Parents, prospects and coaches often ask me to identify the ideal time a prospect should launch his or her college quest. Although each prospect initiates their recruiting plans at different times, I would say a good date to “get out of the gates” is January 1 of the junior year. But before you hit the pavement running, let’s run through a simple checklist of pre-launch tasks that will assist you in organizing for an important life decision.
Creating a user friendly organizing system for the college recruiting process will serve as a helpful tool, especially when information begins to pile in from different college coaches. Not only will this system assist you in keeping track of the steady stream of paper and e-traffic, it will act as a great resource for future contacts and important coach-prospect communications.
Trust me, coaches will be requesting information (transcripts, high school profile, standardize test results, tax information for financial pre-reads etc.) at about the same time, and the family who develops an efficient access system to this information will navigate the process with more success and with greater confidence.
Create a filing system that provides you with easy access to pertinent information. I suggest storing the following information in your individual college program folders:
· Updated contact information for coach, assistant coach, financial aid representative etc. Include name, address, e-mail, phone number etc.).
· Materials the coach has sent (brochures, articles, etc.).
· Team competition schedule. You should add important events to your calendar and stay updated on the team’s accomplishments, especially before any correspondence with the coach.
· College catalogs, applications and/or other marketing materials.
· Updated notes from your phone conversations and meetings with representatives from the school.
· A list of pertinent questions or follow-up items you need to address for the program. Set aside regular time to review outstanding tasks you have for each college program and list these items on your calendar.
· Copies of all the information you have provided to the school – your application, the data sheet you may have to fill out for the coach, the last resume you provided etc. By keeping these copies handy, you can easily reproduce them if they are misplaced.
The aim in this stage of college recruiting is to develop a well organized and efficient system that you understand and can work effectively. “Lift off” is the most demanding part of any worthy project and requires the most energy. Prepare well here by developing solid plans and executing them with vigor and you will be well positioned and confident moving forward. Beware of the flip side of the coin!
Executing the Plan
OK. Your plans are complete, well constructed and clearly spelled out in a language everyone understands. Your calendar is updated and you are proud that 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 and 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.
Effective communication between the family and the college coach can be critical to the level of support the prospect will receive in the recruiting process. It can make or break a coach’s decision to offer an athletic scholarship or provide that extra “push” in the admission process.
If your mission is clear, communication becomes the vehicle to move with definite purpose in your chosen direction. On the other hand, ill-prepared communication can cause confusion and misdirection. Your ship moves, but with a weak rudder.
The college recruiting process is both exciting and potentially overwhelming. It requires a disciplined and yet flexible approach, especially when time-lines get tight and situations become challenging.
Developing and executing recruiting plans are crucial to success and no different from preparing for a championship game! Communication with coaches is vital and a proactive effort will only get you on the radar screen faster and more effectively.
That being said, the family that approaches the college recruiting process with an organized and proactive effort, will have the best chances in building mutually strong and respectful relationships with college coaches and position themselves best as they navigate the college search.
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director 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. For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com