NCAA Athletic Recruiting in 10 Steps
How to tackle the most grueling athletic competition of your career… getting recruited!
1. Talk to your high school/club coach
No one else is more familiar with your skills, work ethic, and potential than your current coach! You should start the recruitment process by discussing what level of athletics will be a good fit for you moving forward and how your training should look over the next few years to help you catch a recruiter’s eye. Coaches are also a great resource to help make sure you….
2. Know your sport
Should you be compiling a highlight reel? Will you need to travel cross-country to college camps or football combines over the next few years? Is there a specific standard that most colleges expect from recruits in your sport? Understanding what coaches in your sport will expect to see is important so you can start taping games now, saving money for travel to summer showcases/camps, and/or tailoring training to hit recruiting standards.
3. Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center
Register online as early as sophomore year! NCAA has to verify that you fulfill amateur status (AKA: you are not a sponsored athlete nor making money off of your sports abilities) and are academically eligible in order to get recruited to play college sports, which means you’ll need to...
4. Keep your grades up
Being a stud athlete AND stellar student is great for two reasons! Firstly, in order to even qualify for DI and DII NCAA recruitment, you MUST complete certain core courses and acquire grades and tests scores dubbed adequate by the NCAA sliding scale. (Click here for the most recently-released standards.)
Secondly, most college athletic programs have team-wide academic averages they must maintain, so great athletes who also have high academic index scores (AKA: good grades, high test scores) are particularly attractive to coaches as they try to fill a recruiting class.
5. Fill out recruiting questionnaires... Lots of them
A super quick way to get on a coach's radar is to fill out the school’s online recruiting questionnaire. You can fill them out at any point in your high school career (start early!) and update as needed. This is not only a great way to get yourself in the school’s recruiting database for further looks, but also a means by which you can research the athletic programs at a variety of schools, check out recruiting standards (if applicable), and discover what sorts of schools appeal to you in general.
6. Pick up the phone
According to strict NCAA rules, coaches in most sports cannot call athletes until after September 1st of their junior year (while some sports like football and track & field have even later dates). (Click here for the most recently-released recruiting rules.) However, beginning your sophomore year you can call coaches as often as you’d like, and often you should! Schools that have sent you information about their sports camps or schools you have researched and filled out a questionnaire for are great places to start contacting. Coaches that send you official recruitment mail (after the allowable recruiting date ) are also people you should reach out to ASAP if their program interests you.
Calling a coach may seem scary, but making the leap shows initiative and maturity, and may make your name known to a program who otherwise may have overlooked your application.
7. Don’t feel pressured
As you begin to speak with coaches over the phone and complete unofficial and official visits (allowed for most sports starting your senior year) you will likely feel the pressure to commit to a program without considering all of your options. Keep in mind that coaches have a job as complicated as yours: fill a roster with incoming athletes who are considering a large number of other schools. Therefore, hearing claims such as, “If you don’t sign with us in the next week we won’t be able to offer you a scholarship,” while ethically questionable, are not all that uncommon.
While you may be unable to avoid coaches who dish out vague offers and/or aggressive tactics, being prepared for shady recruiting practices, staying confident, asking lots of questions and clarifications (especially in regards to scholarships), and doing #8 will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
8. Involve your parents... sort of
Making coach calls, drafting emails, researching scholarships, debating offers, comparing offers: these are all stressful activities that can use a parent’s advice and moral support. Plus, keeping your parents in the loop will make them more willing to record yet another ten hours of game film, drive you another five hours to a summer recruitment camp, and/or wash your stinky jersey yet another time. However, the emails sent to coaches calls made and conversations had during visits should be from YOU and not your parents. Coaches want to gauge your interest in their program, NOT your parents’.
9. Make the most of official visits
If you’re invited to take an official visit your senior year, congrats! You are allowed up to five visits to schools with DI programs (and an unlimited number of DII programs), so make sure to be choosy with which schools you decide to visit if you anticipate many offers. While visiting, resist the urge to remain quiet and timid, but rather ask a bunch of crucial questions about the student-athlete experience (ie: how’s the coaching staff, training regimen, team culture, training facilities?), academics, and campus social life. And make sure to accept any and all offers to explore campus and its sporting events, social events, and classes in order to get a real taste of what being a student is like.
10. Never forget your love for your sport
With all the pressure to get noticed by recruiters, crank out high test scores, visit schools, and make good impressions on prospective teammates and coaches, it’s easy to forget why you’re trying to get recruited in the first place. Rather than feel overwhelmed, think of each task you complete like a practice you’d be willing to attend in order to make your dream of a championship win, or in this case, four more years of athletics at your dream school, a reality.
Best of luck in your recruitment! See you on Signing Day!
Additional information drawn from NCAA Eligibility Center's 2016-17 Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete.