A successful recruiting experience means finding the right fit. To help you discover the school that best complements your academic and athletic ambitions, Je’Mone Smith, recruiting expert and NCSA athletic recruiting educational speaker, outlines three must-research topics.
Researching academics is paramount. Learn about each school’s admissions policy and requirements by contacting the admission office or visiting the school’s website.
Does the school offer your academic major? If you’re undecided, do some introspection. Ask yourself, “What subjects do I like the most? In which ones have I had the most success? What are my hobbies, and do they have an academic component?” Clarifying your interests will help you to dig deeper into the academic programs of schools on your target list. If you’re still not sure about a major, “undecided” is a no-fault choice.
Once you’ve determined which schools can best serve your academic needs, find out whether their athletic programs have a need for your position in your sport.
Visit athletic department websites and assess team rosters. Find out the number of seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen at your position. A roster loaded with seniors could present an opportunity for early playing time. On the other hand, a logjam of freshmen could mean a redshirt season—and a few years of paying your dues.
During a campus visit, meet with the coaching staff and talk to the athletic trainer and strength coach. A trainer can provide insights on what goes on behind the scenes. For example, “How does the coach deal with injured players?” During your collegiate career, you could spend more time with the trainer and strength coach than other members of the coaching staff, so it helps to get to know them.
Too often, recruits fail to get a feel for the dynamics of college life, basing their decisions solely on athletic criteria. When they arrive on campus and realize they’ve made a mistake, it’s usually too late. To understand the full picture, make an effort to learn what campus life is really like. Is it urban? Is it rural? Is it religious or secular? Are athletes integrated into the student body, or do they feel a world apart? What’s the weather like? (Some student-athletes are uncomfortable in cold climates.)
Other areas to address: size and location of on-campus residence, proximity to your home and size of the student body.
Additional research topics
Financial aid: Don’t underestimate the power of academics. Plenty of scholarship money is available based on academic performance, especially at the Division III level.
Time commitment: Talk to current players and coaches about the commitment student-athletes are expected to make.
Facilities: Stadium, arena, practice venue, weight room and athletic training room—make sure you’re comfortable in these areas, because they will ultimately constitute your home away from home.
Team environment: Engage with the team during your campus visit to get a feel for what’s it like to be a [INSERT TEAM NAME/MASCOT].
Work the System
Dig deep into your recruiting playbook to study the systems and schemes employed by the programs that most interest you.
Regardless of the sport, coaches seek all-around athletes to complete their rosters; and there will always be a place for a skilled player who can excel in their system.
The best way to study a system is to watch the team in action. View games on TV or online—or, better yet, attend a game on campus. Look for characteristics of the team’s style of play that match your experience.
Demonstrating your understanding of a coach’s philosophy and system is a great way to show interest in a program and prove your knowledge of the game. The next time you contact the coach, discuss how your strengths fit in with his/her system. If your team runs a completely different system, don’t be afraid to ask the coach what you can work on to excel in his/her style of play. Another strategy: track down AAU or club teams that run a similar style and that might give you an opportunity
to broaden your skills.
For sports that rely less on running a system, such as baseball or hockey, identify the attributes you possess that mesh with the team’s style of play. For example, if bunting and speed on the base paths are your strengths, look for teams that use small ball to outscore their opponents. For hockey players, if you’re a physical forward who likes to grind in the corners, fi nd a squad that runs an aggressive forecheck.
Finding the style of play that best fits with your skills could ultimately help you secure a scholarship.
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