andrew Garcia are? They finished in the top 10 of American Idol in the last several years out of a pool of millions of contestants. While some contestants are still in the music business in some capacity, you probably won’t find them performing at any large concert venues or award shows.

Each week I seem to come across the latest and greatest in recruiting services and apps and widgets to help high school athletes connect with college coaches. Most of them are based on some form of social media, web, or email app. The underlying theme: EXPOSURE

Is exposure the most important factor in the athletic recruiting process?

It is true; you cannot get recruited unless a college coach knows your name or unless you are exposed to them somehow. But a college coach knowing your name is hardly the deciding factor in whether or not you get recruited. Each week the three top ten finishers listed above sang in front of not only millions of viewers on TV, but in front of every music executive in the country if not the world. The tenth best singer out of a pool of possibly a million people that show up at the American Idol auditions wasn’t offered a record deal or a job in the music business after the show. How can this be, as they had more EXPOSURE than any musician in the world could possibly ask for??

There is no magic bullet to recruiting. Exposure is not a path to success. To succeed in recruiting, you have to have a unique set of skills (academic, athletic, social, work ethic, desire) that other recruits do not have. Then you have to find a college and a college coach that has a need and a desire for your skills. Then you need to personally communicate with that college coach. And after all that, you might fail to get recruited. You might be a great goalie, but if a college has three already, there will be no need to recruit you. You might be a great center, but if your grades are sub-par, the ability for the coach to recruit you will be diminished. You might be fast, but the coach needs someone faster. You might be big, but the coach needs someone bigger.

The last service I came across said the following…

“It does not matter how good you are, to be recruited and be in line for a college scholarship, you need to aggressively reach out to college Coaches and Recruiters.”

Yes, and after you reach out to them, the next thing that matters is HOW GOOD YOU ARE! And it matters a LOT! How good are you on the field, how good are you in the classroom, how good of a person are you? How good you are matters! Anyone can reach out to any coach, their email is plastered all over their school’s website or through a recruit contact form. But that will get you nowhere if you don’t have several other things going for you.

Exposure and the college athletic recruiting process

Exposure and the college athletic recruiting process

What factors do college coaches consider when evaluating high school athletes and recruits?

1 – Can this recruit get accepted to my school based in their academic record?
2 – Does this recruit possess the athletic skills to play for our program?
3 – Do I have the ability to evaluate their skills to make a fair evaluation?
4 – Is this recruit truly interested in playing for my program?
5 – Can this recruit afford to come to our school?
6 – Does our school offer academic programs this recruit is interested in?
7 – Will this recruit be happy and successful at our school?

If the answer to ANY of those questions is NO, then your recruiting process is probably over for that school. You can expose yourself as much as you want to as many schools as you want to, but no amount of exposure will get you recruited if those questions above are not met by you!

The most successful families in the recruiting process work backwards. They research the colleges that are a potential fit athletically, academically, socially, financially, and even geographically and then they make personal contact with the college coach to discuss a potential fit. They do the grunt work for the college coach. Then when they hear twenty “thank you but no thank you” from college coaches who work at colleges that might have been a perfect match for “the recruit”, they move onto the 21st school on their list because it only takes one yes to succeed in this process. Every “no” they hear is a chance to move on and succeed at another school. Exposure is their goal, but exposure is the last trait on a long list of traits that will lead them to success in this process.

Your college recruiting process is extremely important. Don’t leave success in the hands of an app, or widget, or website that promise the world; that promise to make things easy! It’s a personal process that takes a lot of time, dedication and research to succeed in.

How Do Athletic Showcases Help Me Get Recruited?

Do athletic showcases help high school athletes get recruited?

Do high school athletes need to attend athletic showcases?

Players looking to broaden their exposure in the college recruiting process will often turn to showcases. These one or two day events offer high school players the opportunity to display their skills to college coaches and are a way for coaches to prospective recruits display their skills. While showcases offer can offer exposure to a larger number of schools in one place, a college coach will rarely recruit from a showcase performance alone, but use that event to decide if they want to pursue certain players further. One of the challenges of showcases is that despite the attendance of many colleges at a given event, a certain recruit might not have the skills or academic background to play or gain acceptance to several of the schools in attendance.

