Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Recruiting Rules are Forever Changing

If you're a student athlete in the market for college recruiting now, it's tough to stay on top of the rules as the NCAA is constantly tweaking them in an effort to keep some pretense of control. Here are three that have happened fairly recently:

Two years ago, the NCAA put the kabosh on coaches texting recruits because it was so intrusive and was costing kids all kinds of money. Very recently, they ruled that the use of Twitter is acceptable (as is e-mail). So now, coaches are quickly getting facile with Twitter as a way to develop communities around their programs. Creates images of the Pied Piper. If there are programs you're very interested in, you may want to follow the coach on Twitter.

Coaches are no longer allowed to attend and view basketball players at spring (April and May) AAU tournaments, they are only allowed to view in July. Will this put more influence into the hands of scouts? And will elite teams stop attending these tournaments?

The age at which male basketball players can officially be considered "prospective athletes" has dropped two years to seventh and eighth graders. Previously, a prospective athlete was a kid who had begun taking classes in the ninth grade. But younger high potential players were attending elite summer camps giving the coaches sponsoring those camps a leg up on developing relationships with these kids. By dropping the age, the NCAA can now legislate the limits of these camp relationships. So despite this looking like the NCAA is encouraging coaches to recruit kids even younger, the opposite is true--they're trying to exert a little more control over what has been out of their control until now.

These may not impact you personally but recognize that the contact you may or may not be having with a specific coach may be as much a reflection of the constraints the rules impose as a statement about what a coach thinks of you. And try to stay on top of the rules by asking your high school coach or athletic director, your AAU or club coach, or the college coaches you contact.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ranking Elementary Schoolers for College Recruiting

The New York Times just published an interesting article about what happens when kids are ranked for college recruiters as early as 5th and 6th grade. The gist of the article is that it sets expectations that often aren't met as the kids age, and it creates jealousies and other social problems for these kids. Here's a link to the article:

I have watched many kids in several sports from 1st grade through high school. The pecking order doesn't stay static, it changes every year. The kids who were standouts when they were younger don't always keep that status. They might not grow, they might burn out because they're playing year round, and the elephant in the room that no one likes to talk about is that they may hit a wall on skill development and just stop getting better while everyone around them is continuously improving. Conversely, a kid who was gangly and awkward as a 9th grader suddenly grows and comes into their own as a junior and just dominates.

Imagine the pressure on the kid who is labeled as a superstar at 12 and has to hang his head between his legs at 16 because he flamed out. Imagine being the parent of that kid and having to prop up his destroyed self-esteem. Stop the insanity of ranking kids in the 6th grade, even if it is making someone a few bucks. At least wait until they are closer to having adult bodies.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

College Recruiting Question: Does a Letter Mean I'm Getting Recruited?

Parents often ask me whether letters mean their child is a "top recruit" and I have had several parents tell me a laundry list of schools that they thought were recruiting their kid based only on a letter campaign. If you want to know if letters mean that your child is being recruited by a school, the quick answer is no, not yet. Let me share a quick story that will make this all too clear.

There was one (unnamed) school that sent my son more letters than any other school. They never called, never contacted him in any other way, and never came to see him play that we knew of. They requested that he fill out their questionnaire (which he did), but they never followed up with him.

In preparation for a recruiting presentation I was doing where I knew this subject would come up, I decided to see how many letters they had sent. I was guessing 25. When I counted up the letters in his room from this one school, there were 87. That's not a typo--87. After the presentation, I called him at college and told him about it. When I told him how many letters had come from this one school, he laughed and told me that he had thrown away more than half of them.

Clearly, he was on the "if none of our chosen recruits decide to come here" list. There's nothing wrong with a school sending letters to a broad range of kids. You just need to recognize that many of these letters are coming to you from schools and coaches that need to build a database of kids who they can tap if they need to, not because they have an overwhelming interest in your specific kid. So keep it in perspective and know they're only really interested if the letters start to be personal and hand-written, and if they're accompanied by calls and requests for video and game schedules.

Monday, February 9, 2009

College Recruiting Cruises into Spring for Juniors

So it's mid February already and football signing day has come and gone. That means we're getting closer and closer to spring break and if you're a high school junior with hopes of playing in college, time to get it in gear.

You should try to use your spring break to make a college visit or two, just to get an idea of what kind of school you would be comfortable at. You can also use this time to start putting together your profile and video to either send out or post online at one of the recruiting websites.

