The recruiting process is an exciting time, or at least it should be. In my experience as a Division I Softball Coach, I found a lot of the potential student-athletes I spoke with felt stressed about the process. The recruiting process can be daunting – or so it seems. In this three part article, I will address the do’s and don’ts of recruiting, what a college coach is looking for, how to better enjoy the experience of recruitment and the timeline of recruiting.
Part I: Simplifying the first five steps in the recruiting process: from making your dream list of schools to evaluations at recruiting events. I will be taking you step by step through the process and answering commonly asked questions.
Part II: Breaking down the importance of the recruiting video and how to maximize your views by coaches (what to include in your video and what to omit).
Part III: Simplifying the last three steps in the recruiting process; pre and post-campus visit etiquette, attending camps, and receiving offers from schools. I will also go over the overall recruiting timeline for D1, D2, D3, NAIA, and NJCAA.
1. Finding the Right Fit as a STUDENT.
First and foremost, education is the number one priority. You want to ultimately choose the right school for you and your future – athletics is an excellent bonus. As a potential student-athlete, you need to take a moment and eliminate the athlete component from the equation. Grab a pen and paper: on one side of the sheet write down potential areas of study you are interested in and on the other side write down your top 10 schools of choice. This is a great place to begin. With this short list, begin to research if your schools of choice have your major. At this point, you have been able to eliminate some options from your list. You never want to limit yourself, so your next step would be to research schools similar to your top choices academically. I advise you to consider ALL divisions at this stage in the process. In the early stages, I suggest you begin with a list of 15 schools with your major and that meet your needs academically – such as ACT/SAT score requirements, GPA, and academic scholarship options.
2. Finding the Right Fit as a PERSON.
Are you looking for a university with 30,000 students or 2,000? Would you want to be in a more rural location? Do you want to be close to home or far away? Do you want to go to a school where it is warm year-round (or for a season)? Would you prefer a private university or state? These questions are all important in making sure you make the right decision for you and your happiness with the college experience. It is a great idea to write down your wish list and what are deal-breakers for you vs. traits of a university you could look past. With this list, you can continue to do research on the settings of the schools on your list. Putting in the front-end work will make the official/unofficial visit process much easier later on.
3. Creating a Recruiting Video/What to List on Your Player Profile
The creation of a recruiting video is a hot topic. In my article next week, I will discuss the content that is crucial to include in YOUR video. For now, let’s discuss the relevance of the recruiting video. The recruiting video is a snap shot of who you are as a player. In your video, you want to highlight what makes you stand out, all in a relatively short amount of time. This snap shot allows coaches to get a glimpse of you before they add you to their list of players to watch at recruiting events (camps, showcases, clinics, etc.) It is important that you treat your recruiting video as such. With this being said, it is also important to create a player profile with important information about you to attach to your video.
Below is an example of a player profile done well. As you can see, the PSA (Potential Student Athlete) has listed her name, graduation year, position, L/R information, high school information (athletic and academic), travel information, specialty coaches (slapping, catching, hitting, pitching), and accomplishments. It is important to attach a sheet like this to your emails to coaches so they have all the information they need about you to make sure you are the right fit for that particular university and program.
4. Communicating with Coaches (Key information they need to know)/Knowing NCAA rules
So, now you know you should attach a player profile and recruiting video to your initial contact with a coach, but what should you be talking to them about in your emails? It is important to make sure ALL of your information is accurate – correct coach name, correct university/college name, personal message (show that you have knowledge of the school), and list your travel ball schedule. Coaches like to work early! As soon as you get your information from your travel coach, send it over to the coaches you are in contact with. If there are any updates in the schedule be sure to share that with the coaches as well. Communication is the key to forming any great relationship – keep an open line of communication with the coaches you’re contacting. Also, notice how I have not once mentioned having someone else send these emails for you? Coaches want to hear from YOU…they will be coaching YOU. Please do not be shy, communicate with them often and genuinely.
It is important to brush up on the rules (D1, D2, D3, NAIA, NJCAA). You will be sending more emails than receiving from coaches – a major component of this is from the rules. Do not let this deter you from sending emails with a purpose. When you see that coach at an event be aware of the rules in which they need to follow (contact, evaluations, etc.) There are many times when players have tried to make in person contact with a coach in person when it is not permissible for the coach to do so. They are not ignoring you, they are following the rules for the safety of their program and you!
5. Attributes Coaches Look for at Tournaments
I will keep this section simple. When coaches attend recruiting events, they not only are evaluating athletic performance but your interactions. How do you respond to failure? How do you interact with your coaches, teammates, umpires, and opponents? The best way to view this is to see the game of softball as a game of opportunity – train hard, work hard, be compassionate towards others, be a good person, and the game will reward you. This does not just apply to NCAA Division I – there is a place for everyone and there is no shame finding your home at a D2, D3, Juco or NAIA school. All coaches at all levels are looking for quality people with softball skills that can better their program and culture.
These are the key steps to get you to the point before coaches invite you on campus for unofficial and official visits. In my next article we will discuss recruiting videos in more detail (providing a sample recruiting video), pre and post-campus visit etiquette, attending camps, and receiving offers from schools. Until then, good luck on the recruiting trail – remember this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and this experience is supposed to be fun, so enjoy it!