The Recruitment Process
- Building College List
- Communication with Colleges
- The Recruitment Cycle
- Official/Unofficial Visits
- Verbal Commitments
- Recruitment Terminology
Building YOUR College List is one of the most critical pieces to players acieving success in the recruiting process. This will be a road map providing direction in your search. Thsi list can and should be revisited and revised throughout the process as you get farther into the process.
Step 1: Academics
Your Particular Interests and major Preferences are important. Understand what direction you want your academic career to follow. Things to consider:
- Majors Offered, What is the School's Strength or Focus?
- Schools overall ranking, Some of the best schools may or may not be household names!
- What are the typical class sizes, and how would you perform in that environment?
- What is the faculty to Student Ratio? Do they use Graduate Students as teachers?
- What are the admissions standards and enrollment for the school?
- Does the school have any religous affiliations?
- Have you considered Military Academies? USAFA, West Point-US Military Academy, Merchant Marine Academy etc..
Get to Know Yourself – Become Familiar with Your Career Personality
- Determine your interests.
- Determine your skills and abilities.
- Explore your work values.
- What's important to you?
- Visit the college career placement center.
Research and Investigate Different Fields and Careers of Interest
- Determine job requirements.
- What companies employ this kind of work?
- Where are these companies located?
Talk with Advisors, Teachers, Friends, People in the Field
- Why are they in the field?
- What do they like about the job?
- Has their experience been enjoyable?
- What has been the most difficult or unpleasant about the job?
- If they had to do it again . . .
Consider Internships, Job Shadowing, Volunteering, Summer Jobs
- It's never too soon to gain experience.
- Make the most of summer vacation. Find related jobs.
- Volunteer to gain experience.
Consider the Job Opportunities Available with Each Major
- Talk with and visit the college career advisor.
- Use the college library.
- Get information available with each major, estimated starting salary, the projected job outlook, and the best geographic location.
Step 2: Geography
Geography is an overlooked item when building the college list. It is straighforward and the most important questions to ask are below:
- What is the climate? Do you enjoy all seasons, warm weather only, or similar.
- How close to home is the school and how easy/hard is it to travel to and from? Some students want to be away from home, others do not. Figure out what will work best for you as an individual.
- Culture: There a distinct cultural and social differences in different regions of the country. Ensure that you have knowledge and experience of the areas you are looking.
Step 3: Social Environment
The social environment is the overall environment outside of the classroom; whether they have a greek life, culture of the campus, ethnic diversity, religous affiliations. Anything that helps to shape that environment. This could also include the size of the school and any major sports, such as college football or basketball. Below are a list of items to consider:
- Public or Private
- School Location; city, suburban, or rural.
- Religous or Political Affiliations
- Coed or Single Sex
- Fraternity or Sorority?
- Recreational Activities
- Geography from home
Step 4: Soccer
Soccer is one area where all parties can be shortsighted. Looking at only top level options, for example top 10 programs only, can lead to a path of frustration and lack of options and opportunties. Cultivate numerous options and look at what each level has to offer before deciding on a hard path. Take time to watch all levels of college soccer to understand the qaulity of play.
Often times top DII, DIII, and NAIA programs can compete head to head with mid to low level DI programs. Make sure you look at rankings on Bennett Rankings, http://www.bennettrank.com/. This will give you a good idea of:
- National Rankings, Who are the best teams in the country?
- Regional Rankings, Who are the best teams in the region by Division
- Conference Rankings, which conference is the best in the country?
- Team Rank within Conference, how does each team do in their conference?
- Win Loss/ Records over past seasons
There are over 1100 schools that compete at all levels of soccer. Narrow down your list and then take the following into consideration as you research each program:
- Scholarship Offers and Money Distribution
- Immediate Playing Contribution
- Player Turnover
- Players in your position
- Coaching Staff Qualifications
- Coaches Demeanor and reputation
- Coaching Staff Turnover
- Coaching Staff Connections to the professional level
- Travel Requirements
- Competition Schedule/Conference Schedules
- Steady- Coaching Staff has been there and been successful for over 5-7 years. Results are good and usually steady.
- Landing Place- Coaches stay for 2-3 years and then move onto larger programs or different division levels
- Poor Performer- Coaches turnover, but results are still the same. Always at the bottom of the pack.