While you may be “showcasing” your skills to 30 colleges in one day, realistically, a recruit might be only to play at 4 or 5 of those schools based on their ability. Rather than attending random showcases, it is important to evaluate your ability as it may apply to different colleges in the area and then try to determine what colleges will be attending a given showcase. Northeastern University assistant baseball coach James Pinzino approaches showcases as follows. “Showcases have become an important recruiting tool because of the numbers of players we can see at once. However, a player’s ability to compete, particularly in the pressure of an important game, is a huge component of success at the college level. The only way to evaluate this is to see players compete in real games where something is on the line. So like video, we use showcase performances as a tool to decide who we want to pursue further!”

Many families attend showcases hoping for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and it’s not that simple. Simply showing up, hitting a few home runs or 3-pointers probably will not get you a scholarship offer the next day!

How do I choose what athletic showcase to attend?

1 – WHAT COLLEGES ARE GOING TO BE IN ATTENDANCE? That’s so important that I put it in capital letters! As I mentioned above, there may be 30 colleges at a given showcase, but if your academic record or athletic skills do not warrant acceptance or recruitment to 25 of the schools in attendance, then you will not get the benefit of showcasing yourself to the 30 schools in attendance. Do not focus on how many schools are there, focus on what schools are there! More on this below!

2 – What facilities are being used? Some showcases take place on multiple fields. A coach cannot be in two places at once, so if you are on field 1 and the coach is one field 2, you might not get the benefit of performing well.

3 – Is the event a multi-day event? Some coaches do not attend the second day because they have seen what they need to see in day one.

4 – What drills and/or tests will be required. Will there be any weight lifting tests or running or agility tests that you can prepare for in advance? We have heard instances of 60-yard dashes being run on gravel or high grass which hadn’t been mowed in two weeks, now 80 recruits have a slow 60 yard dash time listed on a sheet of paper.


athletic showcaes

How do I use showcases to help me get recruited by college coaches?

1 – Communicate with college coaches prior to the showcase. In step 1, we recommend trying to find out what colleges will be in attendance at a given showcase. In order to accomplish this, you often need to perform some type of communication with college coaches prior to the showcase. While coaches have different rules as to when they can communicate with you via phone (at the D1 and D2 level), they can respond to email and they can receive your phone calls at any time. Trying to find out what showcases a given coach/school will be attending is an innocent way to introduce yourself to a college coach. I don’t want to get into researching colleges at this point as that is an entirely different and long topic, but a simple email or phone call saying “Coach Stevens, my name is Dave Smith, I am completing my junior year at Town High School and am interested in continuing my baseball career at the college level and am interested in your school and program. I am trying to plan my summer recruiting activity and wanted to inquire as to what showcases if any you will be attending this summer?” Coaches like to recruit good athletes, but they also like to recruit athletes that want to attend THEIR college. It is important in the recruiting process that you indicate to college coaches that you are interested in their program time and time again.

2 – Follow up with coaches you are in communication with prior to the showcase. Finding out what colleges might be in attendance in step 5 above and following up with college coaches are two different things. In this scenario, you have developed a prior relationship with a college coach through previous recruiting activity and in this case, you are communicating with the college coach that you are attending a specific showcase that he/she is attending and that you look forward to meeting them and speaking to them personally! The goal here is to one, alert the college coach that you are attending a specific event that he/she is attending, and two, that you are being proactive about your recruiting process. If the coach is interested in watching you perform and you have developed a prior relationship with them, they will be more apt to watch YOUR showcase performance amongst all the other athletes in attendance.

3 – Manage your actions and emotions. Several years ago, I met a coach who attended a baseball game to see a particular recruit. The coach arrived prior to the game and saw the player with his shirt off talking to a bunch of girls when he should have been getting ready to play the game. The coach packed up his stuff and left. Coaches watch and notice everything, so conduct yourself accordingly. Run hard, accept feedback, don’t take plays off, don’t berate your fellow athletes, don’t style a home run and so on!

