Every year, talented high school athletes are overlooked during the recruiting process but do nothing about it. Sure, it's frustrating if college coaches aren't kicking down your door or blowing up your cell, but don't let that deter you from realizing your dream of becoming a collegiate student-athlete. We're here to help you take a proactive approach, so you can let college coaches know that you have what it takes to help their squad win even if they dropped the ball evaluating your talent.
There are several keys to marketing yourself so that college coaches will know about you and your ability. Apply them properly and you'll up your chances of inking your John Hancock on a school's dotted line.
During your junior year, create a list of schools that interest you and research them for the head coaches' contact information. Then, send each coach a customized letter of interest with your athletic profile and a schedule of your games.
University of Florida head women's volleyball coach Mary Wise says, "When we get a letter from a player who has identified [that she] knows about our program, knows about the school, knows where we're located, and shows a genuine interest, it's very impressive and tells us a lot about the type of student-athlete she is."
Tips for your letter of interest
• Make sure it is typed or neatly handwritten; don't send a photocopy
• Proof the entire letter to make sure there are no misspellings or grammatical errors
• Include something specific about the school's program—maybe about their facilities, record or a game against a rival school
• Make each letter original from beginning to end
• Express interest in the school's academic program and the major you want to pursue
• Include education and career goals, leadership ability, personal values and athletic accomplishments
• Request additional information on the school and its athletic program, and say that you'd like to visit for a home game
• Make it no longer than one page
• Set this up as a one-page résumé of your accomplishments both on and off the field
• Include jobs, interests, athletic highlights, and volunteer and community work
• List academic information like ACT and SAT scores, GPA, class rank and any honors courses you've taken
Once you send coaches your packet, keep in touch periodically, by phone or email, to let them know your interest is sincere and sustained.
Attending a showcase camp, where coaches from the region can personally evaluate your skills and attitude, is another attention-grabber. Syracuse University head basketball coach Jim Boeheim says, "[An AAU event or showcase camp] allows kids from small towns and from big cities who are overlooked to get into an exposure situation where college coaches are going to see them play. They're going to get a chance to compete against other good players from around the country and be seen and have the opportunity to get a scholarship."
Vanderbilt baseball's associate head coach Derek Johnson adds, "We go to a lot of showcases every summer. The more tournaments, the more showcase-type stuff you can play [in], the better you're going to be exposed to a place like [Vanderbilt University]."
Tips for heading to camp
• Contact coaches on your target list to let them know you'll be at camp
• Arrive on time
• If a uniform isn't provided, wear a jersey with your name on the back
• Don't wear any jewelry
• Hustle at all times
• Encourage other athletes during the camp; cheerlead when someone makes a big play
• Display a positive attitude
• Get evaluated at multiple positions
A highlight video is a great way to show off your finely tuned athletic skills to extremely busy college coaches.
Johnson says, "My suggestion would be to send out tapes to different schools that you want to look at. From there, they're going to make decisions based on what they have coming back and coming in, and if you fit."
Tips on creating a highlight reel:
• Make it look professional
• Create an introductory slide with your full name, high school, city/state, year of graduation, coaches' names, height and weight, sports played, positions, areas of academic interest, SAT/ACT scores and GPA
• Use a combination of practice and game footage
• Wear a full uniform with a visible number, if applicable
• Show action only; delete dead time
• Include footage in which you're not in the middle of the action as well as you making great plays
• Show plays from different angles
• Make the video no longer than five minutes
• Label the tape with your name, graduation year, position, jersey number, address and phone number
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