The importance of focusing on yourself (or your child) during the athletic recruiting process


While there may be a 1-on-1 aspect of just about every sport out there, the best 1-on-1 players are not necessarily the ones that will end up with scholarship offers from college programs.  And for a lot of families (especially parents), it is difficult for them realize that there is more to the athletic recruiting process than just that.  Many parents and sometimes coaches feel that because their son or daughter had a good game against an athlete with college scholarship offers, these scholarships will be coming to them as well.

Again, it just doesn’t work that way.  There is so much involved in the college recruiting process that simply having one good game against a top tier athlete is not going to put you on par with the schools that are recruiting him or her.  You may be an excellent high school player who has already peaked out.  At the next level, potential is vital so that comes into play as well.

What you need to worry about during the recruiting process is yourself (or your child).  I am going to stress that time and time again.  Let’s say that the athlete your son’s team is facing on Friday has Division I offers from all over the country.  He has spent his summer attending camps and select combines in order to draw attention from college coaches.  It has paid off as he now basically can pick what school he wants to go to.

Going into the game, he has been limited with an injury so he isn’t 100%.  This athlete has already impressed college coaches enough previously that the regular season doesn’t matter all that much in terms of the recruiting process.  Say this athlete and your son both play running back.  In the end, the highly recruited athlete rushes for 154 yards and your son rushes for 186 yards.  Some families will feel that since their son out performed this highly sought after recruit, they should be getting scholarship offers.

The athletic recruiting process has never worked that way and never will.  Yes, sometimes college coaches do find tape of athletes they like when looking at another player but that rarely happens.  What you need to do as a family is focus on what you can do to help yourself throughout the entire recruiting process, not just the night your son out played a big named athlete.  And with defenses differing in this game, factors like that may be a reason why your son outperformed the other player.

Maybe this top ranked athlete followed steps to a scholarship since he was a sophomore to help himself garner college interest.  And it has paid off with the recruiting process.  You on the other hand are now a senior and have not even put together a recruiting profile.  The schools you want to attend will not likely find you unless you put an effort forward, like this other athlete did.  He did not take anything for granted and wanted attention from the schools he has dreamt of playing for.  Now he will be getting that chance in college.

I feel strongly that the most vital performance of an athlete in just about any sport is either in AAU, club, or during the summer football camps.  College programs will offer athletes based on their recruiting highlight tape but prefer to get a chance to see them first hand and work with them.  The best time to peak is during the summer (and also the time to avoid any type of injury).

Obviously the more wins that your teams is able to secure, the more success the team will have, and thus the more individual honors you will get.  But your focus should be on your own recruiting process and not how you outplayed this major recruit.  It could be a story to tell your kids twenty years from now but if you are playing college athletics, it shouldn’t matter much.  It is something that is great to do but will have no factor on the recruiting process.  Worry about yourself (and your kid) and it will make the athletic recruiting process for any sport much easier.

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When should I sign up for summer football recruiting camps?


The summer may seem like something in the far off distance but for junior and sophomore athletes out there ready this, the rest of the winter and the spring will fly by. Before you know it, the summer season will be upon you. So with that in mind, it may be important to at least have a strategy for your summer football camp schedule.

The single most important role when signing up for a football camp is by NOT picking a camp based on one camp invite that you received from the school. Let me stress this again (and I should just repeat this about twenty more times). If you are a junior and the only “recruiting” that a college does is send you a camp invite, do not go. They are not interested in you as a player. They are interested in you to make money during the summer months. These coaches can really improve their income by bringing in as many athletes as they can. So with money on the line, they are going to mass invite athletes from all over their area.

All schools send out these camps invites to pad their camp numbers as well as their wallets. These invites are being sent out while you read this and football recruits across the country may really think that this program is interested in them. Again, if you have received little to nothing else from the school outside of a camp invite, save your money (or the cash of your parents) because this is a waste of time. There is one school in the Midwest known for sending out camp invites to anyone. My guess is that if they know you started on the football team, you are good enough for a camp invite. Keep that in mind before getting excited and quickly signing up.