4 – Follow up with college coaches after the showcase. You are as much a part of the college athletic recruiting process as the college coach is. You have dreams and desires and will be paying for college, so it is important that the decisions you make about college are made for you, not by someone else. If there is a particular school you are interested in, you need to communicate that to the college coach to move the process to the next step. If the coach is interested, they will most likely tell you. And, if the coach is not interested, they will most likely tell you. You don’t want to string them along and they do not want to string you along. Following up with the coach after a showcase performance will get right down to it. They may want to learn more about you, they may request video, they may tell you they want to see you play more, or they may tell you they have other recruits they are evaluating right now but to keep in touch. Getting a NO from a coach may be devastating to you, but it’s simply an indication that you need to focus on other schools. In reality, getting a no is a good thing, it tells you where you might be at in the recruiting process and frees more time up for you to research other colleges that might be a better fit! If there isn’t a match right now, do not burn any bridges with that college coach. That coach might have a list of 50 other players they rank higher than you, but 49 of those players might fall of that list for one reason or another over the next 5 months. Thank the coach for their time and tell them to keep in touch if anything in their recruiting process changes!

Showcases are not magic; they are one recruiting tool that you can use to increase your chances to be recruited. College coaches really need to see you play in person in some capacity, but seeing you play in person in a showcase is not the beginning or end of your recruitment. It is important to evaluate your abilities, evaluate different colleges and communicate with college coaches as to what they look for and what their needs are and then find way to display your skills to them. Don’t simply show up at a showcase hoping to be noticed or recruited by any college.

Want more? See our new article, How do I Get Recruited to Play College Sports

How Do I Contact College Coaches?

How do I contact college athletic coaches to try and get recruited?

What is the best way to contact college athletic coaches?

I recently got an email from a student asking how they should contact a coach. They asked via email or formal letter? The easy answer is as follows. Fill out the online recruit form found on most college websites which will capture your academic and contact information. Follow up with an email introducing yourself to the coach and alerting them that you recently filled out the online recruit form. Don’t bombard them with worthless stats that tell them virtually nothing about you as a person or as an athlete but describe yourself as a person, an athlete, a student and tell them why you are interested in their school and program. Then follow up with a phone call to the coach to see what the next step might be in possibly getting considered for recruitment. You CANNOT get recruited off of one online form, an email, or a phone call, so don’t even try! The point of contact is simply to introduce yourself to a coaching staff, to express your interest in their school and program, and to see how you could possibly be considered for recruitment.

When can a college coach contact me?

If it is not the appropriate time for the coach to call you back as NCAA Contact Rules dictate when they can, they may not be able to, but you can keep calling on your dime as often as you want! The bigger picture here is not HOW you contact the coach, but what research you have done prior to contacting coaches and what you have to offer. If you aren’t qualified academically to be accepted to a particular school or you aren’t gifted enough athletically to play at a particular school, then no form of contact will get you recruited at that school! You can rent a plane and fly over the coach’s field with a banner that says “RECRUIT ME” and it won’t make a bit of difference if you aren’t qualified. How you contact a coach is so far down on the list of important recruiting steps you need to take before you even consider contacting any coach!

Before you contact any coach via email, letter, fax, phone, smoke signals, etc., try and answer yes to the following 7 questions.

1 – Can I get accepted to this school based on my academic record?
2 – Do I possess the athletic skill to play for this program?
3 – Do I have the ability to display my skills to this coaching staff in some capacity?
4 – Am I interested in this program?
5 – Can I afford this school?
6 – Does this school offer academic programs that I am interested in?
7 – Will I be happy at this school (with and without) athletics?

Before any coach considers recruiting you or making you an offer, he or she is asking the exact same 7 questions.

If the answer to ANY of these questions is NO, then it’s possible a fit does not exist. One and two are easy. If you can’t get in based on your academic record, there is no recruiting process and you can send all the emails and formal letters you want to the coaching staff that will do absolutely nothing. If you are just not skilled enough to play at a certain level, then there is no recruiting process for that school. Don’t dwell on where you can’t play, find a place where you CAN play!

Now, I recognize that the answer to some of these might take more time to discover. You might need to be evaluated by the financial aid department for aid considerations. You might need to tour the school before you know if you truly like it or not. The coach may need more time to evaluate you. That’s all okay!

The point of all of this is that there is so much you need to do in researching a particular school and program before you ever have to worry about how you contact a coach and that is what you should be focusing on. Build a list of colleges that you think might be a good fit based on academic, athletic, financial, social, and geographical factors and then worry about how to contact coaches later!

See: What are the NCAA contact rules

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.