“I’ve been all-league for two years. College coaches will find me.”
“I don’t need to advertise myself —my high school coach will take care of that for me.”
“Colleges have recruiting coordinators, so if they haven’t heard about me, I must not be good enough to play there.”
Any of these comments or feelings seem familiar? If they do, you’re not alone. Many high school athletes believe that making the jump to college athletics is virtually out of their hands once they step off the playing field—but in reality, that scenario is unlikely. Much like great effort on the field can get the attention of college coaches, promoting yourself, or self-marketing, can help you gain the attention of colleges and earn scholarships.
Not sure what self-marketing entails? Self-marketing means contacting colleges you’re interested in, even before they contact you. True, most colleges have recruiting coordinators, but they can’t know about every potential athlete in the country. They need help, and who better to give them that help than you?
Step 1: RESEARCH, THEN CONTACT
If there’s a specific school you want to play for, do a little research. Find out who the recruiting coordinator is or which coach recruits your area of the country. Then contact that coach either by phone, snail mail or e-mail. If there are online forms to fill out on the college’s athletic site, fill them out. Send along game film. Express your interest in the school–this will not only get your name on the list of potential recruits, it also lets the school know something about your personality and character.
“You have to self-market,” says Josh Pastner, assistant basketball coach at the University of Arizona.
“You have to be a go-getter. You can’t sit back and wait. You have to go get it. If you have that kind of mentality, you will be seen. If someone is interested in our program, they need to let us know and come at us big time.”
Pastner’s advice, “You can’t sit back and wait,” is a simple statement, but it is extremely powerful and insightful. If you want to play college sports, take those words to heart. Remember, you have to be proactive, so don’t be afraid to call schools and express your interest.
Step 2: ATTEND CAMPS AND CLINICS
If your research in the first step, for example, results in a goal of playing football for Coach Jim Tressel at Ohio State University and you’ve contacted the school, plan on attending Ohio State’s summer football camp.
Find information on any summer camps or clinics organized by the school and sign up for them. Not only will the camp improve your sport knowledge, fundamentals and skills, but it will provide an opportunity to interact with the coaching staff at a personal level. For example, you’ll be able to find out if Ohio State is a program you’d like to be a part of and, more importantly, your participation gives the OSU coaches a first-hand look at your athletic ability. The opportunity for the coaches to evaluate you in person will give you a huge edge over other prospective recruits and help you reach your goal of playing for Ohio State.
Attending summer camps does not just apply to football either.
LaVonda Wagner, assistant Duke women’s basketball coach, said the best way to increase scholarship potential is to attend summer camps. “They can actually spend time with us and let us get to know them.”
Attending summer camps and clinics can be extremely helpful tools available to all high school athletes. Use them to your advantage and attend the camps of the schools in which you have an interest. If you play your cards right, you’ll soon find yourself as one of their top recruits.
Step 3: A FINAL PIECE OF ADVICE:
Go for it!
If you have aspirations of playing your sport in college, you have to do something about it. Simply sitting at home, hoping to get a phone call won’t get it done. Make yourself and your interest known to a recruiter. Don’t depend on the effectiveness of the college recruiting process–that’s a mistake you can’t afford to make. Look at the number of great athletes that come out of small obscure colleges all the time. Falling through the cracks of recruiting is not some freak thing that happens once every 10 years. It’s a common occurrence and, more importantly, a preventable one if you decide to make the first move and self-market. So make your wish list of schools and start moving forward.
Believe in yourself and your ability, but be realistic.
Talk to your high school coach about your talent level. Check out the high school stats and honors of the current players at the school in which you have interest and see how you stack up. Find a school that is a good fit and become more than just a name on the school’s recruiting list: become a top prospect. Take advantage of all the opportunities you have to make yourself known, and you can make it to the next level.