If you are a sophomore, then picking camps are much different. Until the first day of your junior year of school, all college coaches can send you is questionnaires and camp invites. The problem is because it is so early, it is really tough to tell if the school sending the camp invite is really interested. That is why I would not take these camp invites all that serious, even this early in the football recruiting process.

As a sophomore, you should dictate what schools you decide to attend camps at. Yes, it would be great to get a scholarship while at the camp but the odds are very slim so don’t count on it. Go in thinking that the reason you are going to the camps are to get better as a player and hopefully show the coaches enough that they will evaluate you later on in the recruiting process.

For picking camps as a sophomore, I honestly wouldn’t do all that many. Just pick somewhere between two and four that you feel can help you. You may decide that you want to go to two in-state schools and another dream program that you have followed for years. Again, getting yourself exposed to different coaches should help you become a better football player if you listen and work hard.

Signing up for a summer football camp as a junior is completely different. Because college coaches can send you all the mail that they want and eventually call you in May, I would strongly advise to not sign up until May. I would say in 98% of the situations that unless a school calls you in the month of May, then they are not going to offer you a scholarship while at the camp (there are exceptions but I am stressing that the mass majority do not come out of nowhere for a scholarship offer. The athlete is at least someone they know to watch coming in). So the question is why pay a school hundreds of dollars when the reason you are going is to be recruited and they are not going to take you all that serious as a potential player at their level?

As a junior, your goal for camps is to get evaluated and either get a scholarship or show enough ability that they will be looking at you down the road. With this in my, there is no reason why you should have to attend more than one day at the camp. I have talked about this before but when speaking with the coaches that call in May, ask them about how you can attend one day at camp and what the process is to sign up for that.

The reason to only attend one day of the camp is simple. First, it saves you a great deal of money. That is going to be a huge benefit in the long term scheme of things. The second is that as a college coach, they have the ability to evaluate an athlete very quickly. If they know you can’t play, why stay there hoping to impress them? You are not suddenly going to turn into Tim Tebow from the second to third night.

Anyways, going back to the original question, signing up for camps does differ. As a sophomore, pick a few camps that you are interested and go to those. As a junior, find out what schools are really interested in you (and that means by calling you in May, which is more than a college coach visiting your high school) and then talk to them about attending one day at their camp. Then it will save you money and give you more flexibility to get to different camps around your area.

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What does an athletic scholarship cover financially?


Before going into exactly what a scholarship costs, it is important to discuss the different options that college coaches offer you as an athlete.  At the Division I-A level for football and Division I basketball level, the coaches must either offer you a full ride or nothing.  Obviously academics can help out (Which in most cases, I hope happens) but as far as scholarships go, it is all or nothing at the Division I-A level.

At the Division I-AA and II level for football (As well as Division II level for basketball), that is when partials can be offered.  But that is also where things get interesting for a number of different reasons.  If a school offers you $10,000 in a scholarship and that is how much the school costs in your first year, that is outstanding and means you will not have to pay for much.  But with the way that tuition has been rapidly increasing, don’t be surprised if that rises to $12,000 per year before you are graduated.  So if your scholarship stays at that amount, and tuition rises, it is important to know that you will be paying unless that package increases.

As for what a scholarship does cover, here is what is listed in a student athlete handbook from a University that offers scholarships:

  • Tuition
  • University Fees
  • Required Textbooks
  • Room and Board

That really does cover a lot of expenses but it is important to note that there will be a lot of other financial burdens that can come up.  Here are some of the areas that athletic scholarships does not cover:


  • Parking Permits (This can be a few hundred dollars per semester)
  • Student ID card (Probably between $10 to $50) and replacements if lost
  • Course fees (For example, art classes charge more for extra equipment)
  • Library fines
  • Graduation fees

I think anyone, if given the chance, would jump at the chance to pay for a parking permit if they have their tuition, room, and other areas paid for.  As a scholarship athlete, you are also allowed to eat with other athletes at the training table.  From what I have heard, this is much better than the other options of going to Taco Bell in the student union.

As I talked about previously, when getting your information about financial aid package, try to get full tuition covered if possible instead of a set dollar amount.  Tuition costs rise and so do the expensive books (Let me tell you they rip you off there) so more may be coming out of your pocket by the time you are a senior.  Obviously there are a lot of different options to handle these costs or try to avoid them but these are some of the areas that a scholarship does in fact cover.

