Casting a Wide Net: Recruitment Tips for Prospective Student-Athletes

International College Counselors shares a photo that goes with tips for high school student-athletes who are looking to be recruited by a college.

When college advisors have initial conversations with prospective college student-athletes, one of the most common refrains goes something like this: “I want to play for an NCAA team, but only if it’s for a top-ranked program or at a prestigious school.” On the surface, this approach sounds perfectly fine. After all, you may ask, what’s wrong with setting high goals and aiming for the stars? Aren’t these qualities we want our high school student-athletes to embrace? Yes, these are indeed great qualities, but when it comes to athletic recruiting, these same qualities can also severely limit where and even if an athlete is recruited. A more beneficial approach for high school student-athletes is to thus cast a wider net when it comes to the colleges and programs the athlete contacts. Yes, you can contact those “top” D1, Patriot League, and/or Ivy League colleges, but also include other colleges that offer strong academics, solid athletics, and great playing facilities. Doing so can result in some distinct advantages, allowing you to…

1. Increase coach communication: One of the most frustrating parts of athletic recruiting is not hearing back from coaches after initial contact. By dramatically expanding your coach list (say from 15 to 60), you increase the chances that more coaches will initiate conversations with you. This early success can give high school student-athletes confidence for the entire process, plus, it gets more coaches talking about your profile and abilities. And because coaches know other coaches at colleges that might not be on your list, your contact list has just expanded even more. Remember, the wider your net, the more fish you’ll catch.

2. Maximize your potential for official visits: One of your main recruiting goals is to be invited on official visits (usually in fall of grade 12), where you can meet the coaching staff, observe practices, and learn about crucial aspects like team morale and team dynamics. Do the team members get along? Do they respect the coach? Are the facilities nice? Ideally, you want to visit more than one program so that you can compare. You may just learn that that top program has an antagonistic coaching staff or practice facilities that are weak. Likewise, you may discover that an under the radar school has great team/coach dynamics and beautiful, brand new fields or courts.

3. Increase your chances of playing freshman year: When prospective athletes limit their initial contact list, yes, they may be recruited, but what if being on that team will mean sitting on the bench for a year, or two, or three? You will now be in a situation where all of the years of hard work and sacrifice in middle and high school were essentially for nothing…No one wants that do they? Playing for a program where your skills can be put to use freshman year means you’ll be happier on the field and in the classroom. 

4. Prevent last-minute recruiting and admissions disasters: It happens rarely, but when high school student-athletes cast too narrow a net early on, they can end up catching no fish. This means you now have zero sports opportunities and you now have to scramble to find non-athletic colleges, which may be tough if it’s past the application deadlines. Don’t let this happen to you.

5. Capitalize on your and your family’s sports investment: Let’s face it, the road to college recruitment is difficult. The travel, hotels, missed school, skills camps, and long hours of practice and games have meant sacrifice of time and money for you and parents. By limiting the number and types of colleges you have on your recruitment list, you are potentially risking that huge investment. So expand that list and reap the rewards…Remember, the goal of recruitment is to meet with success!

International College Counselor’s Director of College Advising, Erik McLeod, contributed to this article. For college-bound athletes and their parents, Erik has been a guiding force. He has successfully helped student-athletes gain admissions to Division I, II, and III schools in numerous sports, including tennis, soccer, football, basketball, baseball, track & field, softball, and swimming. ICC advisors have also helped student-athletes in the fields of rowing, volleyball, water polo, lacrosse, and diving. If you would like to learn how to successfully navigate the college admissions process, please contact our expert college advisors at [email protected] or call 954-414-9986.