Communication with programs will be determinent upon what division they compete. I have never heard a college coach say that they dislike when players take initiative and reach out. While beginning the process is scary and calling your first college coach can be even more daunting, once done, it becomes easier each time.
Here is an example of phone scripts and questions to ask:
Phone Call Info (script)
The Bold and underlined areas are places that you should include your OWN information.
If leaving a message, be brief but leave detailed information. Speak clearly and say what you mean, do not have a large number of pauses and “um’s”.
Hello Coach Schulz, my name is John Doe and I am a Junior at Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, CO. I play for Erik Bushey on the Colorado Rush U17 Nike Team and I would like to talk to you about the University of Hawaii and your soccer program. I will try to call and reach you again on DAY at TIME. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
Hello Coach Schulz, this is Jim Cofer. As you may remember from our last conversation I told you that I would update you on my whereabouts this season. I will be attending the Nike Friendlies in Bradenton, December 5th through the 8th; the Disney Showcase the 27th through the 30th; and Nomads, March 19th through the 21st. If you are attending any of these I would appreciate any time you might have to come and see me play. I will e-mail you the game schedules for these tournaments. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
If you get the coach on the phone make sure to be courteous and very straight forward. Make sure that you have your FACTS and INFORMATION as well as any QUESTIONS that you have. ALWAYS make sure to ask at least two or three questions. Your questions can show how much research and effort you have put into this call. Having said this DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT call a coach back without having done some research on BOTH the institution AND the soccer program. Remember that the soccer program is only an extension of the institution and your questions about the school and the soccer program are important.
Important things to remember:
ALWAYS answer an e-mail, letter or return a call to a coach, even if you are not Interested. They know each other and they DO TALK!
- Always do your research, coaches know when you don’t
- Make sure to take the time and write out or rehearse what you are going to say if you think you will leave a message.
- Do not call without your notes and question
- Make sure to know who you areMake sure you know which coach is responsible for what (2nd Asst Coach and GK coach is different than the 2nd Asst Coach and Strength Coach), and know their names
Some examples of questions to ask:
- 1.How is this year’s recruiting class looking?
- 2.Where do you see the program going in the next four years?
- 3.What is your 4 year retention rate for students?
- 4.What do you see as my strongest athletic asset?
- 5.You have not had a chance to see me play, but I am very interested in yourWhere are you planning on being in the next six months?
- 6.What does your graduation rate look like?
- 7.What is your team GPA?
- 8.The school has been in the news lately for NCAA violations, I realize that these are not about the soccer program but how has this affected your program?
- Your program is graduating 4 starting seniors, how do you see this affecting next years’ team.
- How does your transfer rate in compare to your transfer rate out, and what do you think this could be attributed to?
- What are the next steps for me with regards to the application process?
- Without some sort of financial aid I will need to find employment, can the soccer program help with that?
- I see myself as a defensive midfielder, is there anything that you think I should be working on now to help with my transition to the college level at that position or at any other?
- You have been with the soccer program for eight years, what do you think has been your greatest achievement with this program?
- You are one of four programs that I am seriously considering. What makes your program different? Why should I attend your school?
The recruiting cycle for all players follows a fairly well defined step by step process. The sport, gender, and division all affect timing and certain nuances, but the following process can be followed for each program you interested. Follow the recruitment timeline.
Step 1: Introduction to Coaches: Cover Letter and Resume
For all players regardless of level of comfort with a particular program, players must introduce themselves and provide them with information to help the coaches know who you are. For parents, think of this as a job search process.
Introduction/Cover Letter: This explains who you are and why you are interested in their program. It is a brief 3-4 paragraph document that explains who you are exactly, why you are interested in their program, how you feel you can contribute to their success, and contact information or next steps you will take in the process. One great example of a cover letter is below. Notice the details and action items this player uses to their advantage.
Coach (insert name),
I want to introduce myself and let you know that I am very interested in Program's soccer program, and playing for you starting in the fall, 2017. (You probably have heard mention of me through (Players Name). I am currently 14 years old and a Freshman at XYZ High School in Littleton, CO and play for the (insert age) Colorado Rush team. I am looking forward to going and watching (program) play CU on Saturday, September 28 in Boulder, CO since it is very close to my home in Littleton.
