College Sports Recruiting 101: What Youth Sports Organizers and Parents Need to Know
By Melissa Wickes
July 23, 2021
Of the 8 million students that participated in high school athletics in 2020, only 495,000 of them went on to compete at NCAA schools. These odds, combined with the arduous process of college athletic recruiting, can make the entire process overwhelming to say the least. As sports organizers and parents, it’s important to guide athletes through the process in the most efficient and least stressful way possible. Here’s how you can reduce some of the stress and help student athletes end up on a team that feels like home, with insight from Gage Mersereau, CEO and Founder of ConnectSports and Lisa Strasman, President of Next College Student Athlete (NCSA).
How Sports Organizers Can Simplify College Athletic Recruiting for Their Players
1. Start off on the right foot.
Share an overview of the recruiting process with the family to help get them started, suggests Mersereau. You can also contact your school’s guidance counselor to ask questions about ensuring NCAA eligibility and registering at the NCAA eligibility center.
2. Manage expectations.
Reasonable expectations can help an athlete remain on track and confident throughout the recruiting process. Organizers can assist athletes by being transparent so they target the right academic and athletic fit early in the process, suggests Mersereau. They should also review the athlete’s target list to help them efficiently identify matches when speaking with college coaches about their position needs.
3. Empower and educate families.
Recruiting is built on connections and relationships in addition to skills. If you have existing relationships with college coaches, you can leverage them to try and set your athletes up for success. Organizers should also provide education and resources to assist in the athlete’s recruiting journey, suggests Strasman.
“NCSA provides comprehensive education on every step of the recruiting process, and partners with nearly 200 organizations to help support their members with recruiting resources and support,” says Strasman. “Families that use NCSA receive expert guidance and advice on the recruiting process, as well as access to NCSA’s online recruiting resources and network of college coaches.”
Pro tip: Consider integrating programs like NCSA or ConnectSports into your registration flow to help your student athletes make these connections. This is possible through our Integration Center, which is home to numerous tools and solutions including those focused on recruiting.
How Parents Can Set Their Athletes Up for Success
1. Prep with the college athletic recruiting timeline in mind
“Families often begin the process by researching schools ahead of their freshman year,” suggests Mersereau. “Thinking about school size, distance from home, and campus type are healthy ways to begin the process, with a school-first approach.”
Start by building a target list of at least 30 schools across multiple divisions (D1, D2, D3, etc.). This list will evolve throughout the process as the athlete gets feedback from coaches and builds their academic track record. Keep in mind that not every division provides athletic scholarships—NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA D1 and D2 schools do. NCAA D3 colleges do not offer athletic scholarships, but nearly 80% of D3 student-athletes receive some kind of financial aid, according to Strasman.
If your athlete is starting the process later on, don’t worry! Many student-athletes begin the process junior year, and it’s not uncommon to start as a senior, says Strasman.
2. Keep your grades up
Having good grades will always help create more opportunities for athletes to compete at the next level. The NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA all have different academic standards and eligibility requirements. Usually, there are core courses that every student-athlete must complete and GPAs and ACT/ SAT scores are considered as well.
When determining which college division is the best fit, student-athletes should visit each division’s eligibility center to see if they qualify, suggests Strasman.
3. Consider all your options
“Playing ‘the Name Game,’ or sticking to one division will only limit possible opportunity,” says Strasman. Athletes should always keep their options open when considering colleges.
Something else to consider is whether you would rather be a starter and get significant playing time or compete at the highest level, even if they don’t see much game time. This can help determine which division is right for you.
4. Utilize multi media to tell a story
As a diligence item, many college coaches and large schools will use outside services to verify social account content for target recruits. Expedite the process for coaches by adding your social media to your recruiting profiles. Don’t forget to clean them up!
Highlight videos are also very important, Strasman reminds us. Skills videos are a viable option if the athlete doesn’t have access to game footage due to COVID—coaches will understand this. Remember to update the reel regularly with the athletes’ most recent game footage and skills improvement.
Reels should be short–about 3-5 minutes to showcase your best clips. They should also include detailed information about the athlete—starting with name, school, jersey number, position, graduation year, and contact information. For more video guidelines by sport, visit the NCSA website.
Ready to solidify your recruiting strategy?
Whether you’re running an organization or hoping to see your kid play at the collegiate level, these are just a few steps you can take to make sure that you’re giving your student athletes the best shot.