ARTICLE 12. Recruiting 101

THE FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

ATHLETES

WANTED

CHRI S K R AUSE

High School Edition

CHAPTER 2

GAUGING A STUDENT-ATHLETE’S

LEVEL OF RECRUITMENT

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GAUGING a STUDENT-ATHLETE’S

LEVEL of RECRUITMENT

CHAPTER

2

In high school, Izell Reese was a negligible five pounds shy of the average

Division I linebacker. His other stats were spot on. He was 6’2” with a

3.2 grade-point average and a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. On top of that, he

was one hell of a great ball player, making the varsity team his freshman

year.

College coaches took notice of Reese. During practice his junior year,

Reese’s high school coach handed him piles of recruitment letters from

college coaches; each letter assured him that he would not only have a spot

on a Division I football team, but also win a full athletic scholarship.

Reese was certain he had a place on a college team. And in retrospect,

he should have been a sure thing. After all, he would go on to play for the

Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, and Buffalo Bills for seven years. But

Signing Day came and went, and Reese, who was later an NFL draft pick,

was not offered a spot.

Compare Reese with Heather Geck. Her junior year in high school,

Geck’s eighteen-hole golf average was 106.4, way too many strokes for even

the Division III average golfer. Her grade-point average was 2.2. But Geck

received nearly a full scholarship to a private university, a dream come true

for her parents.

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ATHLETES WANTED

Why the vast difference? Why was Geck, an average athlete with average

grades, given nearly a full ride while top football prospects with good

grades are overlooked? You might guess that football is more competitive

than golf. True, but when Izell Reese walked on as a freshman at University

of Alabama at Birmingham, he noticed that teammates with less ability and

lower grades had been given full athletic scholarships while he, clearly a

superior student and athlete, was paying out of pocket.

And Reese’s story is not rare. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, a first-round

draft pick, was not recruited by any Division IA programs, even though

he grew up only seventy miles from the University of Alabama and, as a

college athlete, would go on to set records that stood for more than twenty

years. As a high school player, Walter Payton was one of the state’s top

running back prospects, but he too would not receive a single Division IA

scholarship offer, though he also would go on to become a first-round draft

pick for the Chicago Bears. Tony Eason, a first-round pick in the famous

1983 NFL Draft, was not recruited out of high school; after junior college,

he was offered only one scholarship.

Far too many athletes miss out on collegiate opportunities or, like

Reese, Payton, and Rice, pay out of their own pockets simply because

they do not know how to play the recruiting game. In every high school

community in every town across the country sits an aging athlete reliving

his glory days as the high school quarterback. This scenario has become

a token joke in movies, but in truth, the situation is heartbreaking. Those

athletes should have been awarded scholarships, but they did not know

the rules. These athletes, their parents, and high school coaches operated

under myths, unaware of the five things they needed to know to open the

doors to college opportunities, namely:

1. When does the recruiting process begin?

2. Where do college coaches find talent?

3. How do college coaches evaluate talent?

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 105

4. Where should student-athletes find colleges?

5. Who is responsible for what?

THE FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

#1: When does the recruiting process begin?

The myth is this: The recruiting process begins when a student-athlete

is contacted by a college coach during the athlete’s

junior or senior year of high school.

The reality is this: Due to the rise in athletic scholarship need and the

increase of available information for college coaches,

the recruiting process is now started earlier than ever.

According to the NCAA, college coaches are starting

to identify seventh and eight graders as recruits and

are even starting to offer scholarships to prospects

before their freshman year.

The recruiting process starts during a student’s freshman year at the

latest. The NCAA requires a specific number of core courses be completed

for a student to compete at NCAA colleges and universities. These core

classes begin the athlete’s freshman year. Failure to meet these requirements

can eliminate a student-athlete’s scholarship hopes, regardless of

how talented the child might be. Every freshman student-athlete with

serious hopes of playing collegiate athletics should visit www.ncaa.org and

read the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete.

College coaches begin identifying prospects as early as seventh grade in

some sports, including men’s basketball. For Division I programs in every

sport, college coaches begin compiling their lists of potential recruits when

student-athletes are freshmen. College coaches are able to offer scholarships

to student-athletes at any point, as evidenced by the recent trend in

sports such as men’s basketball, where many student-athletes commit to a

college prior to their first day of high school.

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Randy Taylor, former recruiting coordinator for UCLA, tells the story

of J.D., an eighth-grader from Louisiana. Taylor attended a practice in

Shreveport to evaluate a senior recruiting defensive end when he noticed

J.D. standing on the sidelines playing catch.

The year was 1999. “At that moment,” said Taylor, “we had our first

offer for the class of 2004, and to the best of my knowledge, that was J.D.’s

first offer while in the eighth grade.”

In most cases, college coaches will begin the recruiting process by

sending letters and questionnaires to the student-athletes on their lists

during freshman year. Relationships are developed by student-athletes

who take advantage of their ability to call, write, and take unofficial visits

to these college coaches at any time.

Waiting to connect with a coach might be the biggest mistake a young

student-athlete can make! Coaches from Division III and NAIA schools can

call a student-athlete at any time, though some opt to follow the Division

I and II rules. Division I and II coaches are prohibited from calling underclassmen,

but student-athletes who are smart enough to initiate contact

with the coach can start the recruitment process well before their junior

year. If a student-athlete calls any coach, regardless of the coach’s division,

the coach can accept the call and talk to the prospect at any time.

As well, college coaches can send the student-athlete a letter and questionnaire

any time, even in grade school, in some cases. Those letters might

ask the athlete to call the coach if the student has any questions regarding

the university. This is the green light for the student-athlete to initiate a

phone call!

These letters, however, do not necessarily indicate real interest. An

athlete, as well as thousands of other high school athletes in the United

States, Japan, Canada, Spain, Kenya, China, Australia, and Germany, could

be receiving recruitment letters from the very same college coaches. If

student-athletes receive letters—even hundreds of letters—from college

coaches, they are not necessarily being heavily recruited. Chances are good

that they simply made their way onto a prospect list and were identified

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 107

as student-athletes. Coaches from schools with big athletic programs will

send ten to fifteen thousand letters to start the recruiting process, but they

will only offer about twenty to twenty-five scholarships.

For many high school athletes, receiving that first letter of inquiry

from a college is the most exciting, but do not mistake an initial letter from

a college as an indicator of high interest. My first five letters came from

Michigan, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Arizona, and Brigham Young University,

none of which made offers. Coaches and athletic directors purchase

lists of high school athletes, so an athlete’s name is likely just one on a list.

A letter means a school knows who the athlete is, and in many cases, all it

means is that the school has seen the student’s name in some sort of database.

Remember: Mail is just the initial stage; recruitment occurs when a

student and coach talk, build a relationship, meet personally, and schedule

an evaluation. Do not confuse the two.

A college football staff might send 10,000 to 15,000 letters

And watch 1,000 to 2,000 videos

Before making 500 phone calls to potential recruits

Verbally offering between 65 and 200 scholarships

Extending up to 85 offers for official visits

Before signing a maximum of 25 players per year

T h e R e c r u i t i ng F u n n e l

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ATHLETES WANTED

The top indicators of a coach’s level of interest, in declining order, are:

Full s 1. cholarship offer in writing.

2. Full scholarship offer made verbally.

3. Partial scholarship offer in writing.

4. Partial scholarship offer made verbally.

5. Offer of an official visit.

6. Phone calls from the head coach on the first day of the

contact period, which varies by sport.

7. Hand-written weekly letter from head coach or assistant

coach (the former indicates higher interest).

8. Athletic application with fee waiver.

9. Letter from head coach or assistant coach with an invitation

to call or email (the former indicates higher interest).

10. Offer of an unofficial visit or game day visit.

11. Request for game, highlight, or skills video.

12. Invitation for pro-rated one-day summer camp visit.

13. Questionnaire and letter inviting the student-athlete to

correspond or call.

This list merely denotes interest. Without exception, official commitments

are signed into action only on Signing Day. Unless an athlete has

signed on the dotted line, no guarantees exist, no matter how many phone

calls, letters, FedEx packages, or written offers the student-athlete receives.

Remember that the scholarship offer is for one year only; student-athletes

will need to renew their scholarships for their sophomore, junior, senior,

and sometimes fifth year of college, so the recruiting process continues

even after they have signed on the dotted line.

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 109

« « Fas t Fac t « «

The following are not signs of recruitment:

1. Invitation to attend a camp.

2. A generic admissions letter.

3. A scout attending a game (unless the scout came to

evaluate the student-athlete).

#2: Where do college coaches find talent?

The myth is this: College coaches discover talent their junior or senior

year by attending camps, combines, showcases, tournaments,

and high school games.

The reality is this: College coaches depend on verified information

from reliable sources, and they purchase lists of

prospects as young as seventh grade. Most coaches

attend tournaments, games, and camps with lists of

student-athletes they intend to evaluate, not with

hopes of discovering random prospects.

