THE DON’Ts OF COLLEGE RECRUITING (Published in USA Today HSS on May 25, 2015)

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We constantly talk about the things each potential recruit needs to accomplish to maximize their chances of landing an athletic scholarship.  Let’s discuss the things to avoid.  Keep in mind, sometimes what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.

Throughout the college recruiting process, potential recruits have many opportunities to communicate with college coaches.  Every conversation, email, post on social media or text message can positively or negatively affect a coach’s perception of you.  The same is true with when you start the process and any information you might provide to a coach during the process.

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Don’t wait until your senior year to get started

If you wait until your senior year in high school to get started, you probably won’t end up at one of your top colleges. Quite possibly, the only sport you will be playing in college is intramurals for your fraternity or sorority!  The sooner you start the recruiting process, the better chance you have to land a scholarship at the right college.  College coaches are identifying potential recruits earlier and earlier every year.  There is absolutely no reason to wait to get started.  As a freshman, you can familiarize yourself with the process and get more involved each year in high school.

Don’t compare yourself to other players

Talking to a college coach about another player just isn’t a good idea.  There are only two possible outcomes and both have bad endings:  (1) you build the other player up because you are too complementary, or (2) your character comes into question because you are speaking negatively about a teammate or opponent.

Focus on yourself and how you can help their program. Let your abilities speak for themselves.  College coaches don’t need your help in evaluating talent.

Don’t talk about your intangibles

Coaches look at more than just scouting reports. Why do you think they come to see you play? They want to know who you are, how you approach the game, how you react to different situations, and how hard you work.  Intangibles can be crucial to your success at the next level, unfortunately, they are not easily quantifiable.

Every college coach wants hard working, coachable, leaders who play the game with passion.  Unfortunately, you aren’t the right person to be delivering that message to a college coach.  They either need to see it for themselves or be told by an independent credible source.  There is absolutely no reason to bring up your intangibles, unless a coach specifically asks that question.

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Don’t be foolish on Social Media

One of the most common mistakes by potential college athletes is being foolish on Social Media.  College coaches aren’t expecting high school athletes to be public relations experts.  They just want players that will make good decisions and positively represent their university.  Chris Yandle, Director of Communications at the University of Miami may have put it best when he said, “Live your life, don’t tweet your life.”  Use your common sense.  Don’t post, tweet or direct message anything you don’t want a coach to see.

Don’t overstate your statistics

There is never a good reason to overstate or even project your athletic or academic statistics and accomplishments when communicating with college coaches.  If you think they won’t cross-check this information, you are fooling yourself.  Be honest about your abilities and work hard to improve.  Coaches know that for underclassmen they need to project where each player might be as a senior.  They also understand that some athletes develop later than others.  If you are realistic about your abilities, your chances to find a college scholarship increase dramatically.  Do not oversell yourself!  That coach is interested in you for a reason.

Don’t give up just because the first few colleges don’t work out

High School athletes need to understand that they won’t land a college scholarship with an introductory email to a college coach.  Also, unless you are being highly recruited, then to some extent the success of your recruiting process might be dependent on the number of colleges you contact. The more coaches you connect with, the better your chances are to find a scholarship.

Understand that when you are reaching out to coaches, everything has to line up for you to receive a response: (1) the coach has to open your email or letter, (2) he or she has to actually read it, (3) there has to be a need at your position, (4) there has to be a way to verify your abilities and (5) you have to come to an agreement. Be persistent, don’t get discouraged and good things will happen.

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