January 27, 2020
The recruiting process is just that: a process. While there’s often a sense of urgency for student-athletes to rush ahead to the “finish line” in the recruiting process, it’s important to recognize that for both student-athletes and coaches this is a really important decision and requires time to develop to make sure you’re set up for the right outcome.
Before we dive into the question of repeat exposure, let’s acknowledge the simple fact that each college coaching staff is unique, and their processes will differ accordingly. However, from our personal experience as college recruiters and based upon 20 years of hosting our showcases, we have identified several patterns that reflect common practice across all programs and all NCAA divisions.
Just like professional sports organizations, college programs typically use a “crosschecking” system where multiple members of the staff will confirm what is initially reported by the coach who first discovers the player. Whether it is the Head Coach, Recruiting Coordinator, Pitching Coach or Director of Player Development that sees the student-athlete first, the process is the same: the coach will return to the office, write the player’s name on the whiteboard and another member of the staff will be assigned to follow up and “crosscheck.”
With the scarcity of scholarships and admission slots at high-academic schools, coaches recruiting for academic institutions need to be especially careful during this phase. Typically, by the time a player receives an offer – whether it is attached to scholarship dollars or not – virtually the entire staff has seen the player and the coaching staff has reached a consensus on the player’s athletic and personality fit. This can happen quickly, or it can stretch out over months across the recruiting process, depending on the player, coach and program. Eventually, the staff will hold a meeting – often led by the Recruiting Coordinator (who functions as the controller on scholarship dollars and admissions slots) – and a decision will be made.
Because programs utilize this team-style recruiting, players should emphasize “planting seeds” early in the process and then move towards cultivating relationships with schools and coaches that have demonstrated interest. This process also means that repeat and well-timed exposure can really benefit student-athletes – and coaches – and help move the recruiting process along.
Key benefits of repeat exposure –
Coaches’ timing might not be your timing:
Just like student-athletes, college coaches’ primary aim is to ensure the right fit for the student-athletes they recruit – but also to move as quickly as they’re able through the recruiting process, so that they can lock down the right student-athletes who may also be considering other schools. However, although both coaches and prospective student-athletes both want to move quickly, this timing looks different for college coaches than it does for student-athletes.
Although a coach might like your play, and you may be on the short list of prospects for their program, depending on where you are in the recruiting season and cycle your next steps and coaches’ timing can look very different. While you may be ready to commit as soon as there is interest from your top or target school, a coach may still know that they have thousands more players to see over the course of the summer – so while they’re interested, they may want to see these other players before they commit their resources to you.
In some cases, one great way to accelerate coaches’ timing (assuming that you’ve done your requisite research and decided that a given school is right for you!) is to pursue additional opportunities to play in front of and get direct access to the coach again. The more a coach sees you, the more comfortable they can be moving forward with you (more details on this in the next two bullets below) – so this can help your timing align.
Recruiting demonstrated development:
“Potential” and “projectability” are highly desirable – and highly dangerous – words to a college coach and recruiter. While a college coach is watching you play at a camp, tournament or showcase, they’re looking for a window into the player you’ll become. In fact, they don’t necessarily care about how you play on a given day, except as a window into who you’ll be as a player in three, four or six years in their program. They’re evaluating and recruiting your potential and projectability – and a great way to give them a glimpse into this future is by giving them a chance to assess the strides and development that you’ve already made.
Recruiting potential and projectability for a coach is always somewhat dangerous though, because there’s no guarantee – while they might assess the ceiling that you could reach, they also want to know that you’re going to reach it. But by giving a coach multiple chances to see you play over time, you’re able to demonstrate your development, giving a window into the player that you’re becoming, and also the trajectory that you’re taking to get there.
Each opportunity that a coach has to see you play is a snapshot into you as a player – a point on the graph of your development. Giving them multiple chances to see you perform allows them to assess and plot your development over time – and then project both your play and your continued demonstrate developmental arc in your recruiting. It lets them know that your game is constantly developing and evolving and allows them to see how it will continue to change with your continued efforts. College coaches aren’t with you when you’re in the weight room, in the cage, or on the track putting in extra sprints and reps – but showing your improvement over time gives them insight into your work ethic and also project out your continued future development.
Recruiting character and program fit:
Another key piece of the puzzle for recruiting college coaches – especially at high-academic schools – is your character and culture fit within their program. There’s no question that coaches want to recruit student-athletes who can contribute to their program on the field – but they also want players who are going to contribute to the culture of the program, and to the school as a whole. These coaches aren’t just responsible for their team’s play on the field, but also for the culture of the program as a whole, as well as for their players’ conduct on campus.
Having the chance to connect with coaches in-person a handful of times over the course of the recruiting process – once or twice at a showcase, again at a school-specific prospect camp, then again in an on-campus visit/overnight – gives coaches the chance to get to know you as a player, so that they can better assess if you’re a fit for their program and school, both on and off the field.
Just as coaches need to find out if you’re the right character and cultural fit for their program, you as a student-athlete need to do the same – does this coaching staff and team fit what you as a player need to be your best and offer the right experience at the next level? Getting to meet multiple coaches in a program, be coached by them and get to know them in the dugout is a great way to see how their coaching styles and personalities fit with your own, and to see if they offer the right college program fit.