You want to play college athletics in your chosen sport, and you’re hearing from some coaches who are interested in you. It’s an amazing thing to go through the recruiting experience, but there are some important mistakes that are important to avoid during the process.
Five Recruiting Mistakes Athletes Must Avoid
Poor Communication with Coaches
When you communicate with a coach, it’s extremely important that you do so properly.
Don’t bombard or overload a coach with messages and footage. Coaches are full-grown adults with plenty on their plate, from their coaching job to their home life and everything else humans have to handle on a regular basis. If you are constantly things to them, it won’t endear you to them – it could annoy them at worst and be a waste of your time at best.
But you should be in communication with coaches. Email communication is fine, but be sure to proofread and double check your messages, especially the names of the coaches and colleges. You don’t want the misspelling of a coach’s name to cost you a response. If you can’t pay attention to that detail, a coach might not trust you to pay attention to the details required to succeed for them on the field, court, or ice.
You can’t rely on your high school and club coaches to do everything for you. Direct contact is a good way to get on a coach’s radar, plus it shows confidence and self-belief to put yourself out there. Be sure you’re behaving professionally and keeping in mind coaches’ lives and schedules.
This is an incredibly common mistakes made by athletes that can cost them dearly in the recruiting process.
Your grades can open or close doors very quickly. No matter how well you can dribble a basketball, throw a football, kick a soccer ball, or spike a volleyball, you won’t play at the school you want if your academics don’t meet their standards. Obviously, your ability as an athlete is very important to the recruitment process, but remember that you are choosing a school to attend for four years. Education will play a large role, and it’s to your benefit that you keep your options as open as possible with positive grades rather than limit yourself and your choices through poor grades.
This can be especially true if you won’t play NCAA Division I athletics. Many non-NCAA Division I schools use a combination of merit and gift-type grants added to academic money, so if you have good enough grades, you can leverage that into more scholarship financing than what you’d get for athletics only, if anything. That’s not to say academics don’t matter if your aim is to be an NCAA DI athlete – your grades will still create or end opportunities at that level.
At the end of the day, if a coach can’t trust that you’ll take care of what you need to in the classroom, then they’ll be less likely to trust that you can be a successful member of their team.
Not Getting Better
A very common mistake made in recruiting is to stop focusing on improvement once the offers start rolling in or a commitment is made.
The first reason why this is a huge mistake is that you will have to be better in college than you were in high school. There is no way around it – the athletes you’ll compete against from opposing schools and teammates you’ll compete against for playing time will be much better than what you faced in high school. These are the elite high school athletes moving on in their athletics career. How can you compete with them in college if you stop getting better in high school?
Second, college coaches will continue to evaluate you. Even after they’ve offered you and even after you’ve committed somewhere, coaches will still watch and take note of your progression. Coaches want to see your game evolve over time. If you’re still the same athlete in your senior high school year compared to when you were a junior, what do you think a coach will think about that? Obviously, some people are late bloomers, and this doesn’t mean that you have to tack on 30 pounds of muscle in six months or no coach will want you. But if there aren’t signs of development, that will be a red flag.
Where you are in your game now won’t be good enough forever.
Failing to Network
Recruiting is about much more than your stats and the tournaments you play in. If you don’t have a network of people advocating for you, the recruiting process will be significantly more challenging.
Coaches rely on people they trust for inside information on recruits. They want athletes who will fit their system, their culture, and their style. They can gather some of that by talking to you and your parents, but they’ll want to hear from others for validation. Signing a recruit is a big deal for a coach – this is their job and livelihood, and if they don’t sign the right recruits, it could cause them unemployment.
This is how life works. People are more likely to trust people who are trusted by those they already trust. College coaches will have relationships with club coaches and other people within your sport across the country, or at least in the region(s) they often recruit from, and they will take their word and guidance seriously. If you don’t have those people in your corner, or those people don’t know who you are, then that can make a negative difference on your recruitment.
Counting Your Chickens Before They Hatch
Just because you think you’re destined to play at a certain level doesn’t mean you should overlook attention from other schools. Often, recruits will sit on offers under the assumption that more are on the way, but there are so many factors that come into play when evaluating scholarship opportunities. There is never a guarantee that more will come – you can only know what has been presented to you.
Never take an offer for granted. An offer is a coach entrusting you with one of the precious, limited spots in their program, and they mean something. That’s not to say you should plan to accept the first offer you get no matter what it is. But you should consider your options accordingly and not operate as though offers will be infinite. You have no idea what will or won’t come in the future, and you shouldn’t ignore what you have no with no guarantee or understanding of what may or may not come later.
Specific Sports May Call for Specific Focuses
While these are general mistakes that apply to recruiting in any sport, some sports might have quirks about them that can require more specific advice. If you’re a basketball recruit or lacrosse recruit, these are some important mistakes you should avoid in your process (some of which is covered in this article).