Verifying your talent is an absolute must on the road to scoring a scholarship. You can tell a coach all about who you are on the field and what you’ve accomplished in the classroom, but until an independent source confirms your words, you aren’t a lock for college money. Wayne Mazzoni, author of The Athletic Recruiting & Scholarship Guide and pitching coach for Sacred Heart University, explains the benefits of references.
Think of the recruiting process as a job search. When you find a position [school] for which you think you’re a good fit, you write a letter to express interest and submit a resume detailing your qualifications, skills and accomplishments. On paper, you seem to be the perfect candidate [student-athlete]. Back that up with a few solid references, and you’ve got yourself a job [scholarship].
So what makes a reference good? As Mazzoni asserts, it’s “somebody who actually carries some weight.” Good references can vouch for your abilities in a neutral way, which is why “college coaches are going to trust those types of people,” he says.
Think your pops is a usable source? Think again. In fact, Mazzoni explains, “No college coach will really be interested in what parents say about their kid’s talent because . . . parents think their kids are great, whether they are or they aren’t.”
Instead, Mazzoni recommends pursuing references from:
Former high school teammates/opponents who currently play for a college
An athlete who currently plays for the team you’re shooting for can serve as a reliable source, especially if you’ve previously played with or against him or her. She/he can speak about your athletic abilities from firsthand experience.
Summer camp/league coaches
If you’re heading to a camp or playing in a summer league, refine your networking capabilities they’re as clutch as your athletic skills. Reason being: “Any coach who is in the profession—helping and coaching kids—is a trusted source,” Mazzoni says. “The number-one thing a [reference] can do is get someone’s name on [a coach’s] list.”
When you’ve got solid athletic abilities, but less-than-perfect grades, a college coach will refer your name to another coach if he believes in you enough.
“I have a friend who coached at Harvard,” Mazzoni says. “He could only get a select type of student into that school, so a lot of time we’ll be sitting at games together and he’ll say, ‘Here are five kids. I’d love to be able to get them in, but I can’t. Put them on your list.’”
Alumni athletes who are knowledgeable about players from their area have an advantage. They can contact their former coaches and encourage them to follow up with athletes they personally recommend.
“If [an athlete] can get an alum on his side, to vouch for him and help out with the recruiting process, that will go a long way,” Mazzoni says.