College Athletics Recruiting – Tips For the Late Starters


I was a 2 sport athlete in high school and I was pretty good. Not that I was the blue chip kid all the coaches were drooling after, but I was a New York State Champion Gymnast and State runner up in Track and Field. I really did not know much of anything regarding skillful tactics in getting on the radar screen of the college coaches and quite honestly, did not begin the recruiting process until well into my senior year of high school. I’m thankful that both the Track and Field and Gymnastics coaches at Temple were paying attention late in the process and I was very fortunate to receive a full athletics scholarship.

My brief story is a valuable one and for only one reason. Don’t do what I did! What follows are suggested strategies for athletes and families who feel they might be a bit behind in the college quest.

What you shouldn’t do

If you happen to feel a little disoriented with the college search and that feeling of frustration is creeping in, don’t’ panic! When faced with any obstacle where time is a crucial factor, we tend to think firstly of everything that could go wrong in an attempt to size up the situation. This only complicates the matter further and creates a potentially negative approach to the issue.

Additionally, late starters typically react by flooding the college coaches with information and communication in an attempt to at least “connect with someone.” This will immediately be picked up by the college coaches as an act of desperation and I strongly discourage prospects from taking this approach.

Another reaction many families might feel compelled to execute is to take the first good offer that comes along. Whether it is an offer to tryout for a team or be invited as a walk-on, I will admit there is a feeling of comfort when a coach shows sincere interest in a prospect, especially late in the game.

What you should do

With every important decision we make, it is important to maintain clarity in thinking. No matter how overwhelming the current moment may appear, take the time to sit down as a family and adequately size up the situation. Do everything you can to keep negative thoughts at bay and maintain a positive approach to what may seem like a difficult journey. Remember the old saying: “Think you can, think you can’t, either way you’re right.”

Just like a good coach and a worthy team who is behind a goal or two with just a few minutes left in the game, approach your personal situation with the end game in mind and work yourself slowly back to present time. An organized and well thought out plan of action will give families and their children the best chance at success. Whether it is effective communication with coaches or planning that mid-August road trip to a half dozen schools, take a “team effort” in developing a step by step approach with targets and time-lines that will most likely be demanding, but doable.

The best laid plans are only as good as the manner in which they are executed and this is where your persistence and determination come into play. If your target for the day is to contact 5 college coaches by phone and communicate your family’s plans to make a visit to campus in 3 weeks, you have to do it. It might take 25 attempts to connect with each of the 5 college coaches, but you must remain diligent and stay the course. Like hurdles in a race, you want to clear one at a time with unyielding focus on each individual hurdle. Let the result of the race take care of itself!

Tips to jumpstart your late start

One of your first steps should be is to either create of edit your personal resume. By developing an easy to read, 1 page personal profile you not only inform the college coach to who you are and what you have accomplished; it will allow the coach in doing a quick and efficient initial evaluation. Keep this document to no longer than one page and include your academic and athletic highlights, along with any extracurricular leadership initiatives you have participated in.

On that note, you need to provide the coach with a simple, but effective way to evaluate your skill as a player. Round up your recent season game footage and pick out 5-6 minutes of your best stuff. Save it to your laptop and burn as many DVD’s necessary, to send to your consolidated list of schools… That’s next!

Streamline your list of colleges and universities that potentially fit your academic and athletic profile. I suggest a well balanced list of Division 1, 2 and 3 schools that meet your immediate needs (geographic region, size of undergraduate student body etc.). Develop a detailed contact list of the schools, coach’s names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses and save it to your recruiting folder. Add a separate list of “hard addresses” for the coaches in case they request a portfolio or when you are getting ready to ship your DVD.

Consolidate and communicate

Now that you are moving the boulder forward, it will be important to maintain the momentum you have created. Getting information in the hands of the college coaches is one thing… following up is another matter altogether! Remember, the college recruiting process is not about flooding the college coaches with information, it is about developing relationships and the best approach in this situation is to take a proactive effort in connecting with the coaches. Coaches are being bombarded with hundreds of inquiries of interest from high school prospects and do not have the time to personally respond to every athlete. YOU have to take hold of the baton and run the race and the best way to determine where you stand in the eyes of the coaches is to contact them directly.

Plan a road trip

If you reach this point in the recruiting process and I hope you do, there will be a lot of action happening and your recruiting plan will begin to get some legs. Taking a road trip should be a top priority for families and unofficial campus visits are a great way to take a look under the hood in an attempt to determine potential matches for their sons and daughters. Make every attempt not to just “show up.” Communicate with the coaches in an effort to coordinate a face to face meeting with your campus visit. Personal visits can make a big difference for certain prospects and I strongly suggest making the best of your road trip.

If you sense you are either late in executing your plans for the college recruiting process, or feel the need to jumpstart your plan of attack, avoid any negative energy that will contribute to a loss of focus in the process. Maintain a positive approach and use a team effort in reorganizing your quest with clarity and direction and you will give yourself the greatest chance at success.