After the over-arching principle of being realistic about your athletic talents, 3 keys stand out as far as maximizing your recruiting exposure and college options, and we will cover the first rule today.
The first rule is simple: do your work early. This means be proactive, and it applies to academics, skill preparation, and communication with college coaches. Academically, at most public schools, all a kid needs to do is turn in all assignments on time and be nice to his or her teacher, and it’s nearly impossible to make less than a B. So, rather than putting yourself in a situation where you have to scramble as a senior just to meet minimum eligibility standards, why not do what you’re supposed to do (when you’re supposed to do it) as a freshman, sophomore, and junior? Additionally, many kids lose out on scholarship opportunities by refusing to take the SAT until some time in the Spring of their senior year. At a minimum, a college prospect should take the PSAT as a sophomore and the SAT as a junior. By being proactive academically and with the SAT or ACT, the odds increase dramatically that no doors will slam in your face based on academic factors.
In terms of skill development, again, this isn’t something you should wait to start until it’s too late. Regardless of your sport, you must hone your craft, and it’s never too early to start. Additionally, it’s helpful to work on improving your athleticism, and this means strength and agility and speed training as well. It’s important to keep in mind that no matter what college coaches might say (many will claim to value character above all else, etc), what they’re primarily interested in is skill and athleticism. With that in mind, you should (obviously) work as hard as you possibly can to improve your skills and to maximize your athletic ability.
Finally and especially, Rule #1 applies to communicating with college coaches. It is always amazing to watch how many college prospects sit around waiting for the phone to ring. It’s like an unemployed person who refuses to apply for jobs, instead believing that a job will appear magically. If you’re a college prospect, and you aren’t currently being recruited by schools that interest you (or you’re not being recruited at all), it’s time to get off the couch, turn the Playstation off, and get to work on your own behalf. Put simply, if the college coaches aren’t calling you, you should call them. If the college coaches aren’t coming to see you play, you should send them video clips and a transcript and a copy of your schedule and you should invite them to come see you play. But if you wait until March of your senior year to finally start working on your own behalf, you’re doing your work late, not early, and it very well could be too late.
This rule of thumb is particularly applicable to non-scholastic (club or “AAU”) events and to recruiting combines, where hundreds of college coaches congregate in one location to get a first-hand look at a bunch of players without having to pay for a bunch of plane tickets. For some reason, prospects (and their parents and inexplicably even their coaches) seem to think that college coaches at these events stagger about aimlessly looking at random kids, hoping and wishing to find some kids they like, having done no homework whatsoever. This is, of course, preposterous. College coaches do a ton of homework ahead of non-scholastic events, and college coaches follow a carefully mapped out schedule based on a pre-determined list of specific kids they intend to evaluate thoroughly.
But here’s the good news: it isn’t that hard to get on a college coach’s “list” of kids to see at a non-scholastic event. All you need to do is send an email to college coaches with your transcript, some video clips of you playing, and your non-scholastic schedule, and simply invite college coaches out to see you play in person. If the clips look good (again, being realistic is the most important piece of the puzzle), then college coaches who find the clips intriguing will make specific plans to see you play. This is, of course, a radically and completely superior approach to the standard alternative of doing nothing ahead of time whatsoever to promote yourself, instead relying on the statistically unlikely hope that you will be “discovered.” Again, most college coaches (particularly at schools that offer athletics scholarships) attend non-scholastic events to evaluate, not to discover, so you must be proactive and do your work early.
Thanks for reading. We hope these thoughts are helpful.