Getting recruited to play college sports can feel like an unmanageable puzzle with a million pieces to obtain and assemble at just the right time. And sometimes it really is like that. Which is why it helps to approach the process more as a college coach would. Simply by viewing it as a funnel with steps to take before continuing onto the next. This way it feels a little less overwhelming and you know exactly where in the recruiting process you are.
We've outlined the steps each college coach takes to recruit their next student athlete and what you can do to maximise your chances of getting the offer.
As the first step the coach makes initial contact with the athletes they consider for their program. For larger schools that pool of students could be in the thousands which means this is still very early stages and extremely competitive. As an aspiring student-athlete it is your responsibility to make sure you stay on top of all communication throughout the whole process but particularly in the beginning phase. Contact made by a coach includes anything from saying hello during a face-to-face meeting or a simple email with a camp invite.
The first part can include evaluating your performance in practice or competition and assessing basic requirements such as ranking, previous performance, weight and heights all depending on your sport and the competitiveness of the program. A top Division I program will obviously have stricter requirements than other colleges and this is a great opportunity to figure out which type of university your level aligns with. However, don't be scared to aim high. There could be potential academic scholarships at the school, maybe they are open for a walk-on or any other solution. Have all information (transcripts, videos, results etc.) ready for the coach to evaluate and make sure you highlight all your strengths on and off the playing field.
This is the second leg of the evaluations which includes the coach showing continual and genuine interest in you. They make regular contact through calls and emails and may potentially arrange for an official or unofficial visit. Extending a visit to you is a great indication that you are close to on offer or at the very least in the final running. Depending on the division and whether it's NCAA, NAIA or NJCAA the coaches follow a strict recruiting calendar which outlines when they are allowed to invite you for a visit and even contact you. So beware, there could be a legislative reason you are not hearing back from the coach.
The coach is talking to the student-athlete, has gone through all the necessary evaluations and has decided to offer them a scholarship - verbally. It's important to note that a verbal commitment is just that and is not a legally binding offer. Until a National Letter of Intent (NLI) has been signed the coach or the student-athlete can back out of the agreement if they choose.
The coach will time it so that your written offer is extended during early or regular signing period. Signing date can depend on many things, most of all how early the coach and the student-athlete has entered the recruiting process. It also varies depending on the sport as well as the level and budget given to the program. The student needs to make sure they have everything taken care of on their end, so that they are ready to sign during the designated signing dates.