Every year, hundreds of college coaches search for a new group of athletes to fill their teams. Where will the coaches find these student-athletes? How can you be recruited?
Of all the students who hope to compete as an NCAA athlete, typically only one in 50 will actually be recruited. Sitting by your phone and waiting for a call from a coach is not exactly the way to get noticed! The actual recruiting period lasts for only several months, but preparing for it should begin as early as possible. Like everything else with college admissions, starting earlier is always better.
Because coaches have limited contact with students – typically starting at the beginning of your senior year – you may not find out if you are on an official recruiting list until most of your high school sports career has been completed. If you are not contacted by coaches, take the initiative by filling out a contact form on colleges’ athletics websites. Most sites will have a Recruit Questionnaire that asks questions about your athletic abilities and involvement (for example, What is your time on the 100 m dash? What position do you play? Will you be a captain? Do you play on a travel league?) as well as grades and standardized test scores.
You should start thinking about college athletics as early as freshman year of high school. As a freshman athlete, develop your skills and focus on your academics. No matter how talented an athlete you are, you will not be eligible to play a sport in college if your grades do not exceed a minimum set forth by NCAA standards.
As a sophomore, learn how the recruitment process works. What are the rules? How will you get noticed by coaches? Raise your visibility and look into sports programs at different colleges, and form relationships with coaches at the schools that interest you most. While it is still early, you will know your PSAT or PLAN scores if you take these tests in the fall semester, and you will have almost two years of grades. If possible, take on a leadership role and be sure to avoid any negative actions – that is, follow your school’s and your team’s rules. (Coaches will be loath to recruit a student-athlete who does not add positively to the team environment.)
The junior year is the most important, especially if you play a spring sport – coaches will not have a chance to see your level of play in the spring of your senior year, since your applications will already be submitted. (It’s possible that coaches can watch you play or view your video if you participate in a summer league.) In junior year, start to visit colleges and coaches – and make phone calls and send emails. While coaches cannot establish contact with you per NCAA regulations (until the summer before your senor year), you and your parents can initiate contact and reach out to coaches.
As a senior, your athletic skills should show continuing development, and you must continue working hard to assure your grades are as high as possible. Admissions is incredibly selective at many colleges today, and athletics recruitment is one way to try and differentiate yourself from other applicants.