Getting recruited by a college program can be one of the coolest experiences you go through as an athlete.
Going off to college, in general, is exciting for most families, but the prospect of getting to experience all of the perks of being a collegiate student-athlete is especially exhilarating. When you go on your visits, it can be hard to take in everything that's going on around you. You are trying to sell yourself to the coaches while also meeting a small army of people and trying to hold in all of your excitement at the same time.
Although recruiting can seem glamorous, there are some things most athletes don't learn until after they've already gone through the process. Hindsight is 20-20, but that doesn't mean someone who's gone through the process themselves (and seen many other athletes go through the process) can't provide you with some helpful tips you'll likely never hear from the coaches recruiting you.
Here are four things you should know about college recruiting that most student-athletes don't learn until it's too late.
1. They're Selling Themselves to You
The same way you are trying to impress the coaches with your personality and athleticism, programs are trying to impress you. You're selling yourself to the school as the school sells themselves to you.
That means that coaches are smiling more, yelling less, and in some cases, putting on a show that is not 100 percent accurate to how things really are.
When big recruits come in, the coaches let everyone (including the players) know, because they want everyone to be on their best behavior. They are trying to sell you on falling in love with their school. It is not a bad thing, but it is something you should be well aware of. What you see is not always what you get when it comes to recruiting.
The process of "de-recruiting" is well-known within college sports. It refers to the coaches showing you what it's really like to be a college athlete in their program after you've committed and enrolled. They no longer need to sell themselves to you, they're just concerned with fielding the best team possible, developing players and winning games. Coaches won't tell you about de-recruiting ahead of time, but you should be prepared to have a very different experience during your first actual week of practice/workouts than you did on your recruiting visit.
2. You Are Replaceable
No matter how good you are, you can never forget that every year there is a brand new crop of high school seniors looking for a college attend. There are also a bunch of people already at NCAA schools that are not happy who would like to transfer, plus junior college transfers. All this means that if you don't perform well or live up to the standard of the program, your college coaches can replace you without blinking an eye.
This is more of an occurrence at some schools than others, but most coaches won't even tell you it's a possibility during recruiting. College sports are about winning. If you are not helping them do that, do not be surprised if your opportunity begins to fade. Most scholarships are one-year agreements that must be renewed each year. The hard work isn't finished when you sign on that dotted line on signing day. It's really only just beginning.
Even during the recruiting process, if the coaches come across a player who they prefer over you, and said player decides to commit, your scholarship offer could disappear in a flash.
3. How They Treat You During Injuries Matters
In a perfect world, you will not get hurt playing college sports. But life rarely goes according to plan, which means that at some point, you will most likely get hurt. Some coaches treat you like damaged goods the second you start battling injury. Pay attention to your visits to how injured athletes feel and are being cared for. Are they able to get the therapy they need? I created Kho Health because of my nightmare injury battle in college. Whether you need a shin splint taping, or you tore your MCL, you should be treated well.
On your visit, you should talk to the athletic trainers and as many injured athletes as you can. Get a feel for what things will be like when you are down and out. No athlete is happy when they are hurt, but they should feel like they are cared for. Save for the most severe of circumstances, injuries aren't the end of your athletic journey. They're just a road bump. But how you're treated during those road bumps is very important to how you bounce back.
4. The Coach May Not Be There Very Long
No matter what the coach says or how long their contract is, do not go to a school solely because of a coach. So many different factors can cause that coach to move on at some point during your career. Maybe the athletic director gets fired, and the new guy comes in and fires all of the coaches. Maybe the team isn't successful, and the coach gets let go. Maybe the team is so successful the coach jumps to a bigger program. You never know!
You may love a coach, but you can't count on them being there for all four or five years of your student-athlete journey. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where the only thing you like about a school is the coach. You want a well-rounded program and school that has plenty of things to like. Of course the coach is hugely important, but you've got to also see the bigger picture.
Recruiting is a fun, exciting time for a young athlete. But a little perspective goes a long way. Everything may not be as it seems. Keep working hard, expect the unexpected, and strive to find a school that will help you through the ups-and-downs inherent to any collegiate sports career.
Photo Credit: RBFried/iStock
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