Only a small percentage of high school athletes experience the bright lights of big-time college sports. This may be your most cherished dream, but the recruiting process requires that you leave your ego at the door and be realistic about your skill level. Here are some hints on how to assess both your athletic ability and a coach’s level of interest in you.
Former UCLA All-American and current Bruins head men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo, who also serves as a scout for the U.S. National Team, advises athletes to figure out where their talent level best fits before contacting potential schools, because then they’ll know where they stand against each team’s current roster and be able to market their skills appropriately. If you possess skills a certain team needs and you can use them to distinguish yourself from the competition, Salcedo says, “I think you’ll have a better chance at [being] in a good situation [to play] at the college level.”
Use each school’s website and media guide to measure your physical tools against current players. Check out each player’s age, position, height, weight, athletic profile, hometown and high school highlights. Measuring yourself in this way will help you understand the kind of talent the team recruits.
The High School Athlete’s Guide to College Sports: How to Market Yourself to the School of Your Dreams recommends asking yourself the following questions:
• How have I performed at major events, such as showcases, tournaments, meets and state or national championships?
• Do I know of any college athletes with abilities similar to mine?
• Do I possess impressive physical attributes? [A coach might recruit you if he believes that you’ll develop into a great athlete within the next two or three years.]
• Do I possess the leadership skills necessary to compete in college?
• Do I play in competitive summer or club leagues?
Every athlete wants to be pursued by top-tier schools. But sometimes—just to leave you with a positive feeling, or because they don’t want to see you go elsewhere—coaches will mention the opportunity to walk on. Make sure you know that the coach truly believes in your athletic ability before picking that school.
Attempt to gauge each coach’s commitment to you. Coaches will send you questionnaires, call you, text you—all to show interest. The more a coach personally contacts you, the more serious he or she is.
For Salcedo, if he or a member of his staff comes to watch you play multiple times, it’s a pretty good indication you’re on their radar screen. He says, “Nowadays, you really need to get out there and see players perform several times . . . so you can see them at their best and at their worst, [so you] know what they bring on a daily basis. So the process is: go and see them play— whether at a showcase, [in a] high school [game] or on their club teams—and identify who you think is going to develop into a good player who can help your program.”
Levels of interest and their indicators:
Mailed a questionnaire to fill out and return
Mailed a summer camp application
On the school’s athletic mailing list
All of the above
College coach calls your high school coach
Comes to see you play
Emails you regularly
Mails you a media guide and school information
All of the above
Coach sets up a phone conversation with you
Sees you play more than once
All of the above
Coach sets up regular phone calls
Invites you to make an official or unofficial visit
Offers you a scholarship