Recruiting ABC's - the Board's Collective Wisdom

I’ve been procrastinating contributing to this thread, but it’s a quiet morning, so here are my suggestions, based on my kid’s path through D3 Men’s Soccer recruiting. Many, if not all, of the tips can be generalized across sports, though not necessarily across NCAA divisions (D1/D2/D3).

Start with the money. Fill out online Net Price Calculators either on the College Board website or some specific schools to see what your Expected Family Contribution may be. Understanding the money helps you identify the type of school and program that fits your needs. D1 gives athletic scholarships – other than the Ivy League. D3 does not give athletic scholarships, but may give merit based awards – other than NESCAC schools which do not give merit awards (though Trinity and Conn Coll are reputed to have started giving merit awards in the last few years).

If there are particular academic non-negotiable items, identify them early on. Engineering? Pre-med? Journalism? Not all schools offer everything, and not all athletic programs are compatible with the demands of engineering or pre-med, for instance. Get a handle on geography and size of school preferred.

Identifying schools of interest: we spent time on the team pages of probably 20+ schools, to get a sense of the team’s achievements, possible needs, and type of player rostered. This doesn’t translate to all sports but, for example, Amherst Men’s Soccer is known for having big, physical guys who play aggressive soccer – if I had a 5’6 slip of a kid who played highly technical game, there is very little chance Amherst and he would be a good fit.

Initial contact: some schools care about the recruiting questionnaires, others don’t. It probably doesn’t hurt to go ahead and submit the recruiting questionnaire, but don’t rely on that as your sole communication with the program. Prepare an athletic resume which includes your contact information, athletic info – high school/club programs, coaching, awards, etc., along with academic info – gpa, test scores if available, rigor of curriculum etc, awards etc. Include contact info for your high school/club coach. Identify any upcoming tournaments or competitions which coaches may attend. Attach the athletic resume to your email to the coaching staff. Address the email to the head coach, by name, not just “Coach” and copy the assistant coaches on the email. The administrative end of recruiting is often handled by assistants, so make sure your email doesn’t get lost by making sure they get it in the first place. In your email, identify your basic athletic and academic info, and identify in a sentence or two why you are interested in that school. If you don’t hear back within about 2 weeks, follow up with another email. College programs may be in post-season play after your high school season is done, so the program may just be busy and not able to focus on recruiting yet. Film: most of the coaches we met said simple film was best, they just want to see game flow, specific skills, and be able to identify the kid – spare them the music and busy graphics.

Building a list: my kid visited a few schools in the spring of 10th grade to develop a feel for what he may be looking for. He emailed the coaches letting them know when he would be on campus and asking if he could meet with them to learn about their program and needs. Some of those early conversations were hilariously awful, but he learned a lot, and by the time it mattered, could handle phone calls and meetings on his own. Junior year was the core of his visits, with more serious recruiting meetings, and camps. By spring of junior year, he had athletic and academic likelies/matches/reaches, making sure there were a few schools which were both athletic and academic likelies. That list was fluid, as some schools came off (NESCACs, once we realized we needed merit aid and that didn’t happen there) and others came on.

Communication: Follow up with coaches, ask questions, be specific. High school kids may feel awkward pushing for this info, so a parent can ask the coach to explain it in more detail. Know whether you are expected to apply ED in order to have a spot on the team, whether the school does admissions, financial aid pre-reads. Ask specifically – how many kids with my stats whom you provided this level of support were admitted? denied? deferred? Find out what a roster spot as a recruit means – is it a guarantee for 1 year or can recruits be cut after pre-season? We kept a detailed chart noting communications with every school.

We were advised, again and again, that the school you choose should be one where, if you had a career-ending injury on the first day of pre-season, you would still be happy to be at that school, despite the end of athletics.

Have fun, and enjoy the ride. I loved seeing my kid mature, from the hilariously awful first meetings to him calmly calling coaches the fall of senior year to tell them he had committed to another school.

@mamom – happy it worked in the end for your daughter, despite the ups and downs.

For future recruits, I would add – be flexible, don’t take it personally. Coaches may blow hot and then cold or they may be non-committal. They may be trying to keep the “funnel” of prospects wide until they get some commitments or they just may be having a bad week and will be back to themselves in a week.

My kid learned a lot about handling rejection and disappointment through the recruiting process. His initial top choice school, which he loved and seemed like a great fit – collapsed on him over a period of months, as the coach went from saying he was at the top of his list to not responding to emails. For another top school, he couldn’t get his test scores into the (pretty high) range required by the coach for admission, and had to take that school off his list. We realized that coach had basically no “pull” with admissions so scores had to be in the top 25%, and that just didn’t happen.

And, while it is true that coaches may come and go, if you don’t like the coach or feel like it’s a bad fit – don’t hesitate to move on. At 2 schools which seemed otherwise like good matches, academically and athletically, my kid walked out of the meeting saying he couldn’t play for that guy.

Lastly, while a full visit, with class visit, time with the team, meeting with coach, watching practice if in season etc. is essential, I don’t think the overnight is necessary for everyone. My own kid can be on the reserved side, and the prospect of crashing on the floor of a stranger who is a possible future teammate etc., was just not necessary for him to make a decision.

To expand on the “fit” issue, the recruit should NOT IGNORE the little voice inside that says “this coach isn’t telling me the truth” or “something is wrong with this team”. Encourage your recruit to pay attention to the little things and to trust their instincts.

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@LMK999, D was frank with the coaches, they were not her first choice, or she didn’t click during the OV and I believe they were frank with her. She took emails, text msg and phone calls from most. It wasn’t until winter ball (and the college season was over) that D started to get real communication from coaches. She would send updates on stats, additional film, etc every week or so. They typically took a few days to respond. All the coaches wanted transcripts and test scores during the summer and did admission pre reads. All came back positive, but most of the coaches also told her, it was not an automatic in, admissions would re-evaluate once they got the full app. Once that happened, the coaches pushed to set up OV’s. Five is a lot, but at that point (end of summer) she was still not on her #1 choices list and D had not fallen in love with any one school. My D’s school was very accommodating with her missing so much school at the beginning of the year. Those OV’s were important for D. She sat in classes, spent the night with members from the team and got to know the coaches better. Sometimes, she attended a captains practice. They definitely helped her sort her list out. It worked out really well for D, but as I read on this forum last year, it is like a game of musical chairs. When asked the coaches answered where D was on their list. Maybe we got lucky, but, we did not feel anyone was stringing D along. Oh, if money is an issue, get a financial pre-read, fill in the NPC and don’t expect any last minute money. D had a friend whose parents could not afford her #1 school, but did not understand how it worked. If you cannot afford the dream school in August, you probably cannot in Dec. Be honest with your kids and move one. The sooner you do that the more opportunities they may have.

An addition based on a recent thread on ECs:

  • In general, even selective colleges won't expect high-level athletes to have the same sort of ECs — in quantity or commitment — as NARPs. This is not to say that athletes should give up on non-athletic interests. To the contrary, they should participate in any activities that they enjoy doing. Parents, on the other hand, should not worry so much about whether their athlete has focused too much in one area and needs a broader base of ECs. If an athlete spends 20-30 hours a week on a sport, there isn't going to be much time left for other endeavors, and that allows for only superficial EC involvement. Colleges want depth, and not breadth.