Updated: Apr 30, 2020
The recruiting process can be a long and stressful process, but it should also be fun. My family and I had no recruiting experience or knowledge and we really had no idea where to even start to figure out where I would attend school. Hopefully this blog can not only help you with starting the recruiting process but more importantly, how to choose a school.
There are obviously many different ways for recruiting to happen depending on high school success, scholarship availability, and other factors, but this was my path to choosing UGA and my suggested path for y’all if possible!
Form a list of potential schools.
The easiest way to start the recruiting process is by looking at results from NCAA Championships year after year in your event. If you start to see a trend of the same teams performing well in your event over multiple years, then those are the schools that help you form your list. Don’t forget to be aware of coaching changes because the coach that helped a team perform well over several years may have recently left that school to work somewhere else. I think that older coaches with families and children are less likely to switch schools because their families are also integrated and attached to the community, not just themselves. Also moving a family is a much harder process than moving yourself. Stability is just as important as finding a great coach because if you sign to a school for a specific coach and then he or she leaves to go to another school, you are still stuck at that school until you go through the transferring process. Another factor to consider when choosing coaches is the consistency of high level athletes they have coached. If a coach only has one star athlete that might mean that his or her coaching style works on certain people and not others. You want a coach that has CONSISTENTLY developed high school athletes into top collegiate athletes. This shows that they can work with all types of athletes whether talented, weak or strong, coordinated, quick learners, etc. The same coaching doesn’t work on everyone, all athletes are different. Lastly, pay attention to the frequency of injuries with coaches. A coach’s program sometimes can lead to frequent injuries with athletes so you want to consider the health of athletes coached at each university.
Phone Calls and Home Visits
Once you have a list of the schools you’re interested in, it is time to start talking to coaches and arranging home visits (if possible). When coaches called me they were usually leading the conversation and I was just listening, so don’t feel like you have to be super prepared and practiced when you talk to a coach. (If you are reaching out to a coach rather than vice versa, I do think you should be prepared with questions and topics to be discussed.) If the coach that called was from a school on my list or if I was interested in learning more, I scheduled a home visit with that coach. A home visit is when a coach comes to your house and talks to you and your family about their university, their coaching techniques, their plan for you, and answers any questions you have. I would HIGHLY recommend LIMITING the number of home visits you schedule. Because my parents and I didn’t really know what we were doing… we scheduled about 20 home visits to make sure we considered all options for me. These visits can be 3-4 long and it’s very draining when you do several of them. If there’s a school that you know you definitely don’t want to attend, there’s no need to have a home visit with them.
Once you know which coaches you will have for a home visit or which coaches you want to call, you want to ask them difficult questions. These coaches have recruited hundreds of athletes and know exactly what to say and what not to say to convince you to commit to their school. I have included some questions below if you need suggestions. If having home visits isn’t an option for you, consider visiting the school unofficially to meet some of the team, see the campus, and hear more about the school.
Schedule Official/Unofficial Visits
Official visits are when the university pays for your travel to the school and entertainment and meals while visiting their school. They usually last 2 days and you are only allowed five official visits. (I only took 5 visits and they were all official because paying to visit other schools wasn’t feasible.)
Unofficial visits are paid for yourself - the travel, meals, etc.There typically aren’t as many planned events and team functions during unofficial visits unless you come the same weekend as others on an official visit. The only thing the university can provide for you are tickets to a sports event. A significant difference between official and unofficial is that you can take as many unofficial visits as you want.
Visits are the best opportunity to ask the athletes questions about the program. Just like I said before, you want to ask the athletes difficult questions. Try not to be vague because athletes really won’t reveal 100% of the truth unless asked specifically about a situation. Sometimes coaches purposely surround recruits with specific athletes who love the program. Try to take advantage of the times you aren’t in controlled settings such as the football game or unplanned chill times with the team. This is when coaches are not around and athletes may be willing to be more honest in these settings.
Ultimately, I chose UGA specifically because of the coach and the team. I felt the coach was invested in my success and had the knowledge and passion to take me to the next level. The team also respected me and valued what I wanted to do on my visit rather than what they wanted to do. It was an instant bond with my hosts and they were genuine rather than trying to put on an act to convince me to come to the school. The campus and the weather was also great. The combination of all of these things led to my decision to attend UGA.
Choose your school.
Once all the fun is over and you are done visiting schools and meeting tons of people, it will be time to make the most important decision. The coach, school, and athletes you decide to attend school with can influence your future career path, your lifelong friends, and your progression as an athlete. NO PRESSURE. But forreal, this is an important decision and you should make sure that at the least - the people you will be around CARE about you. Try to think about whether a coach would still value you even if you don’t turn out to be the athlete they expected. Is the coach invested in you as a person (health, mental wellness, physical) OR just worried about you scoring points and helping the team win a national title? Most coaches will treat you pretty well if you benefit their team and their job.
I think the best way to decide on a university is to make a pros and cons list while also factoring in the most important and least important things. So before you even start you pros/cons list for colleges, write down the things that are most important to you and least important. My most important things were: coach, team, academics, and weather. This list will help you analyze your pros and cons list as it gets harder to choose a school. For example, School A could have 5 pros while School B only has 2 pros… but if School A’s pros are: nice dorms, nice locker rooms, nice track, cute uniforms, great food at dining halls… you have to ask yourself if those things are most important to you? School B’s pros may only be: knowledgeable coach, great academics, but there is a lot of value in those 2 pros. So the amount of pros and cons for a school aren’t as important as the value of each pro/con underneath the college. If a school has terrible locker rooms, tiny dorms, and average academics but the coach may be able to help you become an Olympic athlete it may be worth the tradeoff. But that decision is up to you and what you value the most.
I want to remind you again that each coach’s job is to convince you to come to their school. If they are making promises that sound unrealistic have them write those promises down and sign/date it so that they stick to what they say they will do. Always double check the information the coach tells you with the athletes that already attend that university. Those athletes were once in your shoes and are now experiencing that college and that coach, so they can offer less biased and more honest answers.
I wish all the high school students the best of luck with recruiting and ultimately choosing a school! If you are ever in doubt, you can DM me for advice and I will try my best to advise you, but trust your gut! You know what you felt, observed, and experienced while at each school! You usually know what school you want to attend after visiting it.
Question Ideas for Coaches
§ If you were an athlete right now and your school wasn’t an option, which coach/school would you want to work with/attend? Why?
§ What happened to Athlete X that you recruited and he/she didn’t progress at all?
(maybe reach out to Athlete X yourself and see what he or she says)
§ Have you had athletes transfer? If so, why did they choose to leave?
§ Along with you, who would you say are the next best coaches in the NCAA?
Question Ideas for Athletes
§ What don’t you like about this school or about your coach?
§ If you could go back would you make the same decision?
§ How is your relationship with your coach?
§ Do you feel like what the coaches promised you during recruiting and what you actually experience now are similar?