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Successful Independent Search in the College Recruiting Process

Written by: Tom Kovic

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***Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and President of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence” An educational guide for college athletics recruiting and 120 Q and A’s about College Athletics Recruiting. For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com.***

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Independent navigation in college recruiting can be a daunting effort. Whether it’s investigating NCAA rules and recruiting time-lines or developing and implementing tactics to “get on the radar” of the college coaches on your “A” list of schools, an organized and informed approach to the college quest will give prospects and families the best chance at success.

Gather Information: Gathering information is critical to the successful organization of any worthy project. Building a college recruiting information base can begin as early as the ninth grade as a family hobby and increasingly grow into a highly organized, disciplined project by the end of the junior year.

Begin by gathering information on the potential colleges of choice, including team and coach profiles, statistics, ranking, and academic options. Continue to update and maintain individual e-files on these favorite college programs.

Set Goals and Develop Your Plan: A knowledgeable consumer will have a clear edge in the pursuit of the attainment of important goals. I believe that the same holds true in the college search and I encourage families to make every effort and commitment to organize pertinent information regarding this process and to execute well-designed plans.

Develop timelines that will target general events in the beginning of the college search (making unofficial visits, maintaining your data base, and attending tournaments) and continue to move forward with more specific events (compiling a video and player profile, communicating with coaches, and making official visits, etc.) as your search progresses. This will increase the chances of “hitting targets” throughout the process.

Run the Offense (Execute): OK. Your plans are complete, well constructed and clearly spelled out in a language everyone understands. Your calendar is updated and you have listed everything from the next round of SAT’s to the fall homecoming dance! Now it’s time to take the plunge.

You can have the best organized and most highly detailed approach to the college quest, but it won’t amount to a hill of beans if you lack confidence, the desire, and the ability to “execute the plan.” If your strategy is to wait by the phone for the coach to call, in most cases, it’s going to be a long wait. Top prospects will get their fair share of attention, but the majority of athletes will increase their chances in getting on the radar screen of the college coaches by taking a proactive stance and initiating communication with college coaches.

College coaches are strictly bound by a myriad of NCAA contact and evaluation rules that limit them in initiating contact with prospective student-athletes and their families. What few families realize is that although college coaches may have their “hands tied” to some degree, prospects may initiate contact with the college coaches, early on and with very few exceptions

Persistence: The dictionary definition of persistence is: Continuing in spite of opposition; Enduring, lasting or recurrent. In a nutshell, I feel strongly that a persistent effort in every aspect of the college search for athletes will, in the end, give them and their families the greatest chance at success.

The one common thread that helps weave my college quest plans for the families I work with is the necessity to embrace persistence as a critical tool in the recruiting arsenal from start to finish. Some believe a persistent approach in college recruiting will be viewed by college coaches as a “pushy” attempt to get on the radar. It could come across this way if your approach is not well planned and carefully executed.

The rule of thumb here is simple: Coaches want to hear from prospects and considering the tight latitude they have in communicating with prospects, coaches’ welcome and encourage kids to drop them an e-mail or pick up the phone and call. That said, it is equally important for prospects to have a realistic view of their potential athletic contribution to a particular program.

Work as a Team: The team approach during the college athletics recruiting process is suggested to maximize efficiency and minimize individual pressure and stress as families navigate a potentially daunting effort. Forming a trustworthy group of individuals who play specific roles during the recruiting cycle will increase your chances of reaching pre-determined goals.

When working your recruiting plan within a team (prospect, parents, club/high school coach, and college advisor) dynamic, the responsibility in effectively executing your recruiting plan is equally distributed to the area experts. All assignments should be clearly spelled out, and communication between team members should be often and consistent. This will help streamline the complete operation of the project and assist the family in avoiding any confusion that could contribute to unclear thinking, misdirection and potentially poor choices.

You have the drive and the desire to take your athletic talent to the next level. You are confident and dedicated to participating as part of a college team and making your athletic pursuit an important compliment to your overall college experience. You are half way there. Remember, your college search is a personal quest, where maintaining “momentum” will make the difference between a fair and great college recruiting experience. Leave nothing to chance and make the commitment to treat the college search as you would treat your goal to experience a championship season.

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