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When should I sign up for summer football recruiting camps?


The summer may seem like something in the far off distance but for junior and sophomore athletes out there ready this, the rest of the winter and the spring will fly by. Before you know it, the summer season will be upon you. So with that in mind, it may be important to at least have a strategy for your summer football camp schedule.

The single most important role when signing up for a football camp is by NOT picking a camp based on one camp invite that you received from the school. Let me stress this again (and I should just repeat this about twenty more times). If you are a junior and the only “recruiting” that a college does is send you a camp invite, do not go. They are not interested in you as a player. They are interested in you to make money during the summer months. These coaches can really improve their income by bringing in as many athletes as they can. So with money on the line, they are going to mass invite athletes from all over their area.

All schools send out these camps invites to pad their camp numbers as well as their wallets. These invites are being sent out while you read this and football recruits across the country may really think that this program is interested in them. Again, if you have received little to nothing else from the school outside of a camp invite, save your money (or the cash of your parents) because this is a waste of time. There is one school in the Midwest known for sending out camp invites to anyone. My guess is that if they know you started on the football team, you are good enough for a camp invite. Keep that in mind before getting excited and quickly signing up.

If you are a sophomore, then picking camps are much different. Until the first day of your junior year of school, all college coaches can send you is questionnaires and camp invites. The problem is because it is so early, it is really tough to tell if the school sending the camp invite is really interested. That is why I would not take these camp invites all that serious, even this early in the football recruiting process.

As a sophomore, you should dictate what schools you decide to attend camps at. Yes, it would be great to get a scholarship while at the camp but the odds are very slim so don’t count on it. Go in thinking that the reason you are going to the camps are to get better as a player and hopefully show the coaches enough that they will evaluate you later on in the recruiting process.

For picking camps as a sophomore, I honestly wouldn’t do all that many. Just pick somewhere between two and four that you feel can help you. You may decide that you want to go to two in-state schools and another dream program that you have followed for years. Again, getting yourself exposed to different coaches should help you become a better football player if you listen and work hard.

Signing up for a summer football camp as a junior is completely different. Because college coaches can send you all the mail that they want and eventually call you in May, I would strongly advise to not sign up until May. I would say in 98% of the situations that unless a school calls you in the month of May, then they are not going to offer you a scholarship while at the camp (there are exceptions but I am stressing that the mass majority do not come out of nowhere for a scholarship offer. The athlete is at least someone they know to watch coming in). So the question is why pay a school hundreds of dollars when the reason you are going is to be recruited and they are not going to take you all that serious as a potential player at their level?

As a junior, your goal for camps is to get evaluated and either get a scholarship or show enough ability that they will be looking at you down the road. With this in my, there is no reason why you should have to attend more than one day at the camp. I have talked about this before but when speaking with the coaches that call in May, ask them about how you can attend one day at camp and what the process is to sign up for that.

The reason to only attend one day of the camp is simple. First, it saves you a great deal of money. That is going to be a huge benefit in the long term scheme of things. The second is that as a college coach, they have the ability to evaluate an athlete very quickly. If they know you can’t play, why stay there hoping to impress them? You are not suddenly going to turn into Tim Tebow from the second to third night.

Anyways, going back to the original question, signing up for camps does differ. As a sophomore, pick a few camps that you are interested and go to those. As a junior, find out what schools are really interested in you (and that means by calling you in May, which is more than a college coach visiting your high school) and then talk to them about attending one day at their camp. Then it will save you money and give you more flexibility to get to different camps around your area.

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It is harder to get college looks when breaking out as a senior


The easiest way to get recruited and stay recruited during your high school career is get to the varsity level early and make a name for yourself. By doing this, it makes it easier for you to get your name out to college coaches. The problem with that situation is that for all athletes, that never works.

Athletes peak at different times. Some may be more developed than others in their grade that they have the body type needed to play varsity as a freshman. But for others who develop slower or have a standout in front of them, it is hard to really jump onto the recruiting scene. What makes it worse that the senior year is not the season you hope to break out in.

