The changing climate of college recruiting
By Tom Kovic
College athletics has changed dramatically over the past 20 years and coaches are under tremendous pressure to achieve two important goals: 1) Win and 2) Drive program revenue upward. The one directly affects the other. Alumni will enthusiastically support a winning team, but the opposite is also true. The changing climate of college athletics has had direct impact on the recruitment of prospective student-athletes and with that, a dramatic shift in organizing and managing student-athlete strategies in registering early and effectively on the radar of college coaches.
Recruitment is essential for college coaches to maximize future team advancement. This is achieved through active cultivation of strong relationships with high school and club coaches, prospects and their families. College coaches use many recruiting tools at their disposal, while abiding by strict NCAA rules and regulations.
Twenty years ago, the majority of prospective student-athletes were simply “found” and the volume of identifiable athletes was very manageable. Nowadays and with the surge of private sport clubs, the college recruiting arena has grown to gothic proportions and with increased competitiveness.
Decades ago, college prospects could comfortably launch their recruiting effort during the junior year in high school. Now, and especially with the increased popularity of verbal offers of athletic scholarships and admission to select, non-scholarship college options, prospects need to kick start the recruiting process as early as the ninth grade.
A good college coach will offer truthful and honest information regarding the university and the chances the prospect has as a potential team member and a scholarship athlete. He will work diligently to avoid gray areas, especially where it involves athletic scholarship and, in the case of non-scholarship schools, the prospects chances in Admissions. Through the use of skillful contacts, the college coach will attempt to cultivate a relationship that will hopefully result in matching a prospect with his or her institution in a mutually benefiting experience.
Likewise, a productive family effort will be well-planned and impeccably executed. It will involve a team approach that should consist of the following players: parents, prospect, high school/club coach, college advisor, guidance counselor and personal mentor. Each team player will have a specific role to play in order to ensure the prospect’s best chance in navigating the college search with success.
Advance goals should be set with clarity, purpose, and assist in the organizational structure of the recruiting process. The well-prepared approach will, in the end, have the best chance of achieving success.
The Verbal Offer
The verbal commitment is one where a Coach and a prospect agree there is a proper and mutual fit scholastically and athletically with the prospect and the institution. In many cases, there is an offer of athletic aid (scholarship), or in some cases, support by the Coach in admissions. The verbal commitment is a “gentleman’s agreement.” An old fashion handshake where both party’s offer their word to remain committed through either the signing of The National Letter of Intent or offer of admissions.
The verbal offer is “open ended” and a common question that prospects and parents have is “Can we back out of the agreement?” And the answer is yes. That said it is important to realize the flip side of the coin and although it is less likely, college coaches can back out of a verbal commitment, especially if the prospect shows a lack of progress on the field or in the classroom.
A knowledgeable consumer will have a clear edge over the general population in the pursuit of the attainment of any worthy product. I believe that the same holds true in the college search and that it is the obligation of the family to make every effort to make a commitment to accumulate pertinent information regarding this process and to execute well-designed plans.
Information is critical to the successful organization of any worthy project. Building a college recruiting information base can begin as early as the middle school years as a family hobby and increasingly grow into a highly organized, disciplined project by the beginning of the sophomore year in high school.
Begin by gathering information on potential college choices, including team and coach profiles, statistics, ranking, and academic standards. Continue to update and maintain selected e-files on your favorite college programs.
The college search for athletes has radically transformed during the past 20 years to a level where prospects need to maintain an accelerated pace with college coaches. It is a process that begins much earlier than most families realize and therefore a proactive approach to organizing early for the college search becomes essential in reaching your college goals.
College recruiting is both exciting and daunting. It requires a disciplined and yet flexible approach, especially when timelines get tight and situations become challenging. Active and regular communication is vital and the successful prospect will build mutually strong and respectful relationships with college coaches in an effort to identify and secure the ideal college match.
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families in navigating the college recruiting process. For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com.