Parents, prospects and coaches often ask me to identify the ideal time a prospect should launch his or her college quest. Although each prospect initiates his or her personal recruiting plans at different dates, I would say a good time is at the beginning of junior year. But before you hit the pavement running, let's run through a simple checklist of pre-launch tasks that will assist you in organizing for an important life decision.
A user-friendly organizing system for the college recruiting process will be a helpful tool, especially when information from college coaches begins to pile up. Having a system will not only assist you in keeping track of the steady stream of paper and e-traffic, it will serve as a great resource for future contacts and important coach-prospect communications.
Trust me, most of the coaches will request information—transcripts, high school profiles, standardized test results, tax information for financial pre-reads—around the same time, so the family that develops an efficient system for accessing and using the information will navigate the process with more confidence and achieve greater success.
In this stage of college recruiting, the aim is to develop a well-organized and efficient system that you understand and can use effectively. "Lift off" is the most demanding part of any worthy project and requires the most energy. Prepare by developing solid plans and executing them with vigor, and you will be well positioned and confident moving forward.
Executing the Plan
Your plans are complete, well constructed and clearly spelled out in a language everyone understands. Your calendar is updated and you've listed everything from the next round of SATs to the fall homecoming dance! Now it's time to take the plunge.
You can have the best-organized and most detailed approach to the college quest, but it won't amount to a hill of beans if you lack confidence, desire and the ability to execute the plan. If your strategy is to wait by the phone for the coach to call, it's going to be a long wait. Top prospects will get their fair share of attention, but the majority of athletes will increase their chances of getting on college coaches' radar screens by taking a proactive stance and initiating communication.
College coaches have their hands tied to some degree. They are strictly bound by a myriad of NCAA contact and evaluation rules, which limit them in initiating contact with prospective student-athletes and their families. But what few realize is that prospects may initiate contact with college coaches, early on and with very few exceptions.
Effective communication between the family and college coaches can make a difference in the level of support the prospect receives in the recruiting process. It can make or break a coach's decision to offer an athletic scholarship or provide an extra push in the admission process. If your mission is clear, communication becomes the vehicle to move with definite purpose in your chosen direction. On the other hand, ill-prepared communication can cause confusion and misdirection.
The college recruiting process is both exciting and potentially overwhelming. Developing and executing recruiting plans is crucial to success, no different from preparing for a championship game. Clear communication with coaches is vital, and a proactive effort will only get you on the radar screen faster and more effectively. That being said, the family who approaches the recruiting process with an organized and proactive effort will have the best chance to build mutually strong and respectful relationships with college coaches, and to navigate the college search to a successful conclusion.
Tom Kovic is the founder and president of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he advises families and prospective student-athletes in developing and executing personal plans for the college search. Kovic has delivered nearly 300 presentations and seminars to more than 3,500 participants. He is the author of Reaching for Excellence, an educational guide to college athletics recruiting, and he is a regular contributor to numerous educational and sports publications.
Prior to founding his own company, Kovic coached gymnastics at The University of Pennsylvania. He has coached 34 individual Ivy League Champions, three ECAC athletes of the year and more than 160 NCAA Academic All-Americans. He was named ECAC Coach of the Year twice.
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