You think you want to be heavily recruited, but you have no idea. Seriously. I remember vivid coming to the close of my junior year and thinking, "where the hell is all of my recruiting letters?" My initial response was sadness then it soon turned to fire. I knew precisely what I had to do- I had to take my future into my own hands. I called up my Coach and said let’s get to work. The recruiting process is no joke.
I didn’t care who saw me hustling I knew who I was. I didn’t really care too much about going to the beach every weekend or spending money on the hottest fashion. My only commitment was to the grind.
I was hungry for it.
My Senior Year finally came, and I was the most heavily recruited athletes in the state. By the end of my indoor season, I was one most sought out recruits in the country for my event. Sounds awesome? It sounds like I got everything I wanted right? I did but turns out I had no idea what I really wanted.
#1Take Inventory of Yourself
I alluded to my mediocre high school academic profile in a previous post, but just for kicks, I’ll revisit it. I was very average. There was nothing that would interest a college coach if they looked at my transcript. In fact, they may have seen some things that would make them want to run for the hills. Like my absenteeism.
Go to school kids!
To be a college athlete you need to admit material. Lucky for me I got into every school I applied for except for one school, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
*insert angry face
But looking back that was a gift. I didn’t want to go to UNC my Coach did. It was his dream school, not mine.
If you consider yourself a good student, I will encourage you to examine what makes you good. What does your high school classroom look like? Is that student to teacher ratio low? Are the courses that you perform best in of interest to you? Do you perform best when you are required to be engaged or can just blend in with the rest of the class?
The answers to these questions will help you determine what kind of questions you can ask the coaches recruiting you.Take for example, if you have identified that you perform best when the student to teacher ratio is about 30:1. You have been in a small school setting your entire life, and this is where you feel most comfortable. During a call with a coach, you could ask was the student: teacher ratio is. You could also ask about the academic resources accessible to student-athletes as well as the general population.
Colleges and Universities run the gamut as they relate to size. Some small schools serve under 3,000 students, to 63,016 enrolled at the largest school in the country, The University of Central Florida. It is imperative to decide if this is a determining factor.
When I came down to the final stretch of my recruiting journey my list had narrowed to three schools: Jacksonville University, Penn State, and George Mason. Each school was on my list for different reasons. The one thing they all had in common was the scholarship amount. Every school at that point recognized my potential and chose to reward that with scholarship dollars. This was huge for me. My family was unable to contribute to continuing education so in my mind I had one route to University, scholarship or nothing. I know you are probably thinking, there are other options and you are right. Loans. Enough said.
Unbeknownst to me one of the schools in my top 3 was on athletic probation. At the time I didn’t understand what that meant. Luckily for me, my coaches did. It was discovered that one of the schools would potentially not be able to compete at the National Championships the following year because the athletic department was on probation. Basically, regardless of how well I competed that year, or perhaps the next year, I wouldn’t be able to compete in the National Championship. I couldn’t line up against the best in the nation to duke it out because of some violation that occurs before my arrival. This was an immense determinant- Truthfully, once I learned this information any chance of me choosing that school was out.
It was through this process I acknowledged that I wanted to be the best. To me being the best means competing against the best and finishing on top. The surest way to ensure I was competing against the best was to attend a Divison I school. Division I is the most athletically competitive conference in the NCAA and holds athletes to the highest standards of academic progress.
#2 Set Boundaries
The recruiting process is no respecter of persons. The very nature of it is dog eat dog. If you are like me, you see this and retreat. A better option would be to set some boundaries. For yourself and the coaches who are interested in you. These boundaries should make the process easier for you and your family- it certainly did so for mine. One of the significant boundaries I had to set related to phone calls.
Coaches who were interested in speaking with me were advised to contact my coach first then he facilitated the connection. At first thought, this may sound like a bit much, but sometimes you just need someone else to do the heavy lifting. Recruiting coaches are so eager to connect with you the call can become incessant. I remember just around decision time the phone calls started to increase in frequency. Coincidentally this was also the time I was studying to re-sit the SAT. The phone calls became so overwhelming I eventually just stopped answering the phone. Some coaches got the message. Others required a phone call from my coach asking to allow me some space for my studies. If I could rewind the time, I would have communicated my boundaries earlier in the recruiting process.
I realize now that while there were no NCAA rules broken, I didn’t quite understand the weight of the process. If I were an athlete being recruited right now, I would ask coaches to respectfully only call me once a week and not after 8 pm.
