The college recruiting process is so long and stressful that it ends up clouding many recruits' judgment. For example, I recently read about a high school recruit who turned down LSU, his dream school, to attend a rival because head football coach Les Miles failed to return his phone call. Not returning a phone call is inappropriate, but it's certainly not a reason to reject one of the most successful programs in the country.
Many recruits, on the other hand, gloss over actual red flags that don't seem so obvious. Here are four things that every student-athlete must remember during the recruiting process.
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Don't Commit During Any Visit
This is best illustrated through an anecdote from Pete Strickland, my Recruiting Coaches Show podcast partner. When discussing the issue of athletes committing to a program, Pete asked me, "How many schools did [NFL and college football Hall of Famer] Gayle Sayers commit to?"
I responded logically. "One or two?"
"No, 10," replied Pete. "He visited 10 schools and committed to each one during his visit. He ended up at Kansas because it was the last school he visited."
Recognize that coaches choreograph visits. You're often fawned over and shown the best side of a school, which can cause you to get caught up in the moment. Which leads to my next point . . .
Don't Believe the Hype
You'll likely be told how you'll be a star in the program and even featured in the school's collateral material. Don't get seduced by potentially empty promises. Instead, ask the coaches to assess your game, talk about skills you need to improve, provide a sense of how you'll fit into their program and list a few things you need to do to earn consistent playing time. (Here are a few more questions you should consider asking.) The responses will give you a more realistic view of your fit on the team and indicate whether the coaches have actually taken the time to analyze your skills as an athlete. If it turns out the coaches don't actually know much about you, they could be giving those fancy dinners to another recruit who fits better than you do next year.
Learn About Real Campus Life
Spend at least one night of your visit with a prospective teammate in a dorm. This will give you a taste of what life is actually like on campus. You'll also be able to connect with prospective teammates and get honest answers to questions about the program or school. One important question to ask other student-athletes is whether the coaches try to develop you not only as an athlete, but also as a student and a person. Good coaches are interested in developing you both on and off of the field.
Identify Skeletons in the School's Closet
Make sure that the moral code and culture of athletic program is compatible with your values and well within your comfort zone. You should also do your best to determine whether the school provides adequate support for its student-athletes on the field and in the classroom.
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