How Do College Coaches Recruit?

The recruiting process can be very long. Depending on how high-profile of an athlete you are, the recruiting process can begin as early as middle school.

College coaches recruit in various steps that usually include generating potential prospects, undergoing multiple rounds of evaluation, extending offers, and signing athletes. These steps look different for all coaches, but they all follow the same general framework as the NCAA has specific requirements that all schools must closely follow throughout the recruiting process.

The recruiting process is very differentiated from sport to sport but it’s good to have a general idea of how it all works. Below are some specific steps detailing how coaches get from showing initial interest to signing an athlete, characteristic coaches look for when recruiting, as well as the logistical side of when college coaches are allowed to actively recruit you.

Steps Of The College Recruiting Process

The process of becoming a Division I athlete is comprised of a series of steps. These steps eventually will result in an athlete signing to play at the school of their choice. Below is what the typical steps look like from initial contact with a coach to signing to play for a school.

Initial Interest: When trying to fill a recruiting class, coaches first comprise a database of potential athletes. Since this is such an early step in the overarching recruiting process, coaches may comprise a group of hundreds or even thousands of athletes. The way this database is put together comes from certain statistics or sport specific information, as well as athlete contact. In saying athlete contact, this could refer to any student-athlete emails to coaches, attendance of program camps, etc.

Evaluation: The next step in the recruiting process consists of narrowing down the number of potential fits for a program based upon evaluation of athletic ability. This differs from sport to sport but many student-athletes have highlight tapes available to view, which are used by coaches to make such evaluations. While many athletes do have these highlight tapes, some sports evaluations are done simply by statistics. This may entail a golfer’s average scores or a swimmer’s times. All of this evaluation is done so that coaches have a rough idea of if a student-athlete has the potential to make a strong positive impact on the program.

Personal Contact: After all of these initial evaluations have concluded, coaches have narrowed down their potential recruits to a much smaller pool. At this point colleges will start reaching out to players to extend official or unofficial visits and coaches may start attending the games of potential prospects. This period in the recruitment process is a much more personal evaluation. Coaches don’t only seek individuals with a high level of athletic ability but also good character. This step in the recruiting process denotes the point at which the athlete becomes much more involved as opposed to being confined only to coach review.

Offers/Commitments: At this point, coaches will begin to extend verbal offers. These offers include both scholarships and preferred walk-on spots. This period can be a very stressful one for student-athletes as coaches will usually request a date, rather shortly after, that a student-athlete needs to have a decision by. This deadline isn’t to pressure the athlete, but to give a coach time to continue to recruit other athletes if the offer were to be turned down. You may be wondering why so many high-profile high school athletes have so long until they have to make a commitment? This is simply due to the fact that if an athlete is so sought after, some schools will hold a scholarship offer in hopes of a commitment from that athlete.

Athlete Signing: After verbally committing to a school, the recruitment process isn’t over. There is a significant gap in time between when an athlete verbally commits and signs with the school. This being said, coaches still reserve the right to pull scholarship offers at any time during this period, so make sure you prove to the coach that you are still the same individual they recruited. In some circumstances such as injury, you could unfortunately lose your scholarship, but for the most part as long as you continue doing the same things you have been, a scholarship offer will remain on the table. Once you have signed with the school of your choice, you are officially a part of their athletic program.

This process can stretch out across years for both coaches and athletes. Make sure to do your part to get on the radar of coaches and prove that you can help build the program they envision.

What Do College Coaches Look For In A Recruit

Colleges look for a variety of traits in an athlete. While all coaches are looking for an athlete who can better their program by performing at a high level on the court/field, that’s not all they are seeking.

Athletic Ability: First and foremost is an individual’s athletic ability. No matter what other circumstances exist, when college coaches are generating their initial database of potential recruits, they are looking for athletes who play their sport at a high level.

Coachability: When extending a scholarship, coaches are offering to take you under their wing for potentially four years and to help develop you into both a better athlete and individual. If a coach sees that you’re unwilling to listen or that you don’t follow instructions, he/she may be a lot less inclined to extend an offer to you.

Academics: When you are recruited to a school, you are a student-athlete. This being said, academics are just as important as the sport that you will be playing. Coaches place great emphasis on your high school grades, as they may be indicative of your work ethic as well as give them an idea of if you will be able to survive in that specific college environment. While the NCAA has some preset regulations on what GPA an athlete must have to be eligible for an athletic scholarship, some coaches seek individuals with GPAs that far exceed that minimum requirement.

Character: This is what the third step in the recruitment process is all about. Coaches are looking for high character individuals. They aren’t seeking someone who will have a negative impact on those around them, but someone who will positively impact his/her teammates and their respective athletic program.

These are just a few of the characteristics that coaches seek in student-athletes. All coaches are different, so some may put more emphasis on one of these things characteristics than another.

When Can College Coaches Actively Recruit

The NCAA requires that universities follow a specific recruiting calendar. These recruiting calendars vary for different sports as well as different divisions (Division 1 & Division 2). To get a better understanding of what coaches can do and when they can do it, take a look at the recruiting calendars for your specific sport on the NCAA website. Below are a few examples of different sports and their recruiting calendars.

NCAA Division I Football Recruiting Guide:

Freshman/Sophomore Year Can fill out recruiting materials such as questionnaires. Can initiate telephone calls with college coaches, but college coaches are unable to initiate contact with them.

Junior Year Can fill out recruiting materials. Can receive one telephone call from a coach during the period of April 15 – May 31. Athletes can take one official visit anytime between April 1 and the Sunday prior to the last Wednesday in June.

Senior Year Can receive telephone calls up to once per week after September 1 of senior year. Can make off-campus contact after July 1 and prior to senior year (during contact periods). Official visits allowed after September 1 of senior year.

NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Recruiting Guide:

Freshman/Sophomore Year Can fill out recruiting materials such as questionnaires. Unlimited phone calls are permitted beginning June 15 at the conclusion of sophomore year. Can initiate telephone calls with college coaches at any time. Can begin taking unofficial visits after August 1 of sophomore year.

Junior Year Coaches can have off-campus contact with athletes following the first day of classes junior year. Other than during the April recruiting period, all contact must be at the educational institution. May take a maximum of five official visits beginning August 1 of junior year through the end of junior year. Official visits are not allowed during ‘dead’ recruitment periods.

Senior Year Off-campus contact is allowed to occur at any location. May take a maximum of five official visits beginning the day after junior year until October 15 after completion of high school.

For each specific sport, there are numerous specific requirements that coaches must abide by according to NCAA regulations. Please make sure to check the NCAA website to see when each sport’s dead and contact periods occur, as well as if your sport’s recruiting guide wasn’t listed above.

Things To Keep In Mind

Coaches Interest Doesn’t Always Equate To An Offer: Just because a coach reaches out to contact you does not mean he/she has a scholarship offer for you. Most of the time coaches are trying to learn a little bit more about you and understand if you are qualified for the next step of the recruitment process.

Do Your Part To Get Recruited: While coaches do an extensive amount of research to find the athletes that best fit their program, reaching out and contacting them is a great way to get yourself on their radar. Don’t sit around and wait to be recruited, but fill out recruitment materials, reach out to coaches via email or phone call, and make sure that coaches understand your interest for their program. Making yourself known will only help in the long run.

The Recruitment Process Doesn’t End When You Sign: Just because you have signed with a school doesn’t mean the recruiting process is really over. It’s now your job to prove to the coaches why they recruited you. Put in as much effort as possible to not only better yourself, but the program you desired to be a part of.

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