I do not pity current college coaches. With the explosion of social media, I can imagine trying to get a high school student to answer the phone or return a phone call is quite the task. Now more than ever people are inseparable with their devices- ironically, less connected. More on that in a later post. Handheld but rarely touching our ears, telephones have become a blessing and a curse. I’m confident no one knows this more than a recruiting coach, well on second thought maybe parents. I digress.
The ways we chose to engage is severely selective. When I was being recruited, there was no social media. When I start coaching, coaches were not allowed to “friend,” “follow” or initiate communication with a recruit on social media. Currently, this area has been deregulated, but most recruits don’t want to field requests or messages from recruiting coaches on their social media accounts. What a mess?!? I understand the athlete’s perspective though. There are certain parts of your life you want to keep private. Well as private as posting on a social media outlet can be. Can it be? I digress, again.
My advice is this if you are uninterested in being friends with every coach that is recruiting you just say it. Don’t let their friend request just sit on your feed unanswered. That’s rude. Even if that is not your intent, it may be interpreted that way. Your ignorance may also read as disinterest or the worst of all, that you have something to hide. That is the last thing you want someone who is willing to send $200,000 your way via tuition, room, board, and books.
Home visits are awkward. There I said it. There a few things more intimate than inviting into your home where you live with your family. I mean your entire life is on display from the photos on the wall to the food your mom chooses to serve. You feel like you are on the biggest stage of your life, but there is only one person in the audience, that recruiting coach. This is why when I was being recruited we allowed just one coach to sit in our living room. Frankly speaking, I was also a little ashamed of our three bedroom apartment in the projects. Which I realize now I should not have been. My Mom worked hard to keep a room over our heads and enough food to fill our bellies.
The recruiting process jaded me. I started to feel like I had to be a superstar all around, free of flaws. That was unrealistic. If you are reading this and shaking your head agreeing with me, let me free you. Just. Be. YOU. Your most authentic self is good enough. If for some reason after a home visit a coach is no longer interested in you accept it and move forward. Also, know that you can choose not to allow anyone into your home. I would like to just say here for a minute, this whole process is a choice and it is yours to make. Regardless of the number of people in your ear when it is all said and done this decision will affect your life the most, and you should be the most comfortable with it.
#3 Wants and Needs
If you take nothing else from this article but this next point, I would be satisfied.
I almost made the wrong choice in choosing my University. You know how they say almost doesn’t count, well they are right. Thankfully, my support team knew me a little better than I did at the time. After revealing the school I had chosen to attend, instead of calling me a fool, they instead extended the following questions:
-What was your favorite part of the school?
-How did you feel when you attended a class?
-Where is the practice facility relative to your classes? Your dorm? How will you get there?
I could only answer one of these questions. My favorite part of the school was the athletic facilities, the school spirit I witnessed and the infamous on campus ice-cream shop.
This was concerning.
Had I just based a decision on looks? I would never do that with anything else. Not even clothes. While appearance is important so is how it feels on my skin, so does the price tag, so does the quality of the material. I almost made a life-changing mistake, I mean decision. Now who is to say that I couldn’t have attended said University and done just fine. This is a possibility. The facts are I got wrapped up in the moment and didn’t consider what was important- what I NEEDED in a University not what I wanted from a University. I wanted to eat at that ice-cream shop regularly but what I need was a campus where everything was walking distance.
So here is your homework. Take a sheet of paper and fold it down the center vertically. On the left side of the paper write the word “Needs” and on the right side of the paper write the word “Wants.” Then get to work filling in everything you can think of. When I say everything, I mean everything. If I were to do this exercise right now I would add the following to my needs column:
-proximity to home
-small class sizes
In the same manner, I would add the following to my wants column:
-off-campus housing option
-state of the art facilities
-campus ministry presence
This will become your bible. Use this sheet as your arsenal to vet every school. If the school is unable to meet your needs, they are out. Obviously, you want to seriously consider the priority of your needs before nixing a school, but you get the point.
Bringing It All Home
The recruiting process is not an easy one. For everyone involved it includes many phone calls, correspondence, road trips and money. At the heart of the matter is your future. Enlist the necessary support to help you take inventory of yourself, set boundaries and identify what you want and need in a University program.
Be sure that your why is clear. It is through that lens that you will summon all the strength needed to endure the recruiting process.
The process is not smooth, but hopefully, after reading this post, you have a few ideas of how you can make it easier.