There are a ton of reasons why this is not the time. The first example is in football. Say you spent the year behind an All Stater and rarely saw playing time. As a senior, you finally get a chance to step in and make a name for yourself. But if your season ends in November or December, time is quick between your final down and Signing Day.

Football players who break out as seniors also lack the opportunity to showcase their skills at camps and combines. For those events, they are for athlete heading into their senior season.

Basketball players have a similar problem. For those breaking out, they obviously are not going to be signing in the fall. So if they break out and post some huge numbers, college coaches could question their competition and why they didn’t do it earlier in their career.

As with football, the basketball season ends so close to the Spring Signing Day. That makes it difficult to prove to college coaches that you have what it takes to play at a major college.

For athletes, the best time to make a name for yourself is as early as possible. There is nothing wrong with dominating as a junior because you have an opportunity to attend camps, combines, and send out film.

Many of the top athletes in the country actually don’t have as good of a senior season statistically as their junior year. Obviously it depends case to case but with a potential scholarship offer on the table, you are more likely to play through pain and injuries. Also, you normally cannot control injuries and you just never know what is going to happen.

That is why if you have any control of it, it is better to have outstanding seasons early in your varsity career. Yes, you can still get recruited later on, but the latest you take to excel, the harder it is get recruited by major schools.

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Division I-A Football Recruiting vs. Division I-AA Football Recruiting/BCS Football Recruiting vs. FCS Football Recruiting


In the football recruiting process, there are some major differences between schools at the Division I-A level (BCS) and Division I-AA level (FCS).  These differences are something to think about long and hard before trying to receive the scholarship offer that you are longing for.  Schools at different levels offer at different times and their level of play factors in.

So first off, what is the biggest difference between Division I-A and I-AA?  The answer is simply in the timing of scholarship offers.  The Division I-A schools can basically offer whenever they want.  The bigger the school, the earlier the offer and the less that they care if Rivals or Scout writes about it.  Division I-AA schools on the other wait until later in the process.  The earliest I have seen a school at this level offer a player is at their summer football camp.  The reason is because the earlier that they offer, the greater chance a Division I-A school will offer them a scholarship.

In only one situation have I ever seen an athlete pick the Division I-AA school over the Division I-A program when location was similar.  This was a unique situation where the player had committed to the Division I-A school.  That program ended up changing their coaches and was not sold on the recruit.  So they told the recruit that they would greyshirt and then redshirt him.  He would also be making the move to the offensive line, which was much different than the tight end position he had grown up playing.  It wasn’t a huge upset when he picked the Division I-AA school.


Timing of visits
Most Division I-AA programs wait to hold their official visits in December or January.  They usually bring in their most sought after recruits first in hopes of securing an early verbal.  Division I-A schools don’t really care about the timing of official visits.  Most do it in December or January but mix in the top rated recruits with potential walk-ons.

Recruiting publicity
When a school like Alabama gets a commitment from an athlete, I am willing to bet that a “source” will leak the information to Rivals, Scout, and the newspaper.  If a Division I-AA school gets a commitment, they would prefer no one knew until Signing Day.  A Division I-A school could steal the recruit with a scholarship offer at any moment and it has happened in the past.

Scholarship offers
For football recruits, the Division I-A school has to offer athletes a full ride.  The Division I-AA program can offer anywhere from 100% to 1%.  In most situations, these Division I-AA only hold the full scholarship ride for their top rated recruits.  They can also combine the scholarship with academics and help the athlete pay as little as possible for schooling.

Timing of offers
As talked about earlier, if a Division I-A school is sold on a prospect, they will offer them very early in the process.  If a Division I-AA school loves an athlete, they likely will wait to offer.  If word leaks out that a Division I-AA school offered a sophomore prospects, the Division I-A schools in the area will be all over this kid.  Most of the Division I-AA schools end up offering the scholarship amount on the official visit for the athletes.  They may formally extend an offer during the summer but the numbers are finalized before the visit.

Type of attention
If you are major Division I-A recruit, you will receive the full court press from schools across the country.  They will send you all kinds of things to show you how interested they are in you.  Division I-AA recruits stay in their area for the most part and receive limited interest because of the recruiting budgets at the school.

