For athletes, the college search is a marathon, not a sprint. At times, it can be exhilarating and uplifting, especially when your personal plan is working on all cylinders. That said, even the best-designed plan can run into a roadblock or even stall completely. (Check out STACK's Recruiting Guide.)
Successful recruiting efforts use as many "impact tools" as possible to get the attention of coaches. Such tools include raw athletic talent, academic brilliance and strong character.
This article focuses on using networking as an indirect, yet powerful strategy to elevate your position on the radar screen of college coaches.
"Networking" for athletes can be defined as "a coordinated and well planned effort to use other people to assist you in achieving your college goals." If your aim is to increase your chances of being admitted, maximizing a financial aid package, or rising up on a college coach's radar screen, you must:
1) Craft a substantial, effective and well-timed networking strategy.
2) Reach out to people who know you and your capabilities, like club or high school coaches.
3) Get to know alumni and others with direct connections to college coaches and administrators.
Regardless of the individuals you plan to enlist, one key element to successful networking is to keep the lines of communication open with college coaches and keep them in the loop with your strategy every step of the way.
If you happen to be in a college coach's active "B" recruiting file, you need to make a dedicated effort to rise up another level. A large percentage of prospects directly competing with you will surely go "above and beyond" in their efforts. You must meet or beat them to get recruited. (Find out how to Maximize Communication with Coaches.)
Networking, when well planned and executed flawlessly, can give your recruiting quest a leg up and help you break away from the pack. Use networking to complement your other recruiting efforts without jeopardizing your progress.
Examples of Networking Team Members and Roles
The first task in a worthy networking plan is to identify the individuals who can speak on your behalf; for example:
- Club or high school coaches: many have relationships with college coaches and can speak admiringly about your athletic skills and strength of character.
- College advisor: he or she works directly with college admissions representatives, which is especially important when your sights are set on a highly competitive school.
- College alumni: In certain cases, alumni have a strong, vested interest in a college program and can speak strongly on your behalf.
These kinds of people are impact players who can potentially advance your cause significantly. Whether the connection is athletic, academic or alumni relations, the trick is to plan and carry out communications that complement your other recruiting efforts in a seamless manner.
Timing and Content
Communicating with college coaches is one thing. Offering them information that has "grip" is communicating on an altogether higher level—and this is where your networking strategy can really be beneficial.
Your club and high school coaches can have a direct impact on how a college coach views you, which makes them key players you want in your corner. Your current coaches can speak authoritatively about your talent, academics and overall character better than anyone else.
Your coach's timing in connecting with college coaches is crucial. College coaches like information that is short, sweet and to the point. Your club or high school coach can help you out by providing fresh information delivered in a concise manner. For instance, if a major tournament or event is fast approaching, your coach could initiate contact with the college coach to give him or her a heads-up and offer the chance to see you in action.
College coaches employ a simple system to decide which prospects on their list will receive their support. Families and athletes can influence these decisions to a degree. However, you must also identify individuals who can successfully speak on your behalf and network productively with college coaches to make a true difference.
For more tips on how to get noticed by your dream school, check out STACK's recruiting page.