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College recruitment can be overwhelming for both parents and players, so it is important to understand the process and create a plan before diving into it. College Recruiting expert Brian William of the National Collegiate Scouting Association recommended the following tips to parents and players as they prepare for the recruitment process.
Start early. Parents and teachers should identify a student-athlete’s academic weaknesses and address them early in high school to ensure that a player will be scholarship-eligible. To prepare athletically,Williams recommends registering athletes for college camps as early as the summer after eighth grade. “Get them familiar with the process of going to camps, showcases and combines early, so that down the road they will be comfortable and confident in those settings, and their performances will be better.” Players should seek a variety of camps between their sophomore and junior years. This is especially important for players who live in areas that do not receive a lot of exposure from college scouts.
Widen the net. College admissions counselors generally recommend that college prospects apply to three “reach” schools, three “match” schools and three “safety” schools. “That theory doesn’t work with college athletics,” Williams said. “The pool needs to be much broader. Not every school will need your position in your recruiting year, which may limit your options.” Film and statistics should be accessible to as many as 50 to 100 schools, not just the programs that your child likes the most.
Ask the right questions. Getting mail is only the very beginning stage of the recruiting process. “What you’re looking for is when a school is trying to develop a relationship with the player,” Williams said. “When the coaches are looking at what makes them tick off the field – that’s recruiting.” Important questions parents should ask coaches are: What is your level of interest in my son? Where does my son fall on the list of your recruits? Are you going to make a committable offer? It may be difficult to hear negative answers to these questions, but parents and players need to know the level of interest so that no one has unrealistic expectations from a school.
Visit. Visit. Visit. Unofficial or official – see as many schools as you can afford to visit. Williams recommends visiting any school – DI, DI-AA, DII, or DIII – that has shown interest, whether they have offered a scholarship or not. “Some kids shut off communication with smaller schools when bigger opportunities arise. They should keep all options open,” he said. Williams discourages athletes from committing to a school that they have not personally visited and met the coaches face-to-face. It is also important to meet with academic advisors and talk with current students to see what they like and do not like about a school. The decision-making time window opens and closes quickly, so it is important to be pro-active in this process.
Commit when you know it’s the right choice. It is not always easy, but parents really have to understand what school makes their child most comfortable. “My son said he liked a lot of schools, so I kept looking for ways to decide where he really wanted to be. When he finally wanted to buy a t-shirt from North Carolina, I knew that was where he wanted to go,” Williams said. Williams also stressed the importance of being fair to the process. Once a decision is made, let the other schools know, so it opens the door for the schools and other players. “Once you know, make the decision, move on and be happy with it – especially if it’s before your senior year. You want to have a worry-free senior year,” Williams said.