The college search for athletes is an individual quest. A winning strategy for one student-athlete could be a loser for another. I think we can all agree that when it comes to recruiting, the "blue chip" kids will be found; it's just a matter of when and by whom. That aside, the majority of prospects navigating the college search are not blue chippers, and they need to formulate and execute a personal plan of attack that includes "grey areas" of recruiting.
Identify distinctive characteristics that separate you from the rest of the pack in a competitive group of college-bound prospects. Below are five tips for help you develop your unique brand as a prospective student-athlete at the college level.
1. Personal Brand Defined
This means simply developing and maintaining a character, mission and purpose that identifies and differentiates you from other prospective student-athletes. Your personal brand is not something you whip up in a weekend. It is a lifelong commitment to shaping and reinforcing your personal core values.
College coaches don't implement rocket science strategies when recruiting prospects and considering the tremendous volume of interested athletes. They try to establish clear and simple operatives that can streamline the recruiting process.
An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in the increasingly competitive arena of college recruiting. Your brand is your personal commitment to coaches telling them what they can expect from you. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.
Defining your personal brand can be daunting, but consider the following operatives to get started:
- What is your college goal?
- What strengths do you bring to the table as a prospect?
- How do teachers, coaches and teammates view your core values?
- What personal qualities do you have that are outstanding and unique?
Remember, college coaches are looking for three standout qualities in prospects: impact athletes, quality students and young men and women who bring a robust integrity component to the recruiting table.
3. Tell It Like It Is
It's one thing to present your brand to college coaches in a positive light, and it's something else entirely to boast. College coaches have an uncanny ability to read prospects and families quickly and with laser focused accuracy.
Commit to sharing an optimistic but honest self assessment with college coaches. Athletic statistics must especially be accurate and convey a realistic measure to your athleticism. Be prepared to back up everything you present to college coaches on paper. Be true to your brand and be ready to deliver.
4. Create a Statement
Do your homework. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of the college programs you are considering. Roughly identify their future needs in an effort to offer your unique "fit" into the existing system. Don't rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.
Using a personal mission statement to identify your perfect college match and how you plan to impact a worthy college team can be a powerful tool in crafting and presenting your brand. Look at the big picture, then offer your vision of a true student-athlete experience that identifies academic excellence, a brilliant athletic experience and an ideal socio-cultural environment.
5. Be Proactive
I encourage prospects to make every effort and commitment to organize important information regarding the recruiting process and execute well-designed plans. Avoid waiting for college coaches to initiate contact with you. Control your playing field and provide the coaches with regular updates that will raise their awareness of you.
At the beginning of your college search, develop timelines that take into account general events—e.g., making unofficial visits, updating your database, and attending competitions—and continue to follow through with more specific events—e.g., compiling a video and player profile, communicating with coaches and making official visits—as you advance. This will establish your willingness to help college coaches evaluate you and increase your chances in hitting communication targets moving forward.
Make a deliberate effort to identify unique qualities that separate you from the rest of the pack of prospects, and you will be well on your way to developing your personal brand. Take time to reflect and perform a detailed analysis of who you are and what you offer as a potential "true student-athlete." Embrace the college search with a well organized and dedicated effort that raises the bar of awareness with college coaches.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock