Whether you coach a team full of athletes bound for the collegiate athletic arena or have but one or two players who are determined to compete in college, your role as their coach often involves helping prepare them for the rigorous college search and recruitment process. How do you help your athlete(s) make the best possible impression and increase their chances of being recruited to participate in college sports?
Even though the landscape is rife with competition and a much larger pool of high school athletes than available roster spots vie for collegiate coaches’ attentions, implementing the following five tips can help propel your athlete(s) to the top of the list and will hopefully aid them in landing the recruitment offers they desire.
College coaches are bombarded with communication from hopeful athletes (and more often than not, hopeful parents and high school coaches) trying to showcase their skills and garner attention. By preparing your athlete(s) to conduct themselves in a professional and proactive way, you’ll help them stand out from the crowd and give them the best chance of being recruited.
Encourage your player(s) to initiate contact with the programs they’re most interested in joining and to remain prompt and courteous in their communication with prospective coaches. According to Chris Krause in his book Athletes Wanted “Coaches are impressed by students who initiate conversations. As difficult as it might be for students to muster the courage to call coaches, student-athletes’ abilities to represent themselves is critical to the recruiting process.”
Once they’ve initiated contact with coaches for whom they are interested in playing, your athlete(s) will most likely need to communicate back and forth with them for a period of weeks or even months. One practical way you can prepare your player(s) for these conversations is to help them practice. Role-playing phone and in-person conversations with your athletes can help them prepare for correspondence with prospective coaches and tremendously increase their confidence. This will allow them to put their best foot forward and present their best to a coach rather than regretting a difficult or nerve-wrecking interaction.
Help Them Do Their Homework
Make sure you encourage your athlete to learn as much as they can about the schools they are interested in pursuing. Do they offer athletic scholarships? Keep in mind some associations and divisions disallow schools to offer athletic scholarships.
In cases where a school may be unable to offer sports scholarships, its coaches are often able to help prospective athletes find other forms of financial aid either through the school financial aid office or through grants and private scholarship sources. Don’t discount a school your athlete is interested in just because it doesn’t offer athletic scholarships before you’ve helped them explore alternative methods of finding financial aid to apply towards their tuition. In fact, schools in NCAA Division III or other associations/levels that don’t allow coaches to offer scholarship aid to their players directly can often yield more total financial aid and may prove to be a better fiscal option than a school that can offer a modest athletic scholarship.
Division III schools, which are typically smaller private colleges, routinely give merit awards for academics and other student accomplishments. The average merit grant that private colleges are awarding routinely slashes the tuition tab by more than 50 percent.
Know What Coaches Are Looking For
By being intentional in modeling good character traits for your athletes and teaching personal development skills that influence not just their athletic prowess but their ways of thinking and acting on and off the court, you will better prepare them for the heightened demands of being a part of collegiate athletics. Character must be valued and highlighted in your athletic program. Any and every athlete that participates under your tutelage will benefit from developing strong character — especially those seeking to impress and impact coaches in the collegiate circuit.
Examples of the character traits coaches seek in new athletes include effort and strong work ethic; precision on and off the court; academic discipline in the form of good grades; and, perhaps most importantly, being humble and coachable. Finding ways to recognize and teach these traits in your program will help prepare your athlete(s) not just for the collegiate arena but for the rest of their personal and professional lives.
Dot Your i’s
The rigorous processes by which athletes are made eligible to play in collegiate sports continue to become more involved. Every association and governing body has its own rules for eligibility. It’s important to help your athlete stay on top of the eligibility requirements made by the school they plan to attend. Even if a scholarship was offered, a student becoming ineligible to play could cause the scholarship to be revoked or distributed to other players in some cases. Keeping the following points in mind will help avoid eligibility snafus that could jeopardize scholarships:
- Student athletes will often receive ample correspondence from their prospective coaches long before they arrive at freshman orientation. It often includes information on how to begin the eligibility process. Make sure that emails from prospective coaches are arriving correctly and that no important messages are accidentally being allocated to spam folders.
- Some sports associations and conferences require submissions including (but not limited to) personal profiles, physical examination results, transcripts, scouting materials, GPA information, statistics, signatures, and more. These could arrive in the form of web links, documents, online or paper forms, and more that must be completed or attended to. Help your athlete keep on top of these requirements and help make sure it is correctly submitted. Uncompleted or botched forms could potentially bar your athlete from being able to play or participate in athletic activity. Don’t let your athlete be the freshman on their collegiate team who has to sit out the first week of preseason because they didn’t correctly complete their forms.
- Some athletic associations require online video trainings or quizzes. While it may feel like homework or rigmarole to your athlete, it is imperative that they complete the trainings. Their eligibility could be compromised or delayed by not completing those required tasks.
Encourage Personal Skill Development and Diversification
Perhaps your athlete is a skilled center in basketball, or a solid cornerback in football, or has played midfield since he/she participated in peewee soccer. However, most athletes experience a shift in roles during their transition from high school sports to the collegiate level of competition. Oftentimes, their new coaches will place them in positions or roles on the team that are different from where they comfortably played in high school.
Sometimes this redirection can be drastic and can require significant skill-set adjustment on the part of the athlete. By encouraging your player to be proactive and disciplined by broadening their skill set while still in high school, this will not only make them more attractive to coaches who may recruit them but will also help them practice the skill development and continual learning that will be necessary as they enter the college arena and may be required to change their game. This can be accomplished a number of different ways:
- Encourage them to participate in off-season leagues or clubs
- Encourage them to find an individual skills coach to work with them one-on-one
- Work with them personally outside of practice or season to develop secondary skill sets that could prove useful as they transition into college athletics
- Encourage cross training efforts and general fitness training, especially during the off-season
Implementing these tips will help your athlete(s) make an excellent impression during the college recruiting process. But more importantly, these methods can help your player(s) develop skills that will be vitally important for the rest of their lives. By helping them practice good communication skills, diligence, discipline, and professionalism, you can help prepare them for not just their appearance in the collegiate sports world but for their eventual careers and family lives, and instill a habit of personal development that will always remain with them.
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