This post is the fourth in a series about NCAA athletics. See the first three posts here:
- Looking into NCAA Athletics
- First Four Steps Towards NCAA Recruitment
- Distinguishing Between NCAA Recruitment Periods
Amidst all of the tests, the homework assignments, the figuring out of your future, it can feel particularly daunting to approach NCAA coaches – but it doesn’t have to. Below you will find some key tips (things that I wish I would have understood beforehand) to help smooth out the ups and downs of athletic recruitment as much as possible.
1. Start early
I may have already stated this in the previous NCAA posts, but that’s because it really is quite critical. Establishing an early relationship with college coaches lets them watch you grow as an athlete and competitor. The longer that they have to watch you play, the longer that they will have to picture you working into their team. Additionally, expressing an early interest can really go a long way when it comes time for them to make their decision.
2. Explore all options
Just as with your regular college search, cast a wide net when speaking with different athletic programs. Relative to your skill level, you’re going to want to be contacting safeties, targets, and reaches. Logically, every program will be looking for something slightly different, depending on the current dynamic of their team. Even a supposed “lesser program” may not show interest simply due to the fact that they already have someone who plays your position, etc. Other schools may have recruited a lot of kids the year before you, and so are taking a smaller pool of athletes this time around.
It’s also important to acknowledge that, chances are, you’ll change your mind a couple of times throughout the year. Maybe you decide you do want to move out of state, or that you need some form of financial aid, or that you want to major in engineering; any of these can completely shift the athletic options that are available. What I’m trying to get at is, by keeping your options as open as you can for as long as you can, you’ll achieve a greater level of flexibility.
Further into the year, coaches will want to start locking in athletes, and you will have to narrow in on what you want. Until then, though, don’t let yourself be pressured into accepting a deal without knowing the full scope of possibilities that are out there.
3. Stay in touch
There are periods in every sport where college coaches aren’t making it out to big tournaments, aren’t actively responding to their emails, aren’t reassuring you in the way you may wish they would. Don’t let that stop you. As you progress with your sport, keep prospective coaches in the loop. Send them relevant information: awards, results, videos. It’s all about maintaining the conversation and continuously demonstrating your interest in their program.
4. You have to…
When it comes down to it, the NCAA operates as a business. Be ready to make your case, negotiate, and secure the optimal deal. (This was one of the primary things that I struggled with being an, admittedly, emotional human being.) These coaches know what they’re doing, and it can be hard to stand your ground when they are pushing for a particular response.
It helps to know what precisely it is that you have to offer. Being impressive on paper is always handy, but the qualities beyond that are just as, if not more, important. Are your driven? Are you a strong team player? Are you prepared to work hard to maximize your potential? There are things that set you apart from other potential recruits; it’s up to you to figure out what those are and how to best pitch them to each athletic program.
Lastly and above all else: prioritize yourself. This is four years of your life that we’re talking about, and you deserve to be happy with the college that you compete for.