For many high school athletes, college recruiting is at best a mystery and at its worst, it can be overwhelming. The hardest part is often just knowing when and how to get started.
That’s why we’ve partnered with NCSA Next College Student Athlete, the world’s largest and most successful college athletic recruiting network. Every day, the many former college coaches and athletes at NCSA are helping high school athletes:
- Gain exposure to get discovered by college coaches
- Ensure they are on track to become NCAA and NAIA eligible
- Effectively contact and communicate with college coaches
- Find the best schools based on athletic and academic goals
NCSA is also the ofﬁcial recruiting partner of USA Today High School Sports and offers practical advice and guidance every week on a wide range of recruiting topics.
The following information will help athletes and their families better understand what the recruiting process is about and how to put together a more effective recruiting game plan.
Coaches methods may vary, but all of them agree that recruiting is one job that seemingly never ends. There’s the immediate need of ﬁlling this year’s recruiting class, but also looking ahead to the following year at potential recruits and so on.
Recruiting also varies by season so when fall sports are ﬁnishing up their recruiting, spring sports may still have some late recruiting to do. There are also recruiting differences by division with NCAA DI programs usually out in front trying to secure recruits as early as possible.
The following outline gives a very basic look at how most college coaches approach the recruiting process.
- Determine recruiting needs (position, grad year)
- Search online recruiting proﬁles, talk to high school and club coaches
- Evaluate prospect video, academic information, check social media accounts
- Begin contacting athletes, follow proﬁles, extend camp invites, hold camps
- In-home meetings, meetings with current coaches
- Check NCAA/NAIA eligibility status, extend ofﬁcial visit offers
- Make initial verbal offers
- Sign players, look for last-minute recruits or transfers
There are three common mistakes athletes and families tend to make when it comes to recruiting. They are:
- Assuming someone else is handling their recruiting
- Not putting enough emphasis on academics
- Selling themselves short by not exploring all opportunities
For athletes, your high school or club coach will play a big role in your recruiting, but it is up to you to know where you want to go to school and your coaches can help you from there.
Despite what you may have heard, talent and athletic ability are only part of the package. Below average academics will seriously limit your options. Period.
Finally, it pays to seriously explore your all of your options. Many athletes start with just one or two target schools in mind only to ﬁnd a college they love is one that wasn’t even on their radar.Back to top ^
Once an athlete has decided they want to commit to competing in college, it would be good idea to sit down with their parents and discuss some basic education goals and college preferences. This will help focus your school search and college coaches also like working with athletes who know what college experience they are looking for. Some of initial topics to consider would be:
- Education/major Is there a ﬁeld of study you are really passionate about?
- Geography Would you like be close to home or across the country?
- Experience Do you want to compete all four years? Do you want a sport/social balance?
It should be no surprise that not everyone can compete at the Division I level. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of competitive programs at every NCAA level, also in the NAIA and many junior college programs.
Some of the oldest, but wisest recruiting advice is to ask yourself if you could be happy attending a school even if you could no longer play your sport.
Finding your best ﬁt means really taking a close look at all the schools that offer what you’re looking for athletically and more importantly, academically. The goal is a four-year degree and a transfer can also extend your time in college and increase your expenses.
Transfers are not uncommon and some are made for really good reasons, but from a ﬁnancial standpoint it is deﬁnitely worth investing some time to ﬁnd a school where you can feel at home, enjoy the experience, get the education you want, and succeed in earning a degree in four years.Back to top ^
Next to highlight videos, your transcript is probably the most reviewed by college coaches. They want to know before they invest the time and effort in recruiting you that you will be academically eligible.
This is a good time to get to know your guidance counselor or advisor at your high school. They will be able to provide copies of your transcript. They can also be of assistance when it comes to preparing for NCAA and NAIA eligibility which is something athletes and their families need to review in early high school.Back to top ^
Most colleges and universities accept both the SAT and or ACT. A good way to determine which test you should choose is to take the PSAT and Pre-ACT, which are the respective practice tests. If you do much better on the PSAT than the Pre-ACT, for example, you should consider the SAT over the ACT.
