Monday, 17 August 2009 21:29

Navigating the College Recruiting Process

Written by Tom Kovic
As prospects navigate the college athletics recruiting process, the level of their “command of confidence” will not only assist them in developing a positive and effective approach to recruiting, it will be “picked up” by the college coaches and assist the prospect in standing above the rest of the pack.  Self confidence doesn’t just “appear"; it is a skill that is developed naturally and with experience and can offer student-athletes an effective tool that can be skillfully used in navigating the college recruiting process.

Contacts/Return Contacts

I believe many prospects are under the assumption that the college coaches will routinely contact them by phone or by e-mail in an attempt to recruit them.  This may be true for some prospects, but for the majority of athletes who are waiting for the phone to ring, it could be a long and frustrating wait.  Coaches are initially recruiting hundreds of prospects and need to utilize a filtering system to organize their list into a manageable and functional grouping.  Coaches are bound by very strict contact rules and it is in the best interest of the prospects to initiate contact with the college coaches, and do it with persistence!

If you feel a particular college coach has sincere interest in you as a prospect, you want to develop consistent communication with him or her.  I suggest taking the lead in making future contacts.  For instance, you may be discussing a future campus visit and trying to nail down a specific date.  Don’t feel nervous in taking the initiative and letting the coach know you will be contacting him or her in the near future to confirm the visit.  This approach is respectful and all you are trying to do is assist the coach, who will appreciate your effort.

Initiating Phone Calls to the Coach

I think one of the toughest challenges prospects face in the recruiting process is initiating that first phone call to the college coach, and for good reason: they are scared!  Somehow, many young athletes envision an unapproachable coach on the other end of the line and view the task of calling the coach with fear.  Coaches are usually former athletes who went through the same process.  More importantly, they are educators who “know the stakes” and the importance of the 4 year college experience.  Sure, they are competitive and want to attract the best and the brightest, but for the most part, they want prospects in general, to arrive at a comfortable college choice and one that is the right match.  They typically see their role as being a "resource,” with a sincere obligation to provide families with valuable information and to answer their questions.  They want to assist the prospect reach her “comfort level” in an effort to begin developing a collaborative relationship.

I would not encourage a prospect to pick up the phone and make a “cold call” without preparation.  Calls not only give you the opportunity to exchange information with the coaches, it provides you with a vehicle to begin opening up your personality to them and provide the college coach with a “look under the hood.”  A lot can be learned about a person in a 5 minute phone call, so make it count!  Put together a general list of items you would like to discuss and then trim it down to a bullet list of specific questions you need answers to.  keep your list informative, but short.  There is a good chance the coach will cover a lot of ground with his specific questions!

Presenting Yourself (Visits and by Phone)

You can present yourself in a number of different ways to college coaches and the manner in which you display your personality will directly reflect the level of investment you have made in the college recruiting process.

Whether your communication is by phone, email or face to face, “preparation” is the operative word.  When you are well prepared to communicate with the college coaches, your level of self confidence increases and the coaches sense this.  Remember, coaches are certainly looking to attract the best student-athletes, but just as important, they are looking for self aware individuals who bring potential leadership skills to the table.

Here’s a quick tip:  say you are preparing to make that initial phone call to the coach.  Instead of just picking up the phone, take time to go through mock phone conversations with your mom, dad or club coach in an effort to develop skills in communication.  Just like the effort you place in improving yourself as an athlete, your commitment to training your communication skills will pay big dividends down the road.

When you are face to face with a coach, dress sharp for the occasion and create a pleasing outward appearance.  Your appearance will be the first thing the college coach sees before he shakes your hand and first impressions are important and long remembered.  Additionally, maintain consistent eye contact with the coach.  The eyes are the “windows to your soul” and speaks volumes about your level of self-confidence.

Dealing with Rejection

Not every college coach will roll out the red carpet for you and it is important to prepare yourself for the possibility of rejection.  It is going to happen and you should not take it personally.  Whether rejection is a result of not meeting admissions standards or not having the “stuff” to be considered as an impact player for a particular team, do not waiver from “reaching” toward select academic and athletic programs.  One of many quotes I used with my teams was “Far better to reach for excellence and fail, than to settle for mediocrity.”  The same holds true in the college search, but prepare mentally and emotionally for potential negative news.  You might not appreciate the initial “shock” but by keeping your head held high and accepting the hand you are dealt, will only make you stronger and more persistent in the future.

The level of confidence prospects project as he/she navigates college recruiting, will be directly proportional to the potential success of the plan.  Like impeccable preparation for a championship game, the best prepared individuals will have the greatest chance at success if their recruiting plans are sound and they execute with confidence and persistence.  “Think you can, think you can’t, either way you are right.”  Bringing a positive and organized approach to college recruiting will help you navigate a potentially daunting task with confidence and success.

About the Author:

Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach 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.comCopyright Victory Collegiate Consulting 2009

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.

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