We’ve all seen the stories of high-profile athletes who are chased by big-time college programs from coast to coast, where recruits just sit back, pile up scholarship offers and make their picks on national TV.
Yeah, it’s not like that.
Derek Williams, a scout for Collegiate Sports Data with more than 15 years of experience working directly with college and high school coaches, has simple advice for athletes looking to get recruited: It’s a long and often arduous process that includes academics, weight training, highlight films, phone calls, campus visits and camps that demands hard work all four years.
Parents and players need to realize less than 6 percent of high school football players go on play college football at any level – with fewer than half that number receiving a full scholarship.
Williams said putting off the recruiting process too long may sacrifice preparation in the classroom and on the field, putting prospects at a disadvantage.
Williams breaks down what a football player focus on each year to get maximize by college coaches:
Freshman season: Get recruiting out of your head
There will be plenty of time to think about college. High school is a big enough adjustment for most without looking too far ahead.
- Focus on player development, which includes the weight room, nutrition, agility, speed, flexibility training and mental preparation.
- Understand what it takes in the classroom. NCAA rules have changed for freshman eligibility in college. High school students need to hit specific benchmarks along the way and can’t make it all up during their senior years.
SEE ALSO: NCAA launches new website to answer eligibility questions
Sophomore season: More of the same
If you are one of the rare few to show NCAA Division I skills this early, the schools will find you, so:
- Be on track with core class requirements and take full advantage of early core classes.
- Begin ACT/SAT test prep.
- Continue work in the weight room and in the classroom.
- Learn the difference between FBS, FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA. Get an honest assessment of where your talent can take you.
- Think about what majors you are interested in and match potential colleges with what they offer you after graduation.
- Sit down with a parent or guardian to understand what student aid is available outside of athletic scholarships in case you don’t get a full ride.
Junior season: Time to impress
By this time, your academic courses should be on track, and if you are a college-level athlete, you should have enough in the bank to start reachnig out to colleges.
- Create highlight videos to distribute to target schools and post on sites such as Hudl. But remember: If your video package isn’t ready to share, wait on it. It’s better to get a good video that captures your talent than rush something out just to be seen.
SEE ALSO: Tips to creating a highlight video package that will catch a recruiter’s eye
- Ask your high school coach to reach out to talk to scouts and pass along the highlight videos.
- Sit down with your high school coach and realistically discuss what level of college player you are.
- Balance this feedback with your academic situation and identify college football programs that are right for you.
- Begin actively pursuing and planning for summer camps. Do not default to BCS camps with 500 other players. Attend regional camps if that’s the best fit.
- Schedule and take the ACT/SAT. Take it early, and take it multiple times. As your score increases, more doors open.
Senior season: Your big year
The foundation is set both physically and academically. It’s time to showcase your hard work on the football field.
Williams said the majority of prospects are recruited based on senior performance. Only the highest level of play – BCS programs – have identified their targets and early commitments before their senior years.
- Finish up any core courses that are still out there.
- Take or retake the SAT/ACT.
- Continue to talk to coaches and scouts.
- Update highlight videos.
- Be prepared to talk to new schools if your targets do not offer the financial package you need.
The opportunities are out there. It’s up to each athlete to find the best fit.