Before getting into the “Big 3 Rules” of helping yourself with the recruiting process, it’s absolutely critical to assess your athletic talent realistically before you get started. In the recruiting process, you can do everything else right, but if your recruiting goals dramatically exceed your athletic abilities, you will find yourself frustrated and (very likely) empty handed at the end of the day.
So, how can you assess yourself realistically? Obviously, high school student-athletes aren’t even remotely qualified to assess themselves as college prospects, and they are (often times) delusional about their own talents and skills. Also, in the VAST majority of cases, parents are not qualified to judge their children, either, and even in the very rare cases where a parent is qualified (like a college lacrosse coach with a son who is a college lacrosse prospect), parents are not exactly an unbiased informational source about their own children.
To complicate matters even further, many of the adults around prospects with sport-specific expertise (high school coaches, club coaches, personal trainers, etc) have a very hard time projecting the right level for their kids. Not only are many of them biased based on their personal feelings of affection for the kid, but many are also afraid to tell parents the truth. Think about it. Most fired high school coaches lost their jobs not because they were doing a bad job, but because principals caved to pressure from unreasonable parents. And if a club coach or a personal trainer tells the average parent, “I think your son/daughter is a marginal to solid D3 prospect,” then that parent might wonder, “why on earth am I writing checks to this person?”
So, given the lack of qualifications to judge a college prospect, plus the bias, plus the fear, plus the selfish agenda of check-receiving adults, it can be very difficult for a kid to ascertain the truth. That having been said, finding out the truth is essential, so here are a couple of ideas to help you realistically assess yourself before you get started developing and executing your recruiting plan:
1. Make sure you stress that you want HONESTY in the feedback. Most human beings will say anything to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, so you have to address this reality ahead of time. Two things to keep in mind. One, tell them straight up not to worry about hurting your feelings, and explain that without brutally honest feedback, you’re going to run around wasting your time and wasting the time of a whole bunch of college coaches as well. And two, you need to understand that if they don’t tell you YES, they’re in fact telling you NO. A college coach might say, “well, you’re a terrific player, and I’m sure you can play at our level, it’s just that you’re not quite the right fit that we need at this time.” Did you hear a YES anywhere in that sentence? No, you didn’t. Which means the real answer is NO. Any time a coach waffles and qualifies and says things like “fit” and “need” and “at this time,” what they’re really telling you is that you’re not good enough.
2. Attend camps at colleges or universities that interest you. However, before registering and sending a check, explain to the coaches that the reason you’re coming to camp is to get qualified, unbiased feedback on your prospects to play sports in college. Sometimes, at larger schools especially, camps aren’t about instruction or feedback, they’re about money. So make sure the coaching staff at that school will be around and involved, and make sure they know your expectations- you need a realistic assessment of where you stand and what you need to improve. FYI, the “invite-only” camps (at schools besides the powerhouse programs, invites aren’t too terribly hard to secure), commonly referred to as “Elite Camps” or “Prospect Camps,” are by far better than the day or overnight camps for this purpose.
3. Reach out to coaches at local colleges and universities (smaller schools recommended) and ask if there’s a time where you can play against that school’s players (obviously, this is much easier in sports where the college players will engage in “pick-up” in the offseason, such as basketball or soccer). If you choose an NAIA school or a JuCo, the coaches can sit next to the court or field and watch you play, giving them a solid basis for providing qualified, unbiased feedback. If you choose an NCAA school, the coaches aren’t supposed to watch you play, but you can at least get feedback from the college students you competed against.
4. You can also go play pick-up at local high schools that feature consistently successful programs, and you can ask that school’s coach for honest feedback (a high school with a program that wins consistently will have a coach who has seen a lot of kids go on to play in college at different levels, giving them relevant points of comparison).
5. Finally, you can seek feedback from opposing high school coaches in your league. Simply call that coach’s school and ask for his or her email address, and send them a quick email asking for honest feedback about your athletic abilities and about their projected level for you to play in college. They might think your request is a little strange, but most of them will answer your email and provide you with unbiased feedback.
Thanks very much for reading. We hope you found this information to be useful, and we wish you all the best as you begin and/or continue your path toward finding the perfect college fit.