A successful recruiting effort will shore up as many “impact tools” in the team arsenal to get the attention of college coaches. Those tools may consist of raw athletic talent, academic brilliance or a strong core character. This article focuses on using your inner network as an indirect, yet impactful, addition to your recruiting efforts and to help elevate your position on the radar screen of the college coaches.
Networking in the college search for athletes can simply be defined as, “a coordinated and well-planned attempt to use outside assistance in effectively accelerating and influencing the chances of reaching one’s college goal.” If the prospect and family want to register high on the radar screen of a college coach, their networking plan needs 1) to be well timed, impactful and substantial and 2) It should originate from an outside source (i.e., club coach etc.). If the aim is to increase a prospect's chances in admissions or maximizing a non-athletic financial aid package, current alumni or those with direct inside connections with college administrators can possibly facilitate the effort.
Regardless of the tactic or individuals you plan to enlist, one key element to successful networking is to keep the lines of communication open with the college coach and keep him in the loop with your strategy every step of the way.
If you happen to be (and there is a good chance you are) in a college coach’s active “B” recruiting file, you need to make a dedicated effort to rise above the other guys in the pack. Count on a large percentage of prospects that will directly compete with you in that grouping and the effort you demonstrate to go “above and beyond the rest” can make the difference between a marginal attempt and a productive emerging plan.
Networking, when well planned and executed flawlessly, can create a big boost to your college quest and help you break away from the rest of the pack. Make every attempt to use networking as a tactic that complements your current recruiting effort without jeopardizing your progress. It is important to keep the college coach in the loop every step of the way with those people who will be supporting your effort.
Examples of Networking Team Members and Roles
The key to coordinating a worthy networking plan is to first identify those individuals who plan to speak on your behalf. Below is an example of networking team members to consider:
- Club coaches: Will have direct communication with the college coaches to speak specifically about your skill as an athlete and your strength of character.
- College advisor: Works indirectly with admissions, but especially with select institutions where admissions is competitive, your counselor can possibly reach out to the regional admissions representative.
- College Alumni: In certain cases, alumni have a strong, vested interest in a college program and can speak strongly on your behalf during the admissions process.
These are just examples of some impact players who can potentially and significantly strengthen your case. Whether the connection is athletic, academic or in the area of alumni relations, the trick here is to plan all communications to complement your current recruiting effort in a seamless manner.
Timing and Content
Communicating with college coaches is one thing. Offering them information that has “grip” is communicating on an altogether higher level and this is where your networking tactics can strongly come into play.
Your club coaches can have direct impact on how a college coach views you and these are key players you want in your corner. In the final analysis, college coaches are looking at 3 core qualities when evaluating a prospect: Strong academic tendencies, impact athletes and strength of character. If there is one person who can speak specifically to these 3 qualities, it is your current coach.
Remember, the college search is a marathon, not a sprint and your coach’s timing in connecting with the college coach is crucial. College coaches like information short, sweet and to the point. A good club or high school coach will have fresh information to deliver in a concise manner that builds strongly upon your college recruiting resume. For instance, if you have a major meet or invitational that is fast approaching, your coach should initiate contact with the college coach closer to the event in an effort to not only speak highly on your behalf, but offer coach the chance to evaluate you at the meet.
In the final analysis, college prospects deserve every opportunity to reach their personal goal. That being said, each plan should be grounded and realistic in its approach. If plan “A” falls short, plan “B” should be ready to execute on a moment’s notice.
College coaches employ a very simple system to determine those prospects on the recruit priority list that will ultimately receive their support. Families and athletes can influence these decisions to a degree, but they will be required to "step up to the plate", take a "swing" and make every effort to control that part of the playing field. Identifying individuals who can successfully speak on your behalf and network productively and seamlessly with the college coaches on your list can make a tremendous difference.
About Tom Kovic:
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college gymnastics coach (Penn) and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence”, an educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com
Editor's Note: Publication of this article is not an endorsement of any recruiting service. Always check with the NCAA or your school's compliance officer for any questions regarding recruiting rules, the latest timelines, or other issues.