There's a lot to do in the months ahead. I've tried to lay everything out in Put Me In, Coach: A Parent's Guide to Winning the Game of College Recruiting ( Use the suggestions in the book to layout what you will do month by month. It's a much more manageable task if you take on a little at a time.

Make it a goal to contact at least 10 college coaches in the next month. Pick some schools that look interesting to you, let them know you're interested in learning more about their program, and let them know how to find information about you.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pat Summit Reaches a Summit of Her Own

Today, Pat Summit reached 1000 wins. She is the winningest NCAA D-I basketball coach in history. No one else is even close. Bobby Knight retired with 902 wins and Jody Conradt retired with 900 wins. Can you imagine winning 1000 of anything? It strikes me as very fitting that her last name is Summit--she has just reached one.

It is also ironic that it falls on the annual football signing day. Student athletes all over the country salivating at the chance to put on their new uniforms and pack away that first college win. And when that happens, this coach will be 999 wins ahead of them (okay, so there's a few more games in a basketball season than a football season). It takes commitment, persistence, and a lot of motivation. She is a great role model and I hope she gets a few hundred more before she calls it quits.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Recruiting 7th and 8th graders for college sports

Lots of buzz lately about how the NCAA is now allowing 7th and 8th graders to be recruited. This is an attempt to gain some control over coach contact with middle schoolers since it was already happening in camps with no "rules" governing it. I have lots of thoughts about this but I'm curious about the viewpoints of other parents who have athletes who are now out of high school--what did you see as your kids were growing up. Here are my observations, I'm wondering if you saw the same things I did:

The kids who were standouts in early middle school were sometimes flameouts by late high school. There were a few reasons for this. Sometimes they grew very quickly and stopped just as quickly, so everyone caught up and passed them by. Sometimes their skills just didn't develop or they weren't motivated enough to work on them. Sometimes they burned out on the sport or just lost interest and moved to another sport. Sometimes they just didn't have the temperament to work well within a coaches system. And sometimes, the tougher academic workload and increased competition at the high school level just did them in and their effort slid to mediocre.

I've seen cases of the opposite too. Kids who were average athletes and average in size suddenly put the pieces together and grow and excel somewhere around junior year. In fact, this happens to lots of kids. Does this mean they would get passed on because spots were committed to years before?

A parent on the sidelines sees the ebb and flow of all the kids their child is coming up with and there's a lot of churning before it all settles out. It's very sad to see a sport pass a kid by who still wants to be playing. And it's very exciting to see a kid who has persisted through thick and thin to suddenly come into their own.

It's hard to believe that recruiting 12 and 13 year olds won't result in some very unfulfilled expectations. Let them become who they are meant to become. I'd love to hear from some other parents on this topic. What have you seen from the sidelines?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Belt Tightening in College Recruiting

From everything I've been reading lately, this is the topic du jour. When the NYT tackles it, you know it's for real. The gist of it is that with the economy in the slumps, college programs are allocating less resources for recruiting, so coaching staffs, and recruits both have to be more resourceful in finding each other.

As a recruit, you can't control what the coaching staff does but you can control what you do. You should assume that it will now be harder to be found and/or seen because there is less money for programs to get out there. But you should also assume that their needs haven't decreased--just their budgets. Your job is to work even harder to get your information into the hands of anyone you might be interested in. Get good quality video and post it on one or more of the websites that maintain recruiting info for student-athletes. Send a separate copy to a handful of the coaches on your A-list. Send a well written and personal letter to these coaches, directing them to where they can find your video and stats posted. By personal, I mean tell them enough about you to get them interested, and mention enough about what you know about their program (and how you would fit well into it) so they know you've done your homework and are really interested in them. Everyone wants to be wanted--coaches are no exception.

The opportunities are still out there, you just may have to work a little harder to make sure they find you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Role of JV in College Sports

Just read a personal story in The Chronicle about a girl who was recruited for D III sports and was relegated to the JV squad after expecting varsity play. The writer (her parent) was very upset and felt that she was recruited to bolster admissions numbers for this school--not because they really wanted her athletic ability. Apparently this is not an unheard of practice.

Makes me wonder just what is the role of JV in a D III school? Unlike D I programs where athletes move out because of the draft, or move in from Juco's with two years of college experience already, D III programs have kids that are likely to be playing for four years unless they quit the team on their own (which often happens if they're not playing later in their career). So it makes sense that if you're going to be playing against kids that are 3-4 years bigger, faster, and more experienced, a year of JV could help prepare you for what's to come. And it allows a broader group of kids to continue competing in college.

How would you feel if you were recruited, expecting varsity play, and ended up playing JV?

