Coach’s Corner: Top 12 Pitfalls of the Recruiting Process

Norfolk Academy is blessed with a tradition of excellence both in the classroom and on the field.  While all of our graduates continue their academic careers in college, many have continued their athletic careers at the collegiate level as well.  NCAA WOMENS SOCCER:  AUG 26 Tennessee Tech at DavidsonPerhaps you are considering extending your athletic career at the next level.  If so, it will benefit you to learn as much as possible about the recruiting process.  Additionally, you can also benefit from learning about some of the “pitfalls” that can occur and determine some methods to avoid them.

For our first installment of Coach’s Corner, I have listed four of the top 12 Pitfalls to the Recruiting Process.  These four pitfalls revolve around the aspect of athletic exposure and college coach’s interest.

1) Coaches Will Notice Me When I Have A Big Senior Season.

Athletes are being recruited at younger ages than ever before.  Lacrosse, basketball and football coaches are getting verbal commitments from athletes who are in middle school or have yet to play a varsity season.  It has gotten out of hand.  Nevertheless, you must adapt to an earlier timeline.  You may not wait until your senior year to showcase your skills, especially if you play a winter of spring sport.  The same concept holds true for academics.  Your freshman and sophomore grades matter.  And you may want to take the SAT or ACT during the Fall or Winter of your junior year which is a bit earlier than the rest of your peers.

LESSON LEARNED: Your sophomore and junior year will be most important recruiting time, period.  Study hard and find ways to get athletic exposure to college coaches.   Take advantage of this time and strike while the iron is hot.

2) I’m a TOP Recruit.  Coaches Send Me Letters All the Time.

Do not assume form letters in your mailbox mean that a coach considers you a prospect.  Every high school athlete who expresses interest in a college team, regardless of his ability, will receive a letter and questionnaire in the mail asking for more information.  In fact, some D-I schools may send out as many as 5000 letters each year per sport.  Understand that this is only an initial request for information and, in most cases, an expected courtesy.  Answer the following questions honestly: Is my mailbox overflowing with handwritten letters from coaches who want me to consider their schools?  Do college coaches travel specifically to watch me compete?  If you’re one of the lucky few who can answer “yes” to these questions, then you may possibly consider yourself a blue-chip prospect.  If you’re like most high school athletes, however, and you had to answer “no” to any of the questions, then you need to take a more active approach to your college search.

LESSON LEARNED: Receiving personalized hand-written letters from college coaches and requests for personal meetings (rather than form letters and questionnaires) is a much better indicator of how interested a coach is in recruiting you. Later in the process, top recruits will receive personal phone calls from head coaches and assistant coaches.

3) Lots of College Coaches Will Watch My High School Games.

Coaches will scout regional high school and summer tournaments or events, usually within a couple hours of their school, but rarely will they travel farther.  It’s just not financially feasible or an efficient use of their time.  Also remember, your high school season is usually the same as the college season.  Coaches are very busy.  The recruiting season is actually in your offseason. 

LESSON LEARNED: Be pro-active and take your skills to coaches of the schools that interest you.  Don’t expect them to travel to your hometown. Reach out to them and ask them to view your highlight videos or attend their camps.

4) If a Coach from a School Outside My Target List Wants to Recruit Me, I’ll Tell Him I’m Not Interested.Eric Gorsline Lax at HSC

Avoid rushing to judgment if a coach expresses interest in recruiting you.  A lot can change in a few months.   A school that you dismiss now may look a lot more attractive later on.  Never lie to or mislead a coach, but you should also avoid making snap judgments.  Make sure you research every opportunity before deciding.  Once you decide exactly where you want to go, and after you have signed a Letter of Intent (or some other type of official commitment), tell the other coaches who are interested in you to remove you from their recruiting list.  Make sure to thank them sincerely for their interest in you.  Not only does it show good character, but if you ever want to transfer that school can still be a good option.

LESSON LEARNED: Keep your options open! Avoid rushing to judgment until you have made up your mind. Try to visit each school that shows athletic interest in you.

I hope that these first four “pitfalls” open your eyes to some of the common misconceptions in the recruiting process.  You must always remember that you are your best advocate and you must be proactive in your search.  This winter, you should be thinking about how to get exposure to college coaches.  Start to do your research and determine which camps and clinics would give you the chance to perform in front of those coaches.  Also, now is the time to plan your summer.

I look forward to sharing four more “pitfalls” about scholarships and Division I athletics in the next installment of Coach’s Corner.   As always, if you have any questions or concerns about this topic, feel free to reach out to me.

Go ‘Dogs.  Win The Day.

Coach Monninger, College Counseling Coordinator for Student-Athletes
Norfolk Academy
Winter, 2014