The recruiting age depends on the level of the athlete. Top athletes may attract interest from colleges as early as 8th grade. Some high school freshmen are highly recruited, but not many. The sophomore and junior years are when most recruiting activity begins. Colleges tend to continuously work on their rosters for the upcoming 2-4 seasons. Recruiting is an ongoing process for college teams. Top level athletes can expect recruiting to start in their sophomore year. Mid-top level athletes may start to be recruited in their sophomore year also, but with less urgency or persistence. The junior year is when colleges can talk with the athlete by email and phone. By that time, they have a good sense of what their roster needs are 2 years out. This is the year to get serious if the player was not highly recruited during the sophomore year. The greatest sense of urgency for players is during the senior year. There’s still a chance for seniors that are not signed or committed to be recruited although there may not be as many options available. This is the time when college teams are looking for seniors to replace players that de-committed, did not qualify academically, did not get accepted into the college, or transferred out of the college.
Q2. What should my child’s club do to help them with recruiting?
Clubs should have a recruiting coordinator who understands the recruiting process and can help you and your child understand different aspects of the process. The recruiting coordinator should also be able to represent your daughter with college coaches so that he/she is being properly portrayed to schools and given the opportunity to be noticed. Clubs should provide consistent training so your child continues to grow and develop. Opportunities to play at local and national tournaments should be provided so that your child can be seen by college coaches.
Q3. What should my child’s club coach do to help with recruiting?
The number 1 thing your child’s club coach should do is to coach your child. He/She should help him/her to become a better and stronger player - technically, competitively and mentally. They should explain what college coaches are looking for in a recruit – aptitude for the game (skill and understanding of the game), athleticism, potential, and position-specific ability. College coaches also want recruits who are mentally tough, competitive, work hard, have a good attitude, are coachable, have good relationships with their teammates and coaches, are consistent in their play and approach, go to all practices and are team players! The club coach should strive to make the team the best it can be because your child will play to his/her potential on a team that functions well. The club coach should talk to college coaches about your child’s ability. College coaches will initiate most of this contact, but sometimes the club coach will need to initiate the conversation; especially if the player is not a top level recruit. The club coach should help the player to be realistic about the level of college teams they are looking to play for.
Q4. Why is recruiting so complicated?
College recruiting is a business. Like any other competitive field, everyone wants to recruit the best. It’s a complex process that requires a lot of evaluation by both the coach and the player. Don't be afraid of the process. The way to win at recruiting is through research, trial, error and persistence (and of course, being prepared to play at the college level). Talk to coaches on the phone, visit schools, watch teams play, and ask lots of questions! Keep an open mind to schools you may not have originally considered.
Q5. Should I trust college coaches?
Yes and No. Get a feel for the coach and go with your instinct about whether to trust him or her. This is why you need to ask lots of questions! College coaches obviously like the school and the program they are a part of so they are going to speak positively about it. They may also give answers they think you might want to hear if you are a top recruit for them. What you’re looking for might not be what the school has to offer. This is why college visits are so important, even if they are not official recruiting visits. The player should keep in mind, “If I were not playing a college sport, would I want to be at this school?”
Q6. How many schools should I pursue?
The number of schools to pursue is different for everyone. Eventually, every recruit narrows their search down to 3-5 schools. In the beginning of the process, you may start with 20-30 schools. A realistic number after some homework is 10.
Q7. What if a school is interested in me, and I'm not interested in them?
Make sure the player is really NOT interested before telling the college coach. Once that door is closed, it’s hard to reopen unless it’s a top level player. If you’re sure you’re not interested, let the school know, but indicate that you would like to keep your options open.
Q8. What is the difference between committing and signing?
The initial agreement between a player and a college is a verbal commit. This is a “gentleman’s handshake” and is not a legally binding commitment. However, it is a strong indicator that the college will follow this with a National Letter of Intent (NLI) where the scholarship amount and terms are spelled out. Once the player commits to a college, they will be expected to stop any active recruiting, i.e., “take themselves off the market”. There are very specific guidelines and rules for verbal commits and NLIs. Parents and players should become familiar with these rules and guidelines through the NCAA website.