A few months ago, I wrote an article that gave a general overview of the recruitment process for high school athletes. With the new school year upon us, I wanted to expand on that article and get a little more in depth from freshman to senior year so you know exactly what to do and expect as you prep for your college athletic career.
As a freshman athlete, senior year—never mind starting college—seems so far away that you have so much time to get ready to be recruited. If you're anything like me, procrastination runs rampant among you high school newbies. When you look at the big picture, four years to prepare in high school to get your ready for college can be extremely overwhelming and cause you to use that age-old phrase, “I'll get to it later.” If however, you take it year by year, you will put yourself in the best position possible to be recruited and have a leg up.
One of the great things about starting to prep in your freshman year is that you have to start thinking about where you want to go. You don't have to make those life-altering decisions right now. All you have to do is think a little—phew!
Ask yourself, “What type of school do I want to go to? Big? Small? Religious? DI? DII?” Get a general idea of the schools that could possibly interest you. Remember that you want a school that will provide you with a great education and a great athletic opportunity. Use the CollegeXpress search and college lists to give you some insight into schools that fit the overall idea of what you're looking for.
By doing this, you're creating a list of potential schools you can see yourself at four years from now. Not only that, you're giving your parents and guidance counselor a great direction of where to focus their energies by giving them as much info as possible for continuing the college search, setting up campus visits, and more. When the time comes to actually start applying, the list will be a lot shorter and you'll be 100% more confident that those schools are where you want to be—and this gives you extra time to explore and add other schools, if necessary.
Take your list of schools and jump onto their websites to learn more about the sport(s) you are interested in and about the sport culture in general (i.e., the team, coaches, team record, schedule, etc.). If you live around any of these schools, take some time and go watch the level of play at a match one day. Seeing what the college level is like at such an early point in the process can only make you want to learn more and be better at your sport.
Another great way to conduct research is through attending sports camps. Coaches use camps to identify potential athletes at an early age. If you can figure out what camps your favorite coaches like to attend, sign up! The more time they get to watch you play, the better they will get to know you, and the better they can imagine you on their team.
Get to know your guidance counselor
While your guidance counselor is not a recruiter, they are there to truly help guide you through this whole process; they are your best resource this early in the game (no pun intended!).
In order to become a college athlete, you need to take the appropriate high school classes and thus, get your high school diploma. Meet with your guidance counselor at some point during your freshman year and map out your next three high school years with the right classes that will keep you on track. Keeping a good relationship with your counselor will also result in a much more personal recommendation as well.
What to expect freshman year
While I can't outline every specific recruiting rule for each division and sport (see all the individual sport/division information for the NCAA here), there are general rules that still must be followed during your freshman year.
Surprisingly, according to the NAIA Recruiting Rules, there are no restrictions for students and coaches freshman year. Specifically, their rules for coaches state: “You are permitted to contact high school students as early as you would like to in their career—freshman, sophomore, junior year—that is all perfectly permissible, and you can contact them as many times as you think is appropriate in order to recruit the student to your institution.”
The NCAA, however, is not as lax as the NAIA, as it has restrictions galore throughout the high school years. Don't expect coaches to be calling you and making you offers right now. The most you will probably get will be some questionnaires or brochures in the mail. If you absolutely need to talk to/introduce yourself to the coach, you can call them, but they cannot return the call. It's a little one sided at the moment, but there are rules for a reason and they need to be followed.
This is just fluff!
I know, I know. A lot of the above doesn't sound all that exciting. I mean, what are you doing to really get yourself recruited? You're just starting the journey, so all you need to do this year is work on making the team, getting good grades, and start thinking about college. As you progress through each high school year, you'll see how everything adds up.
Hey sophomores, you're up next! Leave some questions in the comments and I'll make sure to answer them in your next blog.