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Athletic Recruiting 101: What Student Athletes Need to Know

Many high school athletes dream of continuing to play their sport at the collegiate level, whether it’s at a Division I, II, or III school. From football and basketball to swimming, baseball, softball, and more, there are a number of sports in which student athletes can be recruited to play at the next level, but it’s important for students to understand the basics of the athletic recruiting process before deciding if it’s an avenue they want to pursue.

Just as it is in the typical college search process, recruitment is a two-way street. Students need to learn everything they can about certain athletic programs and colleges in order to find the best fit, and those colleges need to market themselves so that students will be aware of their athletic offerings. A coach can’t build a team without engaged student athletes, and those athletes can’t be engaged without knowing the ins-and-outs of the formal recruitment process.

Here are some things that students should know before deciding if athletic recruitment is right for them.

Just because you get a letter from a coach does not mean you’re being actively recruited.
What ignites the athletic recruiting process for some students is receiving a letter from a coach. Sometimes these letters are pretty generic, and other times they can be handwritten and personal. It’s important to remember, however, that coaches and teams send out thousands of letters to high school athletes every year. Think of them like college brochures. As soon as you took the SAT or ACT your mailbox was full of them, right? The same applies to these initial letters. Many times it’s just a marketing and sales tactic to get some athletes interested in a certain college. Remember, you are not being actively recruited until a coach calls you, invites you on a visit, or makes a formal offer to join the team.

Same goes for social media.
Social media has revolutionized the college admissions process, and it’s had an even bigger impact on athletic recruitment. On the coach’s side, social media is a great way to reach prospective athletes with their program’s mission, goals, successes, and more. However, it has also added a complicated layer to the recruitment process in terms of who can and cannot have contact with certain athletes and when. Remember, just because someone says they’re a coach or a representative of a team on social media doesn’t necessarily mean they are. Again, the recruitment process is not formal until a coach calls, invites you on a visit, or makes an offer.

Don’t take social media chatter seriously. Instead, use social media to learn more about a coach, the team, the school, and to promote yourself. Post photos and videos of your sporting events, and keep your social media presence clean. Coaches have been known to stop recruiting certain athletes because of inappropriate or offensive posts on social media that were made by those athletes.

Coaches won’t always come to you.
There are more than 7.8 million high school athletes in the US, according to most recent estimates. That’s a lot of students to keep up with, and it’s almost impossible for coaches to keep up with every athlete in their sport. If you’ve decided that playing your sport in college is a priority, it’s up to you to take control of the recruitment process.

  • First, talk with your high school coach to get a realistic evaluation of what level he or she thinks you could play in college.
  • Based on talks with your coach and college counselor, create a list of schools that you think would be a good fit for your academic and athletic abilities.
  • Get in touch with the coaches at those schools. Send a resume of your athletic achievements as well as game or tournament videos, if applicable.
  • Become familiar with NCAA recruitment rules and timelines – they can vary from sport to sport!
  • Register with the NCAA Clearinghouse/ Eligibility Center so that they can certify your eligibility to play college-level varsity sports.

These are just a few steps you can take to kick off your athletic recruitment process. If you’re unfamiliar with how to proceed, you can always seek help from college counselors with experience guiding athletes through the recruitment journey.

An offer to join a team or a scholarship doesn’t always mean a free education.
Many parents and students view college athletics as a ticket to a free education. While it’s true that, according to the NCAA, “NCAA Divisions I and II schools provide more than $2.9 billion in athletics scholarships annually to more than 150,000 student-athletes,” those are not always full-rides. And Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships at all. There are limits to the number of scholarships schools can offer to certain sports, and often they only cover a portion of the cost of attendance. If you’re serious about athletic recruiting, you need to understand that you might not receive a full-ride if offered a scholarship. And, if your main motivation for pursing athletic recruitment is to receive a scholarship, you’ll need to be strategic about the teams which you target.

Athletic ability does not supersede academics.
You may be a star athlete, but if you don’t have the GPA or test scores, there’s nothing a coach can do to guarantee your acceptance to the school. Even if you have an offer and a scholarship, you still have to meet the college or university’s admission requirements. Make sure you’re performing well in your classes and reaching the goal score needed on the SAT or ACT in order to improve your chances for admission. If you’re struggling, consider hiring a tutor or test prep expert to help you improve your academic standing.

In the end, fit matters.
We can never stress the importance of fit enough, and that applies to athletic recruitment, too. If you receive an offer from a successful program, but the team, school, or the coach is not a great fit for you, then it’s likely you won’t enjoy the experience. The same applies on the coach’s side. They want to recruit athletes who are a good fit for their team, the school, and share the same values as the program. If you’re able to recognize why a program is a good fit for you, and demonstrate how you’re a good fit for the program, you’ll have a much more rewarding athletic recruitment experience.

Navigating the college admissions process is difficult enough without adding the more complex layer of athletic recruitment. At IvyWise, we have a number of counselors who have extensive experience recruiting and guiding students-athletes through the athletic recruitment process. If applying to college as a recruited athlete is a priority for you, contact us today for more information on our services for student athletes.

Learn more about the benefits being a recruited athlete in the video below!