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Top five reasons you aren’t being recruited (yet)


Just because you’ve been selected First Team All-District, you’re the captain of your team and/or your parents are telling you a college scholarship is inevitable, college coaches won’t necessarily be burning up your cell phone. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an athlete with exceptional skills and stats to go unnoticed, especially by NCAA Division II, Division III or NAIA colleges. There are, in fact many possible reasons why you aren’t being recruited yet, but here are my top five.

1. You believe the myth that “if you’re good enough, college coaches will find you.”

There are many high school athletes every year who could play in college, but believe that just because they haven’t been discovered, they aren’t good enough. The truth is that college coaches have recruiting budgets, and except for Division I football and basketball, those budgets are limited. They simply can’t afford to travel the country looking for athletes. For that reason, if you wait around to get recruited, it may never happen even if you are good enough. If you’re a junior or senior in high school and you feel under-recruited, reach out to colleges on your own. If you don’t, your college career will be on the intramural fields.

2. You believe someone else is taking care of your recruiting process

Here’s a comment we hear all the time. “Oh, we don’t need to worry about contacting colleges, our coach is taking care of that.” I can’t tell you how many times this attitude ends up in disappointment. Most coaches want to see their players make it to the next level, but don’t assume your coach will find a college scholarship for you. The recruiting process is your responsibility. High school and select coaches can help, but they may not have the time or even know how to help. Your high school coach is an important contributor in your development as an athlete; they can vouch for your character and can give college coaches an honest evaluation of your abilities. The rest is on you.

Earning a college scholarship can be a life changing event. Why in the world would you leave something so important in the hands of someone else?

3. Your grades and/or test scores are limiting your college options

It’s a fact, the more colleges you qualify for academically, the more colleges you can pursue athletically. Let me put this into perspective with a real example. If you’re a Division I caliber basketball player with an ACT score of 17 who wants to go to college in California, you have 11 colleges you can legitimately consider. If you raise your ACT score to a 22, the number of colleges you potentially qualify for academically almost doubles to 21. To put it simply, your grades and test scores may limit the number of colleges you should consider because you have to meet the academic admission requirements at any college you hope to attend.

If your academic profile is limiting the number of colleges you can pursue, do something about it. Sign up for an ACT or SAT review course, find a tutor for any courses you are struggling with and/or spend an extra 15 minutes at night studying.

4. You aren’t being proactive

The definition of proactive is “creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.”

Being proactive in recruiting does not mean creating an online profile and waiting for the scholarship offers to roll in the door. That won’t happen.  First things first. Get familiar with how recruiting really works. Do some research on how college coaches evaluate talent in your sport, learn the rules on communication with college coaches and understand how academics factor into the equation.

After that, if you aren’t being recruited, then to some extent your recruiting process is a numbers game. You have to introduce yourself to college coaches and the more appropriate colleges you reach out to, the better your chances are to find a scholarship. You might find that perfect fit with your first email, or it might not happen until you contact your twentieth college.

5. You aren’t being realistic 

Being realistic about who you are as an athlete and a student is the most important part of the recruiting process.  Coach Carthel may have said it best in last week’s article when he said: “The key to being recruited is going where you’re wanted. Honestly assessing your own abilities is going to point you in the right direction and will most likely lead you to the schools that will reciprocate your interest. Who should be recruiting you? That’s really the question that needs to be answered.”

Sure, there might be a little academic “room” for an athlete, but don’t count on that when deciding which colleges make the most sense to pursue. Second, make sure the schools on your list of colleges are a match athletically. If you don’t have any other way to determine which schools are right athletically, ask your current coach for an honest evaluation and be prepared for an honest answer. Most athletes already know how they stack up, so your coach’s answer shouldn’t be a surprise. The key is to focus on colleges that will be as interested in you as you are in them.

Here’s the deal

College recruiting isn’t rocket science. A lot of it is common sense. If you’re not a highly-recruited athlete, then your success in finding a college scholarship will largely depend on how much effort you are willing to put into the process.  Don’t waste money over efforts you can easily do yourself.

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