Here are some of my most recent soccer achievements:
Name: (insert your name)
- Achievement 1
- Acievement 2
- Achievement 3
- Ranked 10th Overall (5th positional) IMG Top 150 on TopDrawer Soccer
I hope to make a campus visit soon and meet you and the players. This will also give me the opportunity to learn more about what (college Program) can offer for my academic experience while playing for a top-notch program known for developing and producing national players. I may not be able to make it this fall due to my soccer schedule, but possibly in the spring or the fall of 2014. For starters, I have completed the on-line questionnaire and am registered in your system.
If you have a moment to meet over the phone, I will reach out to you after I get back from XYZ next week. I can call you on Monday, September 23 at 2:00 PST. I look forward to hopefully connecting at that time.
Another example of a generic template can be found here
The player Resume is a document that helps to explain who you are, including contact information and what you ahve accomplished in the academic, sport, and community service areas for coaches. Whiel the document is heavily favored towards sporting acievements, coaches want a balanced person who has other things to offer them.
For a template of the Rush Resume in Word Click Here
For a Playerocity Example Click Here
Step 2: Invitation to Watch Play
After the initial introduction to a program and filling out questionaires, coaches will begin the process of evaluations. Evaluations consist of an onsite, in person, evaluation of a player during competition. Coaches at different levels are limited to the overall number of evaluations that can be done. This can either be by NCAA rules or by the budget of that program. This is why you see so many coaches at such big national events and showcases, it's the biggest bang for the buck so to speak. They can see lots of players on one trip and be able to evaluate them over multiple days.
But, coaches need a reason to come watch you play. Coaches are interested in players who are interested in them. If you want coaches to come to evaluate your play, YOU MUST INVITE THEM! Whether you are a top player on the youth national team or a state level ODP player, coaches don;t want to waste their time if players are not interested.
Places you can be recruited/evaluated:
National Events or Showcase Tournaments: These include develpoment academy events, ECNL events, national showcase tournaments (get with your club to decide which tournaments are best), college ID Camps, and regualr season games.
It is important to remember that everytime you invite coaches to watch you play that you are precise in the information you send.
- Game time
- Game location
- uniform color
- uniform number
are all vital pieces of information. If anything changes make sure you send a quick email to the coach letting them know about the change. Whether or not they can respond, they will received the email and work their way over.
Step 3: Coaches Evaluation of Play
Coaches will evaluate on numerous occassions. The myth that coaches will watch you one time, is simply that a myth. Coaches will want to evaluate your play as many times as they can, in as many situtions and environments as they can. They are looking for how you respond and react to the good, the bad, and the ugly in games!
How do you respond after mistakes? Do you elevate your play or do you put your head down and hide?
How do you interact with your teammates? Are you a good teammate or sulk if you have been pulled off?
How do you handle pressure? Do you play better or struggle to perform when the going gets tough
How do you handle weather and conditions? It's wet or windy, how do you adjust your game to succeed or are you one dimensional?
Once you are evaluated one time, the remainder of the staff will usually also watch you play to confirm one coaches thoughts and asses in their own mind whether you fit with that program. Coaches will all want to agree on players they are bringing in and especially if a scholarship is going to be offered.
All are examples of items coaches are trying to evaulate. Ultimately, they need to see that not only can you play and perform at that level, can you perform in their environment, and what kind of teammate you will be.
Step 4: Player Follow-Up and Coaches Feedback and/or Offer
Players are fearful of this stage, because each wants a positive answer, which is normal. FirstHowever, a "no" can be just as significant inthe process as a "yes". Each will move you a step forward in the recruiting process. While the yes is much easier to hear and can help build confidence, always understand that there is a place for you to play, if you want to play. You will still be the same player and ultimately, you are only searching for the one right fit program FOR YOU!
After evaluations are complete, coaches will likely ask you to come visit the college or university. This can be done on an official visit (seniors) or unofficial visit. During this time offers can be extended to the player. It is important to view this process with a level head and make sure your decisions are being made rationally and not based on emotions of the visit. If it was a great fit, it will still be agreat fit 3 days or even weeks later. Make sure you take you time to asses the situation and make your best decision.