Far too many student-athletes are lost because they think they are going

to be discovered. But remember that college programs have a pool of talent

that includes over 7.3 million high school athletes in more than twenty-five

sports, and each coach has less than about $500 on average to sort through

all these athletes. Just take a look at Williams College’s recruiting budget.

Williams College ranks first in U.S. News & World Report’s list of best liberal

arts colleges. It has the top-rated Division III program according to the

Director’s Cup, and for three years straight, Williams College has topped

the NCSA’s Collegiate Power Rankings. Williams was also ranked fourth in

financial resources by U.S. News & World Report, yet the school has $12,400

earmarked to recruit for its women’s teams, which include basketball, crew,

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ATHLETES WANTED

cross country, field hockey, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, skiing, soccer, softball,

squash, swimming, diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.

If Williams College has a restricted budget, imagine the problems faced

by programs that are not as highly rated!

WILLIAMS COLLEGE RECRUITING BUDGET

SPORT RECRUITING BUDGET DOLLARS PE RCENT OF BUDGET

Football $16,700.00 43%

Men’s Basketball $5,800.00 15%

All Other Men’s Sports $4,000.00 10%

Combined Men’s Sports $26,500.00 68%

Combined Women’s Sports $12,400.00 32%

Total Recruiting Budget $38,900.00 100%

Add to this all the rules and regulations of recruiting, and it is easy to

see why otherwise-qualified students are simply passed by. And parents

often add to the problem. If a parent believes his child is the next LeBron

James or Mia Hamm, he likely thinks colleges would be crazy to overlook

his son or daughter, so he stands on the sidelines waiting for the school to

take notice. And then Signing Day comes and goes. Where are all the college

Football Men’s Basketball All Other Men’s Sports Combined Women’s Sports

$12,400.00 $16,700.00

$4,000.00

$5,800.00

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 111

coaches beating down the athlete’s door to help ol’ State U. win championships?

Where is the pot of gold at the end of the athletic rainbow—the free

tuition, books, room, and board?

Perhaps the athlete is a superstar, but if the student-athlete does not

initiate communication with coaches and convey an interest in competing

in a program, the student will have a hard time finding a home at a college.

The student-athlete must be prepared to call coaches, ask the right questions,

and take the initiative.

As well, remember that college coaches purchase verified recruiting

lists and rely on credible third parties to begin their process of finding

talent. These trusted sources save the college coach an enormous amount

of time, effort, and money by providing the college coach only with potential

student-athletes they might be interested in.

College coaches rarely discover talent at events such as camps,

combines, and showcases. (In fact, NCAA rules prohibit college coaches

from attending combines.) Coaches attend most events with a list of

student-athletes who they are already recruiting. If a student-athlete is not

on the list, chances are that the athlete will not be on the list after attending

a camp, combine, or showcase. The average college coach recruits from

multiple lists. Student-athletes should take advantage of all credible opportunities

to get their name on as many of these lists as possible.

#3: How do college coaches evaluate talent?

The myth is this: College coaches initially evaluate talent by attending

high school games and watching unsolicited videos

sent from students and families.

The reality is this: College coaches do a majority of their initial evaluations

by looking at videos requested or received from

reliable sources and delivered online or digitally.

After watching a video, a coach may decide to make

an in-person evaluation.

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Once the college coach has compiled his list of potential recruits, he

will want to evaluate the athletes’ ability.

College coaches begin their evaluation process as early as an athlete’s

freshman year. Coaches will send questionnaires requesting basic information,

which helps the coaches narrow down their initial, broader recruiting

list. If a student-athlete neglects to fill out questionnaires, the athlete will be

removed from coaches’ databases. The student-athletes who return questionnaires

and fit certain criteria remain on the coaches’ recruiting lists.

Once they have a list of potential recruits, coaches will request film.

The film serves as a far more efficient method of evaluation than traveling

to watch the athlete play in person. Most college coaches will review film

only if they have requested it or it has been sent from a credible third party.

A few coaches at schools with small recruiting budgets will review unsolicited

film.

If the college coach evaluates the film and believes that student-athlete

possesses the required level of skill, he will make a personal evaluation.

Once the list of potential recruits has been narrowed, the college coach

might attend a game or tournament to make a final decision.

#4: Where should student-athletes find colleges?

The myth is this: NCAA Division I is the only option for collegiate

athletic scholarships.

The reality is this: Over eighteen hundred colleges and universities

sponsor collegiate athletes and are able to offer

financial packages. Most opportunities fall outside

of Division I programs.

