If you are a parent wanting to support your child through the college recruiting process, it can be hard to know where to start. Thankfully, our friends at Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) specialize in helping student athletes get recruited. Their goal is to demystify the college recruiting process and support student athletes and their families every step of the way.
Here are four rules of thumb for making sure your child not only has the best chance to get recruited, but is able to find their perfect program fit.
Unless your child is LeBron James (or your dad is LeBron James – looking at you, Bronny), getting recruited isn’t something that just “happens.” College recruitment is a demanding, nuanced, often convoluted process. It requires focus and persistence from everyone involved.
While the old adage of “when you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute” may be helpful when it comes to mundane tasks like packing a suitcase, it’s not a philosophy worth staking your child’s future on.
In short… don’t procrastinate!
The sooner you start the recruitment process, the better. It’s critical to get a jump on exploring potential schools and scholarship opportunities (and how they jibe with your family’s finances), and figuring out how to get your child in front of a college coach.
There’s a lot of moving parts to keep track of, but thankfully you don’t have to be an expert on the many ins and outs of college recruiting – that’s where a service like Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) can lend a hand. However, you do still need to do your research.
As NCSA Director of Recruiting Services Jason Smith points out, this can start with something as simple as familiarizing yourself with the recruiting timeline for your child’s sport so you can get on coaches’ radars at the right time; (“Softball and volleyball are notorious for starting extra early, while track and field tends to have a later timeline than other sports,” Smith says).
And if your child is shooting for a DI or DII scholarship, just know that the recruiting process at those levels begins that much earlier. Which leads us to our next point…
Only 6% of the roughly 8 million high school athletes across the United States go on to play NCAA sports. Less than 2% of that 8 million end up playing at the Division I level. To put that into perspective, your child may be one in a million in your eyes, but in order to play DI basketball, they do actually have to be one in a hundred.
With odds like that, those of you who have seen the 1994 classic Blue Chips may feel inspired to take matters into your own hands. Of course, the only real takeaways anyone should have after watching that movie are that it’s a good idea to steer clear of potential recruiting violations, and that Shaquille O’Neal’s acting is so wooden he once gave a more dynamic performance as a cactus.
Blue Chips and Shaqti aside, it doesn’t have to be DI or bust. In fact, only a quarter of all collegiate athletes play DI; that leaves plenty of opportunities between DII, DIII, NAIA, and junior college. (DIII is actually the most popular individual division, with around 30% of all college athletes playing at this level).
Of course, the farther away from DI you get, the harder athletic scholarships are to come by (read: they are virtually nonexistent). That’s why academic performance and merit-based scholarships become all the more significant.
NCSA has some great resources on athletic scholarships, with the all-important caveat that even student athletes with a good chance of earning an athletic scholarship must be in good academic standing.
As is the case for any college applicant, grades, test scores, personal essays, and references matter. A lot.
Finally, no matter your child’s athletic performance or academic standing, you must be realistic about your financial expectations – Jason Smith recommends that you know your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) before you even begin the application process.
Once you know your child’s options, it’s time to get your foot in the door.
Between Snap! Raise’s five years of fundraising for high school and club sports teams and NCSA’s nearly 20 years supporting recruitment efforts, we’ve heard our fair share of grisly college recruiting horror stories.
Basically, there’s no shortage of do’s and don’ts when it comes to the college recruiting process, and you want to put your child and family in the best place to succeed.
That means applying to the right schools. That means attending the right camps and showcases. That means being discerning about your child’s academic standing and your own family finances.
It’s important to cast a wide net to start, but get laser focused when the time is right.
Much like selecting the right avocado at the grocery store, when it comes to college recruiting, timing is everything. If your child is ready to commit to a particular program, early decision vs. early action is a key consideration to make.
However, know that you have options if things fall into place late. Many coaches, especially at the DIII and NAIA levels, will recruit student athletes well into their senior year of high school. It’s even possible that a coach may be able to override an application deadline if they still have roster spots to fill.
Of course it don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that rapport with any coaches in the first place. To that end, camps and recruiting showcases are an important part of the equation. There are lots of options, though, and Jason Smith advises parents to choose wisely:
“While athletes occasionally get discovered at camps and showcases, most college coaches attend these events to evaluate recruits who are already on their list. As you and your child research camps, make sure coaches from their target schools will be in attendance.”
That’s why official and unofficial campus visits are arguably even more essential than camps. Visits offer a great opportunity for your child to get to know the campus and coaching staff, but as Smith points out, “the coach is also evaluating your athlete – and even you – by essentially bringing your family onto their turf. Recruiting is a two-way street, and they want to make sure that your athlete is a fit for them just as much as the school is for your child.”
Also, this should go without saying, but you should understand the rules and regulations of college recruiting.
Things that may seem like semantics – like knowing the difference between an official and unofficial visit – could actually make or break your child’s eligibility. (The short of it is that official visits are sponsored at least partially by the school, but there are plenty of stipulations around how many visits a prospect can make, and who can pay for what).
Click here to check out NCSA’s must-read resource about how to prepare for and make the most of official visits.
Likewise, you should start talking to coaches early, but be aware of the restrictions – there are times when it’s encouraged to talk to coaches and other times where it’s explicitly forbidden. During the NCAA Evaluation Period, for example, college coaches in certain DI and DII sports can visit high school games but are not able to engage with the student athlete (get up to speed on these restrictions by clicking here).
A final tip from Smith that a surprising amount of families overlook is to simply let coaches know when you’ve applied! If a coach knows your child is seriously interested in their program, they may be able to pull some levers to ensure their roster for next season gets filled.
With hundreds of colleges to choose from, and seemingly countless regulations and deadlines to keep track of, the college recruitment process can be overwhelming. Fortunately there are expert resources like NCSA that specialize in helping families like yours find student athletes the perfect fit.
Which brings us to our final and most important point…
At Snap! Raise, we love working with parents who are passionate and engaged, and who care deeply about the success and wellbeing of their children. If you’ve slogged all the way to bullet four of this article, you’re almost certainly one of them.
Your support is vital to your child as they pursue their goals, recruitment-related and otherwise. But here’s the kicker: at the end of the day, you’re not the one who has to attend the college, interact with the coaches, and eat the dorm food (which, to be fair, is probably for the best).
It’s ultimately up to your child to put in the effort it takes to get recruited.
They should be making phone calls and sending emails, communicating with coaches, and building relationships. If you do this work on their behalf, it’s very difficult for coaches to know if your child is a good fit for their program.
On the flip side, your child knows the right fit for them; hold them accountable but empower them to make their own decisions in the process.
All of this is not to say that the role you play isn’t important – in fact, it’s absolutely critical. That’s why even your sideline demeanor matters. Don’t loudly question the moral integrity of the officials. Don’t verbally harass players and coaches from the other team. Don’t verbally harass players and coaches from YOUR team.
Remember that throughout this process, college coaches are watching you, too.
You are in a supporting role, which, as any parent relegated to the bleachers knows, can be even more nerve-wracking than actually lacing up and competing yourself.
But here’s the thing – you don’t have to do it alone. You can enlist the experts to support you and your child throughout the entire recruitment process. NCSA is the nation’s premier college recruitment service and a great resource for all things college athletics and recruiting. Their goal is to help you ensure your child is in the best place to succeed.
Showcases, camps, and tournaments are essential to the recruitment process, but the costs add up quickly. If your child’s team needs a fundraising boost, talk to a Snap! Raise fundraising specialist to learn more!
Since 2000, more than 100,000 NCSA clients have reported their commitment to a college team. Click here to start the recruiting process!Get started