By Tom Kovic
The college search for athletes is an “individual” quest. A winning strategy for one prospect could be a losing strategy for another. I think we can all agree that when it comes to recruiting, the “blue chip” kids are going to be found…It’s just a matter of when. That aside, the majority of the prospects navigating the college search are NOT blue chip kids and should execute a personal plan of attack that includes “grey areas” of recruiting.
Prospects should identify distinctive characteristics that help separate them from the rest of the pack in a competitive group of college bound athletes. Below are 5 Tips in Developing your Unique Brand as a Prospective Student-Athlete.
Personal Brand Defined
A Personal Brand is simply developing and maintaining a character, mission and purpose that identifies and differentiates you from other prospects. Your personal brand is not something you whip up in a weekend…It is a life-long commitment to shaping and reinforcing your personal core values.
College coaches are not implementing rocket science strategy when recruiting prospects and considering the tremendous volume of interest, they need to establish clear and simple operatives that will streamline the recruiting process.
An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in the increasingly competitive college recruiting arena. Your brand is your personal commitment to coaches that tells them what they can expect from you. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.
Defining your personal brand can be daunting, but consider the following operatives that will get you started:
Remember, college coaches are looking at 3 standout qualities in prospects: Impact athletes, quality students and boys and girls who bring a robust integrity component to the recruiting table.
Tell it like it is
It is one thing to present your brand to college coaches in a positive light and an altogether different strategy to boast. College coaches are grounded, common-sense, gut thinkers who, at their core, are the “salt of the earth.” They have an uncanny ability to read prospects and families quickly and with laser focus accuracy.
Commit to sharing an optimistic but honest self-assessment with college coaches. Athletic statistics should especially be accurate and convey a realistic measure to your athleticism. Be prepared to back up everything you present college coaches on paper… Be true to your brand and be prepared to deliver!
Create a Statement
Do your homework and learn the strengths and weaknesses of the college programs you are considering. Roughly identify their future needs in an effort to offer your unique “fit” into the existing system. Don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.
Using a personal mission statement to identify your perfect college match and how you plan to impact a worthy college team can be a powerful tool in identifying your brand. Look at the bigger picture and offer your vision of a true student-athlete experience that identifies academic excellence, a brilliant athletic experience and in an ideal socio-cultural environment.
I encourage prospects to make every effort and commitment to organize important information regarding the recruiting process and execute well-designed plans. Avoid waiting for college coaches to initiate contact with you. Control your playing field and provide the coaches with regular updates that will raise their awareness of you.
Develop time-lines that will target general events in the beginning of the college search (making unofficial visits, updating your data base, and attending competitions) and continue to follow-through with more specific events (compiling a video and player profile, communicating with coaches, and making official visits, etc.) as you advance. This will establish your willingness to help the college coaches evaluate you and increase your chances in hitting communication targets moving forward.
Make a deliberate effort to identify unique qualities that separate you from the rest of the pack of prospects and you will be well on your way to developing your personal brand. Take time to self-reflect and perform a detailed analysis of who you are and what you offer as a potential “true student-athlete.” Do what you do best and train and compete at the highest level in an effort to raise the bar of awareness of college coaches.
Tom Kovic is a former 19 year head coach of Women’s Gymnastics at The University of Pennsylvania and current Chief Executive with Victory Collegiate Consulting. The Victory Advisement Team provides individual advisement for families and prospects in navigating college recruiting.