What student-athlete has not imagined being featured on ESPN? And

what parent has not imagined Junior earning a full scholarship to the best

school in the country? After all, parents have likely been preparing for

recruitment since the day their daughter laced up her first soccer cleat.

All those long, tedious parent meetings. All those practices that lasted

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 113

well into the darkness. All those weekends on the road and dinners at the

drive-thru window. All those lost holidays and summer vacations spent

at sporting events. Don’t forget all those checks written to support their

mighty endeavors.

« « Fas t Fac t « «

According to Jack Renkens, former college athletic

director at Division II school Assumption College, former

college coach, and parent of a recruited student-athlete,

parents can expect to spend on average $15,200 on their

child’s athletic career after paying for shoes, uniforms,

equipment, camps, clubs, traveling, and medical

expenses.

All those sacrifices were made with one goal in mind: a college athletic

scholarship to the best school out there. But remember that fewer than

1 percent of student-athletes receive fully funded Division I scholarships.

About 80 percent of opportunities are at Division II and III colleges,

who provide need- and non-need-based scholarships, grant monies, and

outstanding educations. For every Michigan, UCLA, and Duke, there are

Williams, Amhersts, and Wellesleys not as well known for their athletic

aptitude, but academically world class.

According to U.S. News & World Report, more than 50 percent of the

top-rated colleges and universities do not have Division IA non-Bowl

subdivision football programs. Only two of the top ten- and six of the top

twenty-rated colleges have Division I football programs. Of the top liberal

arts colleges, only about 8 percent have Division I football programs. And

guess how many of the top fifteen have Division IA football programs?

Not a single one.

Refusing to play the “Name Game” will dramatically help a student’s

chances to parlay athletics into an outstanding education by taking

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advantage of athletic opportunities at schools that will prepare an athlete

for a meaningful career. Remember that this process is about leveraging

athletics to win academic scholarships, grants-in-aid, and eventually career

opportunities. For most college athletes, sports are a means to an end.

With this in mind, we recommend that all student-athletes start by

looking at Division III programs. Consider the facts:

Division III is the l argest division, with over 450 colleges and

universities.

Overall, Division III schools also have the highest level of

academic programs.

The biggest grants-in-aid packages are available at the

Division III level.

The Division III level of play is more realistic for most

student-athletes.

In other words, a student-athlete will likely be awarded more money

to receive a better academic education while seeing more playing time at a

Division III school.

« « Fas t Fac t « «

The top of the top athletes can receive fifty offers by January

1 of their junior year. Most major Division I prospects will

receive offers by the end of their junior year.

Sometimes the trickiest place for a student-athlete to be is that gray

middle ground with enough talent to earn some cursory interest from

schools but not enough to be pursued heavily. Most of these athletes lose

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 115

out on potential scholarship money because they are unrealistic about

their lot in the athletic world, and they believe they are being more heavily

recruited than they really are. They sit by the phone or mailbox waiting to

hear from coaches that are not going to call.

Often, these athletes will ignore overtures from Division II, III, and

NAIA programs because they are certain they should be playing Division

I athletics. Never mind that the education they would receive could be just

as good, if not superior, at a smaller school, and that they could receive

more playing time, making for a rewarding experience. Trouble is, by the

time many of these athletes realize that the Division I scholarship is not

coming, they are too late for a Division II or III school.

Take football, for example. Though the annual Signing Day is in early

February, many commitments are made before the beginning of the athlete’s

senior year. Any player who has not received a verbal offer by Christmas

likely is not getting one. Once those Division I verbal commitments are

made, the cards begin to fall, as athletes who have not been offered Division

I scholarships are scooped up immediately by Division II and III

programs.

Student-athletes should not blow it by sitting around waiting for coaches

to plead for them to come. Athletes should do their homework early and

often, and not let ego get in the way of a fulfilling college experience.

« « Fas t Fac t « «

Many of the best packages come from “non-scholarship”

Division III programs. The reality is that if a Division III

program wants an athlete, the school often finds a need- or

non-need-based scholarship that applies to the student. In

other words, Division III schools give financial aid based on

how much they need a student-athlete. The key is to have

multiple opportunities to negotiate the best bottom line.

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#5: Who is responsible for what?

The myth is this: A student-athlete’s high school or club coach is

responsible for getting the athlete a scholarship.

The reality is this: The average high school coach has contact with

fewer than five college coaches, most of whom are

local. Student-athletes and families are ultimately

responsible for connecting with college coaches.

