Navigating College Recruitment

College recruitment of student-athletes can be daunting. Here are some helpful tips for parents and athletes.

By Rey Crossman

Welcome to the first of our 4-part series on college recruitment!

Each issue, we’ll tackle a new topic crucial to helping your student-athlete through this important process. 

The college recruitment process possesses a number of important life decisions for potential matriculating student-athletes and their families. Understanding how to navigate through this process can be critical in efforts to finding the “right” school fit. Over the years I’ve found that the student-athletes who have ultimately placed significant value in a number of categories across the board have experienced the most success. In efforts to find the “right” school, families should first recognize and identify who the student-athlete is, what they are looking for, and what they’ll need to fulfill their aspirations of being student-athletes collegiately.

Who is the student athlete?

When asking this question, I am specifically interested in identifying two things: The student-athletes academic background and their level of play (D1, D2, D3).

Academic: The academic question is an easy solve. Simply view transcripts and inquire about standardized test scores. Strong performances by students in AP (advanced placement) courses can also be of great benefit. Typically, the higher the grades, the more college opportunities to choose from.

Level of play: Identifying the correct level of a student-athlete is not so simple. For some athletes, an eye test is all that is necessary, while for others, the answer isn’t so clearcut. This can be the case for several reasons, but historically, the difference in levels comes down to three things: Size, athleticism, and skill. A considerable amount of competition against peers is the place for prospects, parents, and coaches to evaluate and identify these characteristics. The sooner in the process the better in best identifying the level of the prospect.

What is the student-athlete looking for and what do they need?

This question is about learning where the student-athlete places value. Are sports and academics valued equally? Are academics the priority? Is sport the priority? Is the student-athlete concerned about the location of the school? Do they value networking and internship opportunities? Does the school enrollment size matter? Is financial aid needed? Identifying and having answers to these questions can be extremely helpful to families in navigating through the process and moving closer to a manageable number of school choices.

The NCAA recruitment guidelines and recruiting calendar for Division 1, 2, and 3 athletics can be intricate and sometimes confusing. The differences are seen most in the types of communication allowed between coaches and student-athletes and the frequency in which they are being had. Many of these rules were designed to limit the amount of communication elite student-athletes receive from coaches. Coach contact depends on the sport, age of prospect, division level, and specific type of communication. It would benefit families to try to gain a comprehensive understanding of the NCAA recruiting rules. For most sports, coaches can start contacting the athletes on their recruiting lists beginning June 15th after sophomore year or September 1 of their junior year of high school.

Is the student-athlete being recruited? In what capacity? Have college coaches been in regular contact? Has a program inquired about game film and transcripts? Has your prospect been invited for an official/unofficial campus visit? Have you been on a conference call with the staff and taken a virtual tour? Has a program extended an official scholarship offer?

The recruitment process has always thrived heavily on relationships and direct lines of communication between the current high school/ Amateur Athletic Union coaches of the student-athletes and college coaches. These relationships provide college coaches a personal introduction of the student-athlete and in some cases, can be a leg up in the beginning stages of the recruitment process. There are certainly other forms of communication for those who are not privy to these types of relationships. The organization of an articulate email can also be a significant tool. This introduction email should give coaches an understanding of who the student-athlete is. A quick introduction, a short highlight of recent game footage, two to three recent games where they played their best, transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, and contact information of the High School and/or Amateur Athletic Union coaches that are involved most in their recruitment process. The email addresses of the coaching staff can be found on the program’s team page. Look to send these emails to the director of operations, graduate assistants, or head managers on staff. They are the main people responsible for looking at these types of messages. It doesn’t hurt to cc the coaches on staff, but in most cases, they will forward to those mentioned above. If a follow-up email is necessary, giving some time before sending one is a good idea.

I want to encourage all potential matriculating student-athletes and their families to take a deep breath. Be deliberate in asking and getting answers to your questions, maintain a sense of open-mindedness and optimism, and practice patience. As the process unfolds there will be a number of opportunities to play sports collegiately, all while checking off some of the other categories you place value in. Yes, choosing a school to attend is an important life decision, but try to find comfort in knowing that there are questions that once answered will help in moving closer to the school that is the “right” fit.

Rey Crossman is a basketball teacher and mentor who recently started his own basketball training and college recruitment consulting business. He has coached and developed a number of professional players, over 100 collegiate players, and 1,000’s of youth players. He spent 2 years at Yale University as Director of Basketball Operations and 3 seasons as an assistant coach at Skidmore College. Crossman graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. Reach him at reycrossmanbasketball.com

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