Step 5: Commitment
A few reminders about the recruiting process, commitment and the balck and white of it all. One, a verbal commitment is just that, a verbal, non-binding agreement between parties that they will follow through. Nothing is concrete until a National Letter of Intent is signed! Coaches are not allowed to put that communication in writing until the NLI. Be clear when you speak with them what the offer includes and excludes:
- Tutition, what percentage?
- Room/Board, included?
- What happens in case of an injury?
- Can I earn more money?
- What would have to happen to lose schoalrship money or break teh verbal commitment on the coaches end?
Official visit vs Unofficial Visit
Official Visit: Any visit to a college that is paid for by that university. You and/or your legal guardians will have your transportation to and from the college paid for. Also paid for by the college will be your room, meals (three per day), and entertainment expenses. Generally you will receive three free passes to that college's home game the weekend you are in town. Before you take a visit you must send your transcripts to the college (Division 1 only) and SAT or ACT score and register with the Eligibility Center.
- You can start taking Official Visits opening day of classes your senior year.
- You are allowed only 1 Official Visit per college and no more than 5 Official Visits to Division 1 and 2 colleges
Unofficial Visit: Anytime you or your legal guardians visit a college campus that is funded by you. You can take as many unofficial visits as you would like. During dead periods you cannot speak to any of the coaches while visiting the campus. Three free tickets to a home game is the only thing a coach can give you during an unofficial visit.
If you’re looking to play college athletics, you can’t help but hear about verbal commitments. And if you’re pursuing an athletic scholarship, chances are that you’ll be making a verbal commitment yourself. Plenty of powerhouse schools expect athletes to verbally commit long before National signing day. So the sooner you can make a verbal commitment, the better–right? The question is better for whom?
Let’s start with defining a verbal commitment. You’ll find a definition of verbal commitment under the frequently asked questions about the National Letter of Intent (NLI). The definition is “stating publicly one’s intentions to attend a certain institution, is a non-binding, oral agreement between you and the institution. The only binding nature of the commitment is your word and the institution’s promise.”
Why is this even an issue for the NLI? Because the definition is part of an answer to the question “Can I make a verbal commitment to a school and sign an NLI with a different school?” And the short answer is “Yes.” The NLI states that
The NLI program does not recognize verbal commitments. It is not uncommon for a student to verbally commit to one institution and subsequently sign an NLI with another intuition. And, on some occasions, a school may accept your verbal commitment and later offer the NLI to another prospective student-athlete.
Verbal commitments are at best, a gentleman’s agreement. A player promises to attend a college while the coach promises to provide some sort of scholarship (usually, and if there is no scholarship, there’s no official NLI).
With recruiting starting earlier and earlier, it can be a relief to an athlete and her family to settle the question of where to go to college and how to pay for it even if she is only a sophomore. She can also stop worrying about what happens if she gets injured before she’s able to sign an NLI. The coach gets to fill a slot and move on to the next position, everyone is happy.
And for all the talk about somehow banning the practice, it’s obviously becoming institutionalized. Just take a look at the UCLA Recruiting website which states
We prefer athletes in their freshmen or sophomore years of high school or no later than in their junior season of high school to apply via the biography form. Unless you are a late rising junior it is probably too late to apply for an athletic scholarship in your senior year in virtually all of our 25 sports.
If it’s too late by the time you’re a junior, the scholarships could only have been promised through verbal commitments.
However, none of this is enforceable. Oh, the players will be scared by statements that college sports is a small world and if she de-commits, word will get around and no one will risk taking her. How true this is depends on your sport. But I can’t help think that if someone is willing to recruit a player as a sophomore, the player is good enough that other colleges will still be interested.
According to a Sports Illustrated examination of football recruits, “Of the 500 players ranked in the Rivals100 for the classes of 2007 through 2011, 73 (14.6 percent) de-committed at some point during their recruitment. Of those, 62 (12.4 percent) ultimately signed with a school other than the one to which they originally committed.” A similar analysis in basketball found that “it’s likely that at least one in six players will de-commit.” Rivals reports that “the current recruiting class was represented by 34 players who had given early pledges; of those prospects, 13 have changed their college choices or opened the process to more programs.”
Are these players who de-commit morally suspect because they failed to keep their word? No more so than the coaches who in trying to get one step ahead of their competition, decided not to wait for the NLI periods and created the “verbal commitment” to begin with.
