Every summer, families jump into minivans and onto club buses to shuttle aspiring college athletes to “recruiting circuits.” No doubt you’re either just getting back from or packing up another suitcase and gym bag for a tournament or showcase right now.
I know, because my entire summer as a DI lacrosse coach was spent going to these same events. The summer season was invaluable for our program’s recruiting efforts. So I empathize with that mix of excitement and dread parents and high school athletes feel right at the start of the weekend at a big showcase. We watched some special talents rise above their competition and prove themselves on the field at events – many of them ended up committing to our program.
But I also saw special talents on the field that we didn’t recruit, because they made a mistake that too many aspiring athletes make every year. They believed that their performance on the field at a few pressure-packed events was the deciding factor for college coaches. Play well, and I’m in, they thought.
They were wrong.
The talent you display on the field is just part of the puzzle. Expecting a college coach to evaluate what kind of addition you will be at their program – on the team, in the locker room, with the teammates who breathe, sweat and bleed for the program – from a 40-minute window is unrealistic.
There are four steps recruits need to take with each attended event to make the summer circuit valuable – even indispensable – for success. As your resident SportsRecruits college coach, I’m here to share them with you.
1. Tell Me Where You’re Going To Be
I’ve previously discussed the hours of preparation us coaches spend determining what events to attend. Help me out by making sure I know where I can evaluate you. If you want to increase the likelihood of my coming to watch you play, simply adding your schedule to your team’s website or an online profile won’t cut it. Reach out to me at the start of summer and let me know what events you’re attending. Telling me once will likely not be enough, either. Send a quick note sometime close to the event, especially if you know your game schedule. Heck, even if you find out your schedule the night before an event, it’s not a bad idea to reach out. Just make sure you’re delivering something worthwhile—I don’t want to be bothered with fluff.
2. Follow Up
Anything major happen at the event that I may have missed? Follow up afterward if you have some milestones to share. Maybe you made the all-star team, or your team went to the finals and you had a bunch of saves along the way. You should absolutely let me know if you have film from the event to share—it’s hard for us coaches to digest everything in real time and I love the ability to pause and rewind a play, especially from the comfort of my air-conditioned Holiday Inn room. Perhaps you and I are a little further along in the process, and you had a chance to say a quick hello (coaches can only give a brief greeting and cannot discuss recruiting while at an event, per NCAA rules). That would certainly warrant a personalized note to thank me for taking the time to watch your game. I’ll be evaluating your character as well as your skill, and expressing gratitude shows me your humble attitude.
I’m busy juggling a hundred different things, so don’t leave it to chance whether I will know where to evaluate you. Try not to be a bother, but if you have an update regarding where I can see you play, it’s never a bad idea to pass along a brief, personalized note.
3. Give Me Everything I Need in One Place
As an evaluator, I always want to maximize my time and resources by conducting informed evaluation. The more I know about a player, the better I can assess how valuable they may be to my program. The college program I recruited for had rigorous academic standards all prospective student-athletes had to meet. Too often, I found myself putting effort toward a talented player, only to find out later that he did not have the grades required for us to consider him. Both of our time was wasted because I did not have the complete picture of this student-athlete at the onset.
For me to do my job effectively, I need to spend my time evaluating student-athletes I know can cross certain thresholds. Deliver me everything I need to know about your athletic and academic abilities before I sit down to watch you play. I think SportsRecruits is the most efficient way to go about it. At the bare minimum, submit your information whenever it’s asked of you at a showcase, tournament, or by your club. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wanted to rip my hair out when I opened an evaluation booklet, only to find blank columns in the space for player GPA—it drove me mad! Most college programs are hamstrung by something—usually academic requirements and/or limited financial aid—and those details will inevitably come up at some point during the recruiting process. Make my life easier by providing me somewhere I can go, or something I can view, that includes all the information I need to evaluate you from day one.
4. Show Me How Tough You Are
Lots of players have speed, strength, skill, or some combination of all three—but not many players are tough. As an evaluator, I was trained to seek out players with toughness over any other intangible. I’m not talking about how hard you can hit someone, or getting in an opponent’s face when your teammate is knocked down. The toughness I’m referring to means doing the right thing every time, all the time. ESPN’s Jay Bilas wrote a great piece on what toughness means in basketball, and it’s a great read for anyone familiar with the sport. This quality was hands down the most valuable indicator of a player’s talent—and, perhaps more importantly, their potential talent at the next level. This sort of toughness is not easy, and it can hurt at times, but committing to it will not only make you a better athlete but a better person. Let me paint a clearer picture by sharing some examples of toughness which you can easily implement into your own game:
- Calmly and quietly move on to the next play when a call is made against you or your team—even if you feel it was a poor call.
- Hustle—especially when getting on and off the field so you can create opportunities for your teammates through substitution.
- Look your coach in the eyes as they give you feedback on the sideline—and appreciate that feedback even if it may feel embarrassing.
- Be with your teammates—when timeouts and huddles occur, when someone other than you scores or makes a big play, and when warming up and packing up.
Believe it or not, coaches notice all these things. That’s especially true when a coach is watching you for the second or third time. There is so little to distinguish between one talented player and another that these little plays—made before the first whistle and between first and second halves—are what indicate a recruit may be mature enough and tough enough to compete at the highest level.
As an all-encompassing final piece of advice, I will say this: don’t leave anything to chance. College coaches have it hard enough finding the right student-athletes to help them achieve their goals, so don’t assume them watching your game means you’re automatically on their radar. Give them all the information they need to evaluate you entirely—as a student, as an athlete, and as a person. Deliver that information to them in a succinct, accessible format—and update them when those key factors change. And tell them where they can see you play. Your outreach to coaches will ultimately move the process along with programs that are a good fit for you. Implement these tactics and you’ll stay ahead of the pack in the search for your dream school.
Playing in front of college coaches at summer events is just a piece of the puzzle.
A prospective athlete’s performance at a single event is not the determining factor in whether or not they get recruited. The recruiting process is aptly named. It’s a process.
Commit just as much energy to completing the above four steps as you will into playing, and you’ll make it a successful one.
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