The best time for your student-athlete to take these practice tests is the summer before junior year. You will discover what sections they are lacking in and can prepare for those sections before taking the actual test for the ﬁrst time.
It is preferred that student-athletes take the SAT or ACT at the beginning of their junior year. Student-athletes who are able to give coaches concrete test scores early on give themselves a leg up in the recruiting process, as it makes it easier for coaches to determine who to follow.
Another reason it’s important to take standardized tests during junior year is that many colleges have application deadlines of early November of your senior year; that doesn’t leave much time to get test scores up as a senior. It is recommended that you take the SAT or ACT again during your junior year if you’re looking to improve your score. When summer hits, if you’re still dissatisﬁed with your test scores, this is your chance to do ﬁnal study prep for the beginning of your senior year. The last ACT for early action/decision is held in October; for the SAT, it’s October or November (depending on the college’s deadline). For regular-decision applicants, December of your senior year is the last time you can take the SAT or ACT.Back to top ^
College recruiting begins early and for the majority of athletes it begins online. Recruiting budgets are tight and with so many prospects to review, many college programs begin their search and initial evaluation of recruits with information they ﬁnd online. That’s why it is important to create a searchable online proﬁle complete with the information coaches want to see including:
- Name, high school, grad year, position
- Physical stats (height, weight)
- A key sport measurable (like 40-yard dash time)
- Your high school transcript with GPA and ACT or SAT scores
- Highlight video (if applicable)
NCSA provides a free recruiting proﬁle to all of our members. More than 35,000 college coaches actively search NCSA proﬁles every year looking for athletes to ﬁll their open roster spots.Back to top ^
For many sports, coaches obviously want to see you in action and videos posted to your online proﬁle make it easy for them to get a look. Keep in mind, coaches may be looking at dozens of videos at a clip, so it’s important to follow these rules when creating your highlight video:
- Keep it short, 3-5 minutes at the most
- Don’t save the best for last, put your best plays ﬁrst
- Keep the camera steady
- Capture the play not just player
High production values, music, and graphics are not important. Keep in mind, coaches are not seeking out spectacular SportsCenter-type plays in game-winning situations. They want to see footwork, speed, size, athleticism, game intelligence, and solid fundamentals at your position.Back to top ^
As you begin your recruiting efforts, you may often hear or read that, “If you’re good enough, coaches will ﬁnd you.” While this is true for some elite athletes, the majority of high school athletes must reach out directly to college coaches to make their presence known.
One of the necessary parts of any well-rounded recruiting process is attending camps, combines, showcases and tournaments. These events give college coaches the opportunity to watch a large number of recruits in a single place or allow top recruits to compete against one another. The challenge for any family is deciding what events to attend. Here is a guide for understanding the value of different recruiting events:
- College Camps – the camps hosted by individual colleges are great opportunities to get in front of a speciﬁc program. That said, you want to make sure you have a legitimate chance with any school before you invest in attending that camp.
- 3rd Party Camps – The goal of these events can range from pure skill development to “made for recruiting” events where top recruits are brought in to compete against one another. Just be sure you are clear on what you want to get out of any camp you are attending and make sure that is what that camp is going to provide.
- Combines – Coaches in many sports are starting to rely more and more on standardized athletic numbers like 40-time (football) and 60-yard time (baseball), for example. It is a great idea to get your combine numbers once or twice a year from events coach’s trust the stats are veriﬁed and accurate.
- Showcases – These are made for recruiting events, popular in many sports. Whether conducted by your club or a 3rd party, these events attract several college coaches who all come to watch a group of recruits run through drills and compete. Make sure the coaches you are interested in or would be interested in are attending any showcase you would consider attending.
- Tournaments – Large tournaments have become the go-to recruiting events for many college coaches.
Once you have decided on an event, make sure you contact coaches prior to the start to let them know you will be attending, and always follow-up with coaches afterward.Back to top ^
This information brieﬂy covers some of the major milestones and interactions that take place during a typical recruiting journey and having this knowledge now will help get your recruiting effort off to a great start.
If you have any more questions or would like more information about getting your recruiting plan in place, you can always contact NCSA at 1-866-495-5172.