By Tom Kovic
The college experience is, in many cases, the most important four years in our children’s lives. Realizing the potential leverage families have in the college recruiting process, will develop increased confidence and clarity as the college quest unfolds. Then, laying a strong foundation with college recruiting will provide prospects and families with clear direction moving forward.
Determine Potential Fits
Every prospect has an ideal college experience waiting for him or her and identifying essential operatives that define your personal goal is half the battle. Self-awareness is a powerful recruiting tool. Furthermore, growing an appreciation for what potentially appeals to you in college is a great place to start.
Begin by meeting as a family to identify “college descriptors” (academic strength, level of athleticism, geographic location, and size of the undergraduate population) that will help you formulate your initial college list.
Research a small but equal number of D-1, 2, and 3 colleges and their sports programs. Research the team level of success and dig into a few player profiles to determine the general level of athleticism individual team member’s play. Determine the conference they participate in and the team’s strength of schedule.
Identify Your Position of Strength
Begin by asking the question, “Do I want to use my strength as an athlete to gain an athletic scholarship, or do I want to leverage my athletic ability to gain admission to an academically select institution?”
Just over 25% of college athletes qualify for an athletic scholarship, and the competition for these grants is fierce. College coaches use simple strategies when recruiting prospects. Scholarship athletes are typically blue-chip, immediate impact athletes.
Coaches from select college programs (Ivy, Patriot League, and D-3) use a slightly different formula when identifying potential prospects. The evaluation begins in the classroom and not on the playing field. Coaches are hungry for academic information (transcripts, high school profile, and standardized testing) that will help them compute a rough admissions index. Once prospects pass this hurdle, coaches aggressively begin the sport evaluation.
NCAA Rules and Procedures
Building a college recruiting information base can begin in the 9th grade. It should be a fun family hobby that should increasingly grow into a highly organized, disciplined project by the end of the junior year in high school.
Commit to understanding and embracing the NCAA recruiting rules. These rules will help you streamline your planning and organizing into a more straightforward and more practical format. Visit: http://www.ncaa.org/student-athletes/future to preview the Division 1, 2, and 3 recruiting rules and drill down on recruiting, eligibility, and financial aid.
The high school athletic director and sports club administrator can be tremendous resources in providing you with an easy to understand scaled-down version of NCAA rules. These leaders likely have substantial experience in working with former high school prospects and will serve as excellent resources.
The Bigger Picture
Every prospect should get excited about potentially contributing to a worthy college team. Also, it is crucial to look beyond the 4-year college athletic experience and identify a school that will position you firmly in your professional field of interest.
Academic select, “non-athletic scholarship institutions,” can offer significant assistance in Admissions. It is vital that prospects, families, and high school advisors clearly understand the role the college coach plays in this process. Furthermore, make every effort to develop a strong working relationship with college coaches throughout the college search.
If you consider the long term benefits the prospect can receive with these college options, it makes this potential choice very appealing. Consequently, there will be a level of sacrifice that prospects need to make to reach their goals. Student-athletes who bring solid academic credentials to the table and can strongly impact an athletics program could bring a very competitive “chip” to the college recruiting game.
Communication is your vehicle that moves your plan forward with a definite purpose. Initiate your recruiting project early and proactively. College coaches are bound to clear contact rules, but prospects and families have greater flexibility when initiating contact with college coaches.
An initial letter of introduction accompanied by a player profile is a great way to launch your recruiting plan. Equally important, follow up regularly with significant updates that have “grip” (competition results, academic, and highlight video updates, etc.). The prospect that practices “proactive persistence” will grab the college coach’s attention.
Implementing a systematic college recruiting plan will help you identify, and hopefully secure admission to the college of your choice. We must empower our children. Let them know they are part of a team that is engaged in an essential and meaningful process that will have a significant effect on their future careers and personal growth.
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and Founder/Principal of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he advises prospects and families on college recruiting. For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com.