Friday, January 9, 2009

What happens to college recruiting when programs go under?

I hope this isn't the beginning of a trend. Just read an article about a D II school eliminating it's football program because of budget cuts and a $500,000 deficit that the program was running under every year. I guess they were able to swallow it when the economy was better but it became untenable in the current environment.

Is this just the beginning? Will we be seeing lots of cuts in collegiate athletics, particularly in the smaller, less funded sports? Will it affect the number or dollar amount of scholarships?

If you're on the recruiting trail, try to find out as much as you can about a program's financial health and future. You don't want to be the kid who starts out in a program and has the rug pulled out from under you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why Does a Kid Lie About College Recruitment

I saw some ESPN footage today from a story about a high school football player who lied to his family, coaches, and community about getting recruited to play D I football--to the point where the school had an assembly for him to announce his college pick. He had fabricated the whole story because he wanted it so bad, didn't want to disappoint anyone (himself probably at the top of the list), and once he had started the lie, it escalated wildly before he could think of a way to stop it.

This is a sad commentary. It's not so much that sports plays such a dominant and important role in our culture. I get that. There's great value for both the participants and the spectators. It's that nothing was acceptable to him accept a major D I roster spot. No one from his community had ever played D I football and he had to have the bragging rights. And it basically shamed him and derailed his life.

His high school coach left his job over it, the kid ended up in therapy, and the community was pretty shocked by the whole thing. How can this happen?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Golden Opportunities for Girls in College Recruiting

There are tremendous opportunities for athletic scholarships for girls and I'm not sure how many people know about them.

The vast majority of men's athletic scholarships are awarded for football--between 63 (D-I AA) and 85 (D-I A) per NCAA school. The next highest number is only 18/school for D I men's ice hockey. Because there is no women's football, and because of the impact of Title IX, there are loads of athletic scholarships available to women to make up for this inequity.

There are 24 sports in which the NCAA allots scholarships for women compared to 17 for men. In the sports where scholarships are awarded for both genders, the number awarded to women is equal to or greater than the number awarded to men in all but one sport.

Here is a list of sports where scholarships are available to women and not to men: archery, badminton, bowling, equestrian, field hockey, rowing, rugby, softball, squash, synchronized swim, and team handball. The sports where scholarships are awarded to both genders: basketball, cross country/track and field, fencing, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, skiing, soccer, swimming/diving, tennis, volleyball, and water polo.

Obviously, not every school is going to offer all of these sports and some of these may not have been sports you've considered previously. But if you're in early high school and you're looking for something new to pick up, try one. It may pay off handsomely later.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

When the passion goes, what happens to college recruiting

Just saw a really interesting story here:

Here's a girl who was a stud basketball player with a full ride to U. Conn--but she lost her passion for basketball long ago and covered it up for 5 years so she wouldn't disappoint anyone or look weak. It finally caught up with her and she had the courage to come clean about it and move on to play volleyball at a smaller school because it made her happy.

You can imagine the disappointment of her coach, her teammates, her parents, and even herself as she came to this decision. But ultimately, they supported her and her parents, in particular, helped her move forward.

For everyone who wants to get recruited for college sports, it takes as much passion as skill and talent to play in college. Otherwise, it's just another job and one that will take far too much time to be worthwhile. And if you've got the passion, it can make up for shortcomings in other areas.

Friday, January 2, 2009

High school juniors, start thinking college recruiting

If you're a high school junior with hopes of playing in college, I hope you've begun doing your research and assembling a list of which colleges are right for you. If you haven't, please pick up Put Me In, Coach ( and work through the section on finding the right fit. It's now January and time to start putting together the information you want to get into the hands of college coaches for recruiting. You should get all of this out by spring time at the latest. Please don't wait until senior year. And you can also start contacting (e-mail) just to let them know you're out there, interested in their program, and planning to send them your information.

One more thing. You can "legally" contact coaches before they can contact you--so do it. A motivated kid who shows interest in a school is a good lead for a coach to start with. If you're not right for that program, don't expect much. But if you are, it will get you on the radar screen.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Are Parents Too Pushy in College Recruiting

Do you wonder how to strike the right balance between providing support and being too pushy?

I spend a lot of time in my book talking about the ways parents can help and the importance of their involvement, but I recently heard an anecdote from a very experienced D I coach who said that the best team is a team of orphans. I guess his point is for parents to keep their nose out of the coach/athlete business.

He's probably right. There's a lot of ways to be involved behind the scenes but parental intervention with a coach probably isn't going to get the outcomes you want. Any thoughts or experiences with this?