The harsh reality is this: High school and club coaches most often

cannot secure scholarships for student-athletes. The average high school

coach knows no more than five college coaches. Fewer still have a personal

relationship with college coaches, most of whom are local, though more

than 99 percent of the opportunities for athletes will be from outside their

geographic location.

Even if a student’s coach is highly connected, the coach will likely have

other student-athletes to help. High school coaches usually have neither

the time nor the resources to commit enough energy necessary for an

athlete to be recruited. Most high school coaches are not required to facilitate

the recruiting process, and their budgets do not cover the expenses

related to recruiting. The responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of

the student-athlete and parents.

If a student-athlete’s high school coach tells an athlete otherwise, the

athlete should express gratitude and accept any offers for help, but the athlete

should not rely solely on the coach when it comes to a scholarship future. An

athlete should provide her coach with all the information necessary to help

her earn a spot on a college team and continue her own aggressive search.

Even Frank Lenti, named Illinois Coach of the Century and the 1998 Nike

USA High School Coach of the Year, agreed that a high school coach most

often cannot negotiate a scholarship for a student-athlete. The student and

the student’s family must work proactively, consulting the high school coach

about the realistic level of recruitment, but taking the reins themselves.

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 117

Incidentally, Frank Lenti, averaging seventeen players a year who go

on to play football in college, is legendary. In the twenty-four years he has

been head coach of Chicago’s Mount Caramel High School football team,

the team has been to the state championships thirteen times and won nine

state crowns.

Consider also that high school coaches are most often physical education

teachers. If student-athletes have aspirations that fall outside the

purview of physical education, they should get help from educators in

more related professions to find the correct fit for college.

Coac h’s T i p

“Families needs to take responsibility for their own

youngsters,” said Coach Lenti.

A family’s first job in the recruiting process should be to set these

myths aside and accurately gauge two things:

An athlete’s a 1. bility to play at a Division I, Division II,

Division III, NAIA, or junior college level; and

2. Whether the student’s current level of recruitment falls

into the category of elite recruitment, serious recruitment,

moderate recruitment, light recruitment, or no recruitment

at all.

GAUGING THE ATHLETE ’S ABILITY

Chris Ducar, the women’s soccer coach for the University of North Carolina,

once said that he has never met parents who thought their children were

unqualified to play for Ducar’s team. And Frank Lenti, legendary football

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coach from Mount Caramel High School, said parents almost always think

their athletes can play at least one level above their actual ability.

Survey one hundred college coaches, and they will all tell you the same

thing: Most students who come knocking are simply unqualified to play at

that level. The same goes for parents. Part of a parent’s job is to be a child’s

number one fan. Though this is the trademark of a good parent, it is not

conducive to making an objective evaluation of a child’s potential, especially

when parents likely have little, if any, access to information about

overseas and nationwide competitors.

Gauging an athlete’s abilities accurately might be difficult for parents

and athletes, but it is also critical. Students who believe they play at a Division

I level might overlook opportunities from Division II or III schools

that offer more realistic opportunities. Having an accurate gauge of an

athlete’s level of ability early in high school helps manage expectations

and set goals. A freshman athlete playing at a Division III level in high

school might very well set goals and become a Division I-level athlete by

the senior year, but without a barometer advising what those goals should

be, the athlete might fail to meet the recruitment requirements.

« « Fas t Fac t « «

Some recruiting and scouting services, like the NCSA,

provide objective third-party evaluations that assess a high

school student-athlete’s ability to play at the collegiate level.

For more information, visit www.athleteswanted.org.

Together, parents and their student-athlete should take a look at the

recruitment requirements for the athlete’s sport and position. When talking

with a college coach, student-athletes should also ask what that particular

program’s recruitment requirements are, and ask their high school coach if

they are likely to improve enough to meet those requirements. If an athlete

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 119

runs a 16.5-second 100-meter hurdle, she should consider whether she

can realistically shave a second or two off her time and be recruited to a

particular school.

