The football recruiting period is one of the more unique time frames of an athlete’s life.
The offseason means college camps and campus visits. During the season, athletes have to balance the demands of their high school team with highlight film updates and communication with recruiters, all while retaining focus on academics.
The process is a grind, and every athlete only gets one shot to get the recruiting process right, one shot to make a decision that'll impact the rest of their life.
U.S. National Team Senior Manager Aaron Ingram knows the process inside and out, having served as the recruiting coordinator at Sacramento State University. He's seen the process first-hand as a player, high school coach and college coach.
Ingram has seen athletes of all skill levels go through the process and understands what college coaches wish high school football players knew about the recruiting process.
1. Put your best foot forward on your highlight film
While athletes wish coaches from their dream school could watch them play in person, that's rarely the case. That's why it's so important for athletes to take the time to properly create a highlight reel from their game film that accurately features their skills and how they can help improve a college program.
That starts with placing your absolute top highlights at the very beginning of your film.
“Your best plays should come first in your highlight video,” Ingram said. “College coaches watch (the video), and if the first five plays don’t pop off the screen or interest them, they turn it off and move on.”
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High school players sometimes include photo montages, stats or achievements at the start of their film. College coaches are more interested in their top highlight clips.
2. Your grades reflect you
It might be an athlete’s talent, skills and work ethic on the field that give them a chance to crack the starting lineup, but they need to understand a commitment in the classroom is what ensures they have an initial spot on the roster.
“Your transcript is your interview,” Ingram said. “It is what will get you into school nowadays.”
An athlete’s hard work off the field will allow them to get their fair share of opportunities on the gridiron.
“Colleges are getting more and more competitive, so if you and another player are equal (athletically), they will always take the one with better grades,” said Ingram.
3. Social media matters
Social media is an extremely prevalent part of our daily lives, for better or for worse.
Aside from the entertainment it provides, platforms such as Twitter and Instagram can be a great way for athletes to show off their personality while connecting and communicating with college recruiters.
But just as easily as athletes can promote themselves in a positive light, they can also reveal negative personality traits that can deter those very same recruiters.
It's imperative athletes everywhere truly understand the ramification of each post, tweet or photo they put onto social media for the world to see.
“Your social profile matters,” Ingram said. “More and more every day college prospects are getting turned away and scholarships taken for misbehavior online or for bad tweets. What you say and do is now out for the world to see.”
According to Ingram, college coaches wish high school recruits understood they're representing more than just themselves.
“You are not above the law, you have to represent your family, your university and your team in a good light,” he said.
Ingram’s sentiments are ones every potential recruit should keep in mind once the recruiters start to call. Make sure the head coach of your No. 1 school has no reason not to hand you that scholarship offer.
This is an updated version of a blog that originally published October 13, 2016.