By Kelly Kennedy
The first question I always ask a family when discussing the possibilities of an athlete pursuing an athletic scholarship is “whose dream is this?” This is key. Mom and Dad aren’t going to be the ones getting up at 5:00 AM to get to the early conditioning workouts, it has to be the athlete’s goal to play in college – it is a huge commitment. After we get the answer to that question we move forward to formulate the plan.
Knowledge and Preparation are the Keys to success in the recruiting process
After 13 years of college coaching and spending the last four years traveling to AAU tournaments, talking to parents, researching the recruiting nuances of the various sports and helping athletes – I have come to the conclusion that there is no substitute for preparing properly.
Each student athlete and their parents should equip themselves with a reasonable knowledge of their short and long-term goals, recruiting rules, key dates on the recruiting calendars – and – a clear understanding of how coaches recruit. These things are critical in getting exposure to the right schools for you.
The recruiting rules are mandated by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). There are rules that apply to every prospective student-athlete (PSA) and there are sport specific rules. These rules set the tone for college recruiting even though not every university in the country falls under these guidelines. There is another governing body called the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). I’ll be covering these two entities in more detail as a topic for future articles, so stay tuned.
Registering with the NCAA Eligibility Center
Every athlete that wants to be recruited by an NCAA Division I and Division II Institution must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center their junior year in high school. The EC determines an athlete’s Eligibility to compete and their Amateur status. An athlete must be cleared through the EC before he or she can take an Official visit to an NCAA Institution.
- An official visit is a 48 hour expense paid visit to a collegiate institution. Each athlete is limited to five and only one per institution.
- Each sport has a recruiting calendar which defines when coaches can begin the recruiting process with PSAs. This pertains to contacts, evaluations, phone calls and general correspondence.
- Visit www.ncaa.org to obtain a copy of the “NCAA Guide to the College-Bound Student-Athlete” for specifics.
Recruiting is a Game, Know the Rules
It is important to understand how and when coaches recruit in order to position yourself properly in the recruiting process. You have all heard the expression “Players aren’t born, they are made in the off-season.” As former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz says, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” We tend to think that how we perform during the season will make or break our chances of being recruited. Think again – read on…
Coaches don’t recruit during the season, they recruit in the off-season and during the summer. With budgets being cut and time being limited they will spend a good deal of time finding out about players before traveling to see them play. They do this through high school coaches, travel team coaches, self-solicitation of athletes, and scouting services. Each sport has a few reputable services they probably subscribe to. These services go out and watch players, write an evaluation and compile a list for coaches. Many of the opportunities they may have for assessing talent is coming in the off season during showcases and club sporting competition.
This is all good stuff, but it is really important to get video to coaches. Stats aren’t always relevant as they may not give a true picture of the level of competition. Getting video to coaches is critical. Each sport has its own form of content that the coach is looking for. In addition to game film, video that reviews specific skill sets, demonstrate assessments of speed, conditioning, jumping ability, and other sport specific skills can really make a difference. For coaches “seeing is believing”.
The most frequent question I get from parents and athletes is “when do I get started”? I tell them if you are playing on the varsity team your freshman year then it is not too early. Only varsity experience is relevant. Coaches do not want JV material. You don’t want to wait until your senior year. The most critical for most sports is your junior year and summer before your senior year. Football is one of the few sports that will wait to see how your senior season goes to make a final decision. Men’s and Women’s Basketball will generally start looking seriously at players the summer before the junior year. Some coaches may start to offer scholarships to juniors.
Develop a Marketing Plan & Portfolio
Put together a “Portfolio” and send it to college coaches before going to a “showcase” or exposure event. A portfolio is essential if you are doing an unofficial visit on a college campus. Understand that coaches go to these events to view as many athletes as they can. They also set their viewing schedule around athletes that they already know about. They may have seen video which has peaked their interest and now want to see that athlete play live. Remember, even though a coach has come to observe another athlete – if your performance is outstanding at these exposure events – you ”WILL” attract attention. Although others exist, www.rightfitsports.com has developed one of the most comprehensive tools for providing coaches with an effective introduction to your athlete. The portfolio is free and it has the capability to host full game video. Once completed, you are entered into a national database for college coaches – and – you can email the portfolio to coaches all over the country.
The best advice I can give to you is to BE PROACTIVE in the recruiting process. Don’t wait to see which coaches may be interested in you. Start researching schools, programs, and levels of play (Division I, II, III, NAIA etc.) RightFit Sports has a tremendous college search engine to locate schools. It’s important to find schools that fit what “you” want in a college. If you have already had some college interest from schools that have seen you then you are likely a college prospect. Now, target the schools that you would be interested in attending and invite the coaches from those programs to come see you play.
When you are traveling to tournaments over the summer, find a couple schools along the way that might interest you and take a tour. Do an unofficial visit at the campus. Call the coach ahead of time to arrange a campus tour. Send them your portfolio with video ahead of time to introduce yourself. If they like what they see they will make more time for you if they can.
And finally, understand what level of competition will be best for you. Everyone wants to play in the “big time”, but only .8% of athletes get Division I scholarships. There are many tremendous opportunities out there. Ask your high school coach, your select team coach, an expert in your sport about what level may be best for you. Don’t waste your time chasing the wrong level. You could miss out on a great opportunity at the right level. Find the right fit academically and athletically and the financial piece will fall into place.
Please send questions about recruiting to [email protected].
Kelly Kennedy’s experience is extensive. She has coached at both the high school and collegiate level, serving as both an assistant and head women’s basketball coach at a number of Division I and II schools – including Iowa State University’s Big XII Championship team advancing to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 on multiple occasions. She has personally mentored 6 WNBA players and developed Right Fit Sports to serve thousands of high school athletes looking to advance into the collegiate ranks. Right Fit Sports is a free service which enables athletes to develop their portfolios and marketing plans to advance their playing careers.