A Sample of the Recruitment Requirements per Sport and Division

SPORT DIVISION I DIVISION II DIVISION III

Baseball, right-handed pitcher 80-90 miles per

hour

85+ miles per hour 83+ miles per hour

Women’s basketball, point guard At least 5’8” tall At least 5’7” tall At least 5’5” tall

Men’s basketball, shooting guard At least 6’2” tall At least 6’1” tall At least 5’11” tall

Women’s track, 100-meter hurdle < 14.5 seconds < 15.2 seconds < 15.5 seconds

Men’s track, 100-meter dash < 10.5 seconds < 10.9 seconds < 11.0 seconds

Football, running back speed < 4.5 second 40-

yard dash

< 4.6 second 40-

yard dash

< 4.7 second 40-

yard dash

Women’s golf, 18-hole average < 78 < 85 < 95

Men’s golf, handicap < Scratch < 2 < 3

Softball, pitcher’s ERA 60+ miles per hour 58+ miles per hour 55+ miles per hour

Men’s swimming, 50-meter freestyle < 21.4 seconds < 22 seconds < 24 seconds

Women’s swimming, 50-meter

freestyle

< 24 seconds < 25.5 seconds < 28.0 seconds

Women’s track, high jump 5’10” plus 5’4” plus 5’1” plus

Men’s track, shot put 60’10” 50’ 50’

Women’s volleyball, average setter’s

block jump

Height

9’10”

5’10”

8’9”

5’8”

8’7”

5’7”

Men’s volleyball, setter’s average

approach jump

Height

10’8”

6’3”

10”6’

6’3”

10’6”

6’1”

Wrestling Four-time varsity

letter-winner in

high school

Three-time varsity

letter-winner in

high school

Two-time varsity

letter-winner in

high school

For a full listing by sport and position, see www.athleteswanted.org.

Parents and athletes should gauge the athlete’s grades and other

academic and extracurricular achievements as well. Though student120

ATHLETES WANTED

athletes often have little time to volunteer for the community or participate

in extracurricular activities, students who promise to bring a bevy of

talents to a school will be more easily recruited than adequate students

with few highlights on their college application. The stronger the athlete is

in athletics and academics, the less important other extracurricular activities

will be.

GAUGING THE ATHLETE ’S LEVEL OF RECRUIT MENT

Keep this in mind: Having all the right stuff and doing the right stuff are

not the same things. An athlete might meet or exceed all Division I criteria

and still fall into the category of lightly or not-at-all recruited because the

student did not play the game of recruitment properly.

A student-athlete’s level of recruitment falls into one of five categories:

1. Elite recruitment

2. Serious recruitment

3. Moderate recruitment

4. Light recruitment

5. No recruitment

Elite Recruitment

If an athlete is a superstar athlete who knows how to play the game

of recruitment, especially in the marquee sports of football and basketball,

the athlete likely would already have offers. Coaches will start sending

letters of inquiry as early as an athlete’s seventh or eighth grade year, using

every strategy within the rules—and some outside the rules—to sign an

athlete on Signing Day. Even in the so-called Olympic, or non-revenue

sports, such as lacrosse, soccer, swimming, and wrestling, the elite athletes

will probably not go unnoticed.

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 121

Keep in mind that athletes recruited at the elite level comprise only

about one hundred of the top kids in the world (note the word world and

not nation), and only the top five in any position. Most athletes are unlikely

to fall into this category. Athletes recruited at the elite level are those who

start receiving FedEx packages their freshman year and have fifty to one

hundred offers by the end of their junior year. These athletes will likely

have their picks of the top schools providing they meet academic qualifications,

progress athletically, and graduate on time.

Even if student-athletes fit into this category, parents and athletes will

be far better off assuming they do not. If they are wrong, they will be pleasantly

surprised with the results. But if athletes assume they are elite recruits

and pass over great offers, they might miss out on outstanding opportunities.

Our motto is this: Aim low and shoot high. Assume Division I is a

reach. Athletes should apply for Division I schools (shoot high) but focus

also on Division II, Division III, and NAIA programs that offer an abundance

of realistic opportunities.

If an athlete has not received a scholarship offer by the beginning of

the junior year, or even as early as the freshman year, that athlete does not

fit into the category of elite recruits. These athletes should begin an aggressive

and targeted marketing campaign so that the appropriate coaches will

notice the athlete.

The Rest of the Recruitment Pool

Most likely, a student-athlete’s recruitment level falls into one of four

categories:

1. Seriously recruited

2. Moderately recruited

3. Lightly recruited

4. Not at all recruited

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Indicat ors that an Athlete Is an Elite Recruit

Heavily

Recruited

FRESHMAN SOPHOMORE JUNIOR SENIOR

More than thirty letters/emails

from different schools. Letters/

emails include camp brochures,

questionnaires, information

about NCAA rules, and invite the

student-athlete to call or email

the coach.

At least one offer (depending

on sport).

College coaches call studentathlete’s

high school or club

coach/director to inquire about

the athlete.

College coaches watch the

athlete play at club tournaments

and showcases (depending on

sport).

Over sixty letters/emails from

different schools. Letters/

emails include camp brochures,

questionnaires, information

about NCAA rules, and invite the

student-athlete to call or email

the coach.

