College coaches all have different approaches to identifying and evaluating potential athletes.  The tricky part is to project the development and maturity of a 16 or 17 year old athlete and how successfully they will adapt to college life.  Coaches rely on trusted sources and their experience to identify talent and determine which athletes are a good fit for their program.  Athletes need to understand how they are identified and evaluated to have the best chance to get recruited.

How Potential Recruits are Identified

Every coach knows the top 100 recruits in the country, but those athletes don’t fill every college roster spot in America.  The remaining roster spots are filled by projectable, coachable student athletes.

College coaches identify potential athletes in the following ways:

1. They rely on their coaching staff, scouts and personal relationships to identify athletes for their programs. They seldom listen to individuals or services with whom they are unfamiliar.

2. They review game film of athletes that express an interest in their program, and if they are interested follow up with the athlete and his or her coach.

3. They attend camps, showcase events and high school games to watch possible recruits compete.

Watching game film can peak a coach’s interest, but nothing replaces live competition.  High school and/or select games are an opportunity for a coach to see athletes play and certain reputable scouting/showcase services like Perfect Game in baseball provide an environment for college coaches to see athletes compete against the best in their sport.  Recruits should take advantage of these opportunities and send their game schedule, or a schedule of events they plan to attend, to coaches at the colleges in which they are interested.


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Understand How Talent is Evaluated

Player evaluation can be complicated and is certainly not an exact science.  For that reason, student athletes need to understand the areas in which they are being evaluated and strive to maximize their abilities in those areas.  Each position, for each sport, is graded differently.  For example, in football the basics are speed, agility, strength and size.  Baseball coaches look for arm strength, foot speed, power and defense.  Athletes can gain valuable insight into the stats that matter in their sport by reviewing the recruiting questionnaire for their sport on any college website.  This fundamental information provides an athlete with a pretty good idea of what a coach is looking for in his or her players. They can then talk with their current coach about how they stack up and how they can improve.  .

The Intangibles Matter

Every sport has statistics, but good statistics are not all that is necessary to play at the next level. Coaches look at more than just scouting reports. Why do you think they go to games? They want to observe a player’s approach to the game, how they react to different situations, and how they interact with their coaches.  While intangibles can be crucial to success at the next level, they are not easily measured.  The following examples illustrate the impact of “intangibles”:

1. A few weeks ago we had a discussion with a high school coach about a player he believes is a solid Division I baseball player. On paper, it didn’t appear that it was the case. His argument? “He’s a leader.” Unfortunately, questions like “Are you a leader?” or “How do you react to adversity?” aren’t on any of the college recruiting questionnaires and seldom come up in conversation.  Luckily for this athlete, his coach believes in him and is willing to vouch for him.

2. College coaches actually want to see how players react to making a mistake.  They don’t expect players to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and they understand that. An athlete’s reaction to an error, a missed layup or a dropped pass tells so much more about the player than the mistake itself. Coaches want players that take ownership, learn from their mistake, and have a short memory, leaving the mistake behind and focusing on the next play.

3. College coaches want players that are coachable.  The text book definition of coachable is “capable of being easily taught and trained to do something better”.  So, what does it take to be coachable?  Here is my list:

  • Be thankful someone is willing to take the time to help you improve
  • Be open to honest feedback
  • Be willing to work hard
  • Be willing to change bad habits
  • Be humble

An athlete’s character is always on display.  Coaches notice and look for more than ability.  A player that exhibits the total package of athletic ability and the intangible character qualities of leadership, attitude and coachability significantly improves his or her chances of playing in college.  Hard work pays off and attitude is everything.

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