So what’s a player to do? First, understand what drives the process–the chance for an athletic scholarship. This means that if you don’t need an athletic scholarship to attend college, you have the ability to say, “not yet, I still want to look around.”
Of course, part of the problem is that too many students and their families only react to the recruiting process. So if something positive happens, they jump at the opportunity because they have no idea if something else good might happen. However, if these families took a proactive approach to finding colleges with programs that best match the player’s abilities and needs, they would be in a much better position to judge the value of a verbal commitment and if it’s something they can afford to pass on.
From the NCAA.org website
Calendars: Coaches and their associates are restricted to certain times during the year when they can contact players, and in what way this contact is made. Calendar dates include contact periods, dead periods, evaluation periods and quiet periods.
Camps: There are two types of camps: instructional and showcase. Instructional camps are 3-8 week sessions where players undergo intensive training on improving their game. Showcase camps are usually held by universities where prospective recruits display their athletic abilities to coaches as part of the recruiting process.
Clearinghouse: Formerly known as the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse, the NCAA Eligibility Center is the first step in the recruitment process. The Eligibility Center handles all inquiries regarding an individual's initial-eligibility status. The Eligibility Center also maintains and processes all of the initial eligibility certifications.
Combines: Combines are a camp or clinic where players perform various physical exercises to rate their physical fitness. Scores from combine tests are sent to football programs for evaluating the player as a prospective recruit. Combines as a measuring tool are growing in popularity and effectiveness in the recruiting process.
Commitment: An oral or verbal commit is a non-binding agreement between a student-athlete and prospective school. While it is tentatively understood that the student-athlete will accept the scholarship offer and attend the school, he/she is free to explore offers with other institutions until a letter of commitment has been signed.
Contact: Contact includes face-to-face interaction between a college coach and a prospective student-athlete or his/her parents.
Contact period: The contact period is the time designated in the recruiting calendar when college coaches may make in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.
Dead period: The dead period is the time designated in the recruiting calendar when college coaches are restricted from making in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.
Evaluation: An evaluation is when a prospective coach or recruiting agent assesses a student-athlete's academic or athletics ability. Evaluations usually involve a coach or recruiter observing a game or practice.
Evaluation period: The evaluation period is the time designated in the recruiting calendar when college coaches and authorized staff are permitted to make off-campus evaluations of a prospective student-athlete's academic and playing abilities. Evaluations usually involve a coach or recruiter observing a game or practice. In-person, off-campus recruiting contact during evaluations is prohibited.
Grayshirt: A term used to describe a student-athlete who delays initial enrollment in a collegiate institution to the winter or spring term. Grayshirting usually occurs when a student-athlete is injured before the start of the academic year, forgoes classes and practice to join the team once he/she has recuperated.
National Letter of Intent: An NLI is an official agreement between a student-athlete and a prospective school stating the agreement to attend that institution for one academic year in exchange for athletics aid. Once a student-athlete has signed with a prospective school, he/she can no longer be contacted by prospective schools for recruitment.
National Signing Day: The first Wednesday in February is the official signing day for high school football. Following this date, student-athletes may sign letters of intent with prospective schools to attend that institution for one academic year in exchange for athletics aid.
Official visit: Official visits include any visit to a prospective school by a student-athlete paid for by the school. Official visits include schools paying for transportation, room and meals and entertainment.
Prospective student-athlete: A student-athlete becomes a prospective student-athlete when he/she starts ninth-grade classes; or if before the student-athlete's ninth-grade year, a college gives the athlete, his relatives or his friends any financial aid or other benefits that the college does not provide to students generally.
Quiet period: The quiet period is the time designated in the recruiting calendar when college coaches may make in-person recruiting contacts only on the coach's school campus.
Recruit: A student-athlete is considered a recruit when he/she engages in off-campus, in-person contact with a coach; receives a telephone call from a coach more than once; is issued a National Letter of Intent from a prospective school; or makes an official visit to a prospective school.
Redshirt: Also known as a "Fifth Year Senior," redshirt refers to a student-athlete who extends four seasons of play over five years. A redshirt player typically sits out of games for a season, while still attending practices and classes.
Unofficial visit: Unofficial visits occur when student-athletes pay their own expenses when visiting a prospective school, including transportation, room, meals and entertainment.
Walk-on: This term refers to a student-athlete who plays and trains with a collegiate team without an athletic scholarship.