At least three offers (depending

on sport).

College coaches call the studentathlete’s

high school or club

coach/director to inquire about

the athlete.

College coaches watch the

athlete play at club tournaments

and showcases (depending on

sport).

Video requests (depending on

sport).

Head college coach begins to call

June 15 (depending on sport).

Over sixty emails immediately

following September 1.

Coaches say student-athlete is

the top recruit.

Unofficial visit invites.

At least five offers on the table.

Transcripts requested by college

coach.

Depending on sport, head

college coach begins to call after

April 15.

Student-athlete receives

personal phone calls from

college coaches immediately

following July 1 (Division I) or

June 15 (Division II). See NCAA

recruiting guidelines for sportspecific

call dates.

Three or more in home visits.

Ten or more offers on the table.

At least ten official visit invites.

Fifty plus phone calls from

different schools.

Weekly emails/phone calls.

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 123

Indicat ors OF A CHILD’S LEVEL OF Recruitment

Seriously

Recruited

FRESHMAN SOPHOMORE JUNIOR SENIOR

Over fifteen letters/emails

from different schools. Letters/

emails include camp brochures,

questionnaires, information

about NCAA rules, and invite the

student-athlete to call or email

the coach.

College coaches call studentathlete’s

high school or club

coach/director to inquire about

the athlete.

College coaches watch the

athlete play at club tournaments

and showcases (depending on

sport).

Over thirty letters/emails from

different schools. Letters/

emails include camp brochures,

questionnaires, information

about NCAA rules, and invite the

student-athlete to call or email

the coach.

At least one offer (depending

on sport).

College coaches call studentathlete’s

high school or club

coach/director to inquire about

the athlete.

College coaches watch the

athlete play at club tournaments

and showcases (depending on

sport).

Video requests (depending on

sport).

Head college coach begins to call

June 15 (depending on sport).

Over forty-five emails immediately

following September 1.

Coaches say the student-athlete

is in the top five recruits.

Coaches invite student-athlete

to games.

Coaches extend personal invitations

for student-athlete to

attend camps.

Video requests.

At least three offers are on the

table.

Transcripts requested by college

coach.

Depending on sport, head coach

begins to call after April 15.

Student-athlete receives

personal phone calls from

college coaches immediately

following July 1 (Division I) or

June 15 (Division II). See NCAA

recruiting guidelines for sportspecific

call dates.

At least one in-home visit.

At least five offers on the table.

At least five official visit invites.

At least thirty phone calls from

different schools.

Frequent emails/phone calls.

124

ATHLETES WANTED

Indicat ors OF A CHILD’S LEVEL OF Recruitment

Moderately

Recruited

FRESHMAN SOPHOMORE JUNIOR SENIOR

Fewer than fifteen letters/emails

from different schools. Letters/

emails include camp brochures,

questionnaires, and information

about NCAA rules.

College coaches may watch the

athlete play at club tournaments

and showcases (depending on

sport).

Fewer than thirty letters/emails

from different schools. Letters/

emails include camp brochures,

questionnaires, and information

about NCAA rules.

College coaches may watch the

athlete play at club tournaments

and showcases (depending on

sport).

Assistant college coaches begin

to call June 15 (depending on

sport).

Emails from coaches in the fall.

Might be personalized.

Unofficial visit invites.

Coaches invite student-athlete

to games.

Coaches evaluate studentathlete’s

team in person.

Coaches call student-athlete’s

high school or club coach/

director.

Transcripts requested by college

coach.

Depending on sport, assistant

college coaches begin to call

after April 15.

Under five official visit invites.

Ten or more college coaches call

in July.

Coaches tell the student-athlete

to apply.

Possibly one to three offers.

Sporadic emails/phone calls.

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 125

Indicat ors OF A CHILD’S LEVEL OF Recruitment

Lightly

Recruited

FRESHMAN SOPHOMORE JUNIOR SENIOR

Fewer than ten letters/emails

from different schools. Letters/

emails include camp brochures,

questionnaires, and information

about NCAA rules.

Fewer than fifteen letters/emails

from different schools. Letters/

emails include camp brochures,

questionnaires, and information

about NCAA rules.

Assistant college coaches begin

to call June 15 (depending on

sport).

Form emails from coaches.

Coaches invite student-athlete

to games.

Coaches evaluate studentathlete’s

team in person.

Coaches may call studentathlete’s

high school or club

coach/director.

Depending on sport, assistant

college coaches begin to call

after April 15.

Transcripts requested by college

coach.

