When we have athletes start training with us, one of the more popular long term goals that is mentioned is they want to play in college. If that is the case, then you certainly need to be aware of what college coaches are actually looking for in recruits.
I’ve been around for a long time, thus I have accumulated a number of athletes who have played in college from D1 to D3. No matter what the level, when I talk with them there are some recurring themes mentioned as to what might have sealed the deal with their coach to play for the particular university they played for.
If you want to catch the attention of a college coach (or multiple coaches), then you need to take these traits into consideration:
- ATHLETIC ABILITY – This is first and foremost. Your ability has to be good enough to play at the collegiate level no matter what division you are in. You also have to be honest about your ability. I know movies like Rudy inspire kids to be the walk-on at a university, but we are not talking walk-ons here. We are talking about having talent enough where a coach can justify giving you a scholarship. Get a good sense of your ability and where you could play. Get an honest, objective evaluation of your talent to assess what type of colleges you should be pursuing. It might not be what you were envisioning, but if you don’t have coaches knocking down your door already, then you need to do some re-evaluating of your abilities.
- THE CONSUMATE PROFESSIONAL – You could really put this in as a sub-category of athletic ability, but coaches need to see other traits while you play. Are you a team first individual? Do you give maximum effort not just during the game, but during practice or workouts? Do you encourage your teammates and cheer them on when they do something good? Are you respectful to your peers, coaches, and officials? How do you handle criticism? If you screw up a play or make a mistake, do you stew over it or have a short term memory and get back to playing? Are you a diva or are you pretty humble? These are all very important to coaches because if you do not answer those questions the right way, they don’t want you around their program.
- ACADEMICS – It doesn’t matter how great your athletic ability is, if you aren’t academically eligible there is nothing the coach can do to get you on the field. If your grades are in check, then you might qualify for academic scholarships thus the coach can use less athletic money on you. Being great in the classroom also indicates to a coach that you are diverse. You want to be as successful in the classroom as you are on the playing field. You have a good work ethic to accomplish those good grades (which can carry over to the athletic field). If your grades are in check then your coach assumes you probably also have good organizational skills.
- SOCIAL MEDIA – In this day and age, I think this plays a big enough role in recruiting that it warrants a little attention. It isn’t so much about putting your highlight reel on your social media account. It is all the other things you do on this account they are taking note of. Do you post controversial comments or pictures? Do you make fun of people? Are you narcissistic or do you positively encourage others, especially teammates? Are you as respectful on social media as you should be in person? When a teammate has something positive happen in his/her life, do you acknowledge and congratulate? These are all reflections of the type of athlete/person they want in their program. Yes, you can chalk bad posts up to immaturity, but your dream coach is going to move on and not wait for you to grow up.
- WILL THE COACH BE BABYSITTING YOU – Once again, social media could be a sub topic of this, but coaches don’t want to babysit you 24/7. They don’t want to worry about you getting in trouble with the law. Represent the school in a positive manner. Be a role model not just for the team, your university, but for yourself. Don’t be an idiot is what it boils down to. Grow up and take responsibility for the fact you have been given the privilege of being a collegiate athlete. Don’t screw it up.
If you can pass all 5 of these with flying colors, then you should be able to attract a coach who will want you to play collegiately and continue your athletic career the way you have always dreamed of.