By Andy Beal
Since starting MaxPreps over a decade ago, I have frequently been asked by parents of high school athletes about the “ins and outs” of college recruiting. While there is no substitute for outstanding talent and great grades, there are additional steps parents of high school athletes can take to help their kids get recruited.
A realistic assessment of your son or daughter’s athletic talent is an important first step. This assessment will help you determine the appropriate level of play for your son or daughter at the college level. Don’t rule out NAIA or NCAA Division II and III schools if they can help your child attain their academic goals. Casting a wide net will improve your child’s chance of being successfully recruited.
Having a realistic expectation with respect to athletic scholarship money is helpful. In addition to athletic scholarships, many colleges offer other types of financial assistance and the pool of available money to your child will be substantially increased with strong academic results.
Some schools do not offer athletics scholarships, or need to allocate scarce scholarship money to more players than their program is funded to carry. It is not uncommon in smaller schools, or less prominent sports at larger schools for scholarships to cover only a portion of the costs associated with attending college. You should keep these opportunities open, too. Remember, your child can supplement their total financial package through other forms of financial aid such as academic or community-based scholarships, student loans.
Also, I can not over-emphasize the importance of getting good grades in high school and taking and scoring well on the college assessments tests such as the ACT and SAT. Many schools supplement partial athletic scholarships with academic scholarships or tuition reductions for athletes who display strong academic results. Most schools can not realistically consider offering an athlete a scholarship if the athlete does not academically qualify.
Many companies and consultants exist to help match graduating seniors to collegiate athletic opportunities. Some are quite effective and others fall short.
Getting noticed is important. Having a complete profile on MaxPreps.com can help. While it is free, it is largely up to your athlete’s high school coaches to establish and maintain the profile. Using coaches helps MaxPreps maintain credibility with college coaches and makes the profiles more valuable.
There are several “recruiting profile” websites available for free or with a modest investment. MaxPreps partners with BeRecruited; the largest of the national recruiting sites. Athletes can get a free recruiting profile page, or upgrade for a small fee for additional valuable features.
MaxPreps also partners with NCSA, or more fully known as the National Collegiate Scouting Association. NCSA is a premium advisory service. Your family will pay more, but you will get a personalized recruiting coach to help you and your child every step of the way. NCSA is very effective at placing deserving students into good and athletically appropriate college athletic situations.
Additionally, you can take several self-help actions to improve the odds of playing at the next level.
*Talk to your high school coach for advice
- Ask for an assessment of your child’s appropriate next level of play
- Gauge coach’s interest in promoting your athlete to college scouts and coaches. Some coaches see this as 'part of the job’ and others do not.
- Ask if coach is willing to take the next step of reaching out to colleges coaches on behalf of your child.
* Have your son or daughter attend off-season exposure tournaments or combines
- Do some research to ascertain that college coaches will actually be at the event
- Have your athlete prepare for the event – don’t go in cold during the off-season
* Post a highlight package on YouTube, BeRecruited, or other video sharing site and let college coaches know how to find it by including the full URL in your correspondence.
- Make it Short! – three minutes max with in-game highlights that show off athletic ability or extraordinary skills – music and special effects are not needed or even necessarily desirable
- Include your athlete’s contact information in the video
* Prepare a DVD that contains both highlights and a full-game
- Send this to coaches that ask to see video
- Label the DVD and put contact info into the video at the start and conclusion
There is nothing wrong with sending your athlete’s best full-game video
* Contact colleges and let them know of your child’s interest
- Most colleges have coaching staff directories on their official athletic websites
- Most recruiting services, including NCSA and beRecruited have updated coach contact information and communications management features.
* Register your athlete at the NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly known as the ‘NCAA Clearinghouse’). If you hope to obtain an athletic scholarship from an NCAA-affiliated college, your athlete must register with the eligibility center and academically qualify. The cost is $65.00
A letter, or e-mail, to colleges alerting them to your athlete’s interest along with a link to the highlight video can be effective in peaking interest. Your note should also include some other salient points about athletic achievements and academic results. Conduct an outreach campaign and follow-up with a phone call from your child to the coach.
Several factors will weigh into a school’s interest in recruiting a particular athlete. Is there a strong need at the position played? Does the athlete qualify academically? Is the athlete a fit into the program socially? Just because there is not a fit at one school should not be discouraging – schools, teams and coaches value different things at different times. Timing and circumstances are huge factors.
If a school displays some interest, it is important to reciprocate the attention. Nothing is more discouraging to a college coach than to show interest in an athlete only to have the athlete show indifference.
In addition to your son or daughter’s athletic ability and academic standing, the most important factor is reaching out to the schools you would like to consider. Have an open mind – lots of great athletic and educational opportunities are available at smaller schools and many offer combinations of athletic scholarships and financial aid. Reach out to these schools to broaden your choices.