School will send 1-800 number

and the school’s media guide.

No more than three official visit

invites.

No more than ten college

coaches call beginning in July.

Possibly one offer.

Coaches invite student to walk

on.

Coaches act as if student is going

to apply.

Student receives a few emails/

phone calls from coaches.

126

ATHLETES WANTED

Indicat ors OF A CHILD’S LEVEL OF Recruitment

Not at all

Recruited

FRESHMAN SOPHOMORE JUNIOR SENIOR

Athlete receives camp brochures

and general admissions information

only.

Athlete receives camp brochures

and general admissions information

only.

Athletes receive no more than

ten form emails.

Athletes continue to receive

camp brochures.

Athletes receive fewer than ten

questionnaires.

Athletes receive no more than

ten form emails.

Athletes continue to receive

camp brochures.

Athletes receive fewer than ten

questionnaires.

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 127

Surprisingly, even those students who receive one hundred letters of

interest do not fall into the category of elite recruitment. Unless a ton of

offers are on the table, assume that an athlete needs to proactively market

himself and search for a college. Even student-athletes in the “heavily

recruited” category will not likely have their top choice of a college.

To some extent, whether a student is noticed can be a crapshoot. The

size of the high school can make a difference. The location can make a

difference. The high school’s media exposure can make a difference.

College coaching staffs do have limited budgets even at the highest levels,

and programs are restricted by NCAA guidelines from engaging in certain

recruitment activities.

But if student-athletes play the game right, even if they are average

athletes or students, they can still leverage outstanding opportunities.

The athlete or her parents should also complete the Recruiting Action

Plan questionnaire at www.athleteswanted.org, which will provide an evaluation

of where the student-athlete stands, as well as a sport-specific action

plan based on the athlete’s grade level, ability, and level of recruitment.

128

ATHLETES WANTED

K e y P o i n t s

1. Far too many athletes miss out on college opportunities because they do

not know how to play the recruiting game. In fact, the best athletes are

often not offered scholarships, while far less superior athletes receive glamorous

offers. Athletes, parents, and high school and club coaches should

know five things to protect the athletes from falling through the cracks:

#1: When does the recruiting process begin?

The myth is this: The recruiting process begins when a studentathlete

is contacted by a college coach during the

athlete’s junior or senior year of high school.

The reality is this: Due to the rise in athletic scholarship need and the

increase of available information for college coaches,

the recruiting process is now started earlier than

ever. According to the NCAA, college coaches are

starting to identify seventh and eight graders as

recruits and are even starting to offer scholarships

to prospects before their freshman year.

#2: Where do college coaches find talent?

The myth is this: College coaches discover talent their junior or

senior year by attending camps, combines, showcases,

tournaments, and high school games.

The reality is this: College coaches depend on verified information

from reliable sources, and they purchase lists of

prospects as young as seventh grade. Most coaches

attend tournaments, games, and camps with lists

of student-athletes they intend to evaluate, not

with hopes of discovering random prospects.

#3: How do college coaches evaluate talent?

The myth is this: College coaches initially evaluate talent by attending

high school games and watching unsolicited

videos sent from students and families.

THE HOW TO GUIDE DURING HIGH SCHOOL 129

The reality is this: College coaches do a majority of their initial evaluations

by looking at videos requested or received

from reliable sources and delivered online or digitally.

After watching a video, a coach may decide

to make an in-person evaluation.

#4: Where should student-athletes find colleges?

The myth is this: NCAA Division I is the only option for collegiate

athletic scholarships.

The reality is this: Over eighteen hundred colleges and universities

sponsor collegiate athletes and are able to offer

financial packages. Most opportunities fall outside

of Division I programs.

#5: Who is responsible for what?

The myth is this: A student-athlete’s high school or club coach is

responsible for getting the athlete a scholarship.

The reality is this: The average high school coach has contact with

fewer than five college coaches, most of whom are

local. Student-athletes and families are ultimately

responsible for connecting with college coaches.

2. H aving an accurate assessment of ability helps a student-athlete determine

which schools might be a good fit. Athletes can start by learning

the recruitment requirements for their specific sport (see www.

athleteswanted.org). The student-athlete can ask college coaches for an

evaluation of all potential opportunities and ask college coaches what

their specific athletic requirements are. Athletes should consider their

grades and set goals accordingly.

3. I n addition to ability, athletes should know their level of recruitment

and take the Recruiting Action Plan questionnaire, available at www.

athleteswanted.org, for a sport-specific action plan based on grade level,

ability, and level of recruitment.