Look around closely enough and you will notice that loads of high school senior athletes and their parents are beginning to panic, the worry visible on their expressions, because their recruiting Plan A isn’t working.  It’s a natural, if not altogether pitiful, sight that we see every year at this time.  Six months to go and not just no offers, but no significant connections with college coaches.  Juniors need not repeat this painful experience.  By following a few simple directions, you can avoid this historically slippery slope.

For high school juniors, now is the time to find the missing piece in the recruiting puzzle.

For high school juniors, now is the time to find the missing piece in the recruiting puzzle.

The first thing that should be apparent is that you have to find a way to really be in the recruiting mix, not just on the periphery by being on a club team or making All-Conference.  You have to stand out like a bright light in the dark.  If there is no light on you, then college coaches don’t know about you and they cannot conceivably recruit you.  Job One?  Find a viable way for as many college coaches as possible to learn about you and your unique qualifications.  Taking this step is essential and without it, your hopes and dreams will disappear.  It’s really as simple as that.Second, realize that you do not have to be an accomplished, high-profile athlete for college coaches to recruit you.  Solid athletic performance over time, good to excellent grades, a keen desire to play at the next level and a supportive family are the ingredients every coach wants in a potential recruit.  With those in hand, there is a place for you in college athletics.

Third, high school and club coaches are limited in the scope of their reach and few have the time or expertise to promote you properly to college coaches.  Year after year that has proved to be true.  In the end, you have two choices:  do it yourself or enlist a service with a history of success in marketing and placing high school athletes.  The first is difficult at best.  Putting together a profile package for coaches which will attract their interest is typically problematic because most parents are unaware of what coaches need to see.  And then, of course, there’s the issue of coaches receiving info from parents.  Most of these mailings end up in a corner pile in their office or computer, never to be read or taken seriously.  Moreover, like with high school and club coaches, a family’s reach is severely limited and the time required to get your info in the hands of a multitude of coaches also has its high hurdles.  Few families succeed.

Fourth, services are the most efficient and productive path, that is if the service possesses two key features:  a broad and targeted promotional strategy in place, and a scout that knows you well and has the ability and knowhow to represent you to college coaches.  Few organizations offer both benefits.  Most today are online companies which post info on a Web site and conduct cursory and sporadic promo efforts, if any at all.  Look for a scouting service that covers the complete gamut of marketing and personalized service.

Once you choose a service that bets fits your needs, then you have a reasonable chance to work the recruiting system to your advantage.  With a complete marketing plan and scout by your side, you can begin to do the things which can make a genuinel difference in your future such as taking unofficial visits, communicating regularly with coaches, attending their camps, and most importantly, developing solid relationships with coaches so that in the end you will have choices of colleges to attend.

Choose a program that matches what you really want in a coach and that has teammates you can meld with from Day One.

Choose a program that matches what you really want in a coach and that has teammates you can meld with from Day One.  If not, you will not fit in.

The recruiting process goes two ways – the coach wooing the athlete and the athlete choosing a coach.  But everything is not what it always seems during the recruiting process.  Time and time again, we see the same story repeated.

How do you know, then, what a coach is really like when he or she is recruiting you?  Hmmm.  Well, you can ask other coaches and administrators, of course, but does that spill all the beans?  Probably not.  Coaches and school officials are selling candy when they are recruiting athletes.  They know what athletes need to hear, so many times they put the same sugar on the table as everyone else and hope that the packaging will seal the deal.  Yet, if what they were told during the initial recruiting process changes once the athlete is on campus, why do so many recruits transfer after their freshman or sophomore years of college?  It’s because the athlete didn’t ask themselves some simple, but tough questions:

  • Taking away all the fluff and glamor, the hype and the attaboys or attagirls, that is, when I watch this person coach at practice and during games, can I really play for him or her?  Can I work that hard, or work that little?  Can I take that kind of intensity or lack of it?  Can I deal with being treated like everybody else instead of the star?
  • When I talk to the players, do they share my idea and values of what college athletics should be about?  Are they focused or careless?  Are they going through the motions or putting their hearts into it?  When the coach isn’t around, are they respectful or disrespectful?

Why those questions?  A coach surrounds himself or herself with the type of people they believe will make them successful and with whom they are most comfortable.  That goes for the staff they hire and the players they recruit.  If they hire upstanding citizens as coaches that work hard and follow the rules, that’s who that coach is.  If their assistants are disorganized and short on offering players support, that’s who you will be playing for.  If they recruit players that party at all hours, talk trash about the coaches and don’t go to class, then that’s who that coach is.  If a coach has a lousy graduation rate with his former players, that’s who that coach is.  If assistants drop off a coach’s staff year after year, that’s the coach.

Look closely.  Go where you fit.  Choose coaches and teams that you will meld with easily.   Don’t make college athletics hard on yourself.  It’s there to have fun, to get an education and to compete with people that you love playing alongside and for coaches that you want to work hard for every day.

 

 
Opportunities and time for seniors wanting to be college athletes are dwindling as each day passes.

Opportunities and time for seniors wanting to be college athletes are dwindling as each day passes.

In college athletic recruiting, everything depends on first being recognized and evaluated by college coaches.  Nothing else truly matters to an aspiring high school athlete if these first two critical steps have not happened.

Signing periods are looming.  The NCAA early signing period is only two months away.  Not all seniors will sign, or can sign, during the ESP.  History tells us that between 30 and 40 percent of those allowed to sign national letters of intent during the ESP will do so.  That leaves between 60 and 70 percent who will not have a legally binding agreement with colleges going into the final semester of the school year.

This all means that there is still time for seniors to get noticed and evaluated, but there are things working against unknown seniors.  First, most college coaches already have their 2014 recruiting lists formed and it would take special athlete to supplant the ones the coaches have already spent time recruiting and with whom they have developed relationships.  Second, because most NCAA Division I programs have their ’14 classes set leaving the only viable options in division II and III along with NAIA and junior colleges.  Third, breaking through to a coach at this stage takes a concentrated effort which must include getting the athlete’s profile, transcript and video in the hands of a large number of coaches because of the dwindling roster openings.

Seniors and their parents should take things into their own hands.  It’s high time to get aggressive and not wait on their high school or club coaches to make connections with college coaches.   In truth, these well-meaning coaches are limited in their reach and now that school has started the time they can reasonably expect to spend promoting their seniors to college coaches is minimal at best.

This occurs every year as thousands of high school seniors are taken aback by the circumstances they find themselves.  It’s a shame, really, but for the legitimate college prospects one unacceptable option is to wait a moment longer in their quest to earn a college scholarship or roster position.  The opportunity to play be a college athlete only comes once a lifetime.  Go for it now or be left behind.

 
Jordan Bickett

NSR volleyball prospect Jordan Bickett demonstrates why we as fans love to see fall athletics come around once again.

Across America high school athletes have been sweating their hearts out.  For weeks now, they have been humping it in pre-season conditioning workouts, drills, practices and scrimmages in anticipation of what historically is the most exciting time for prep athletics – fall sports.  With last year’s seniors graduated, as fans our spirits are renewed by the upcoming group.  We want to see if they have improved, gotten bigger, faster, quicker and stronger.  The two-month layoff from school-to-school competition, finally ended, brings a fresh perspective and enthusiasm not just to the schools, athletes and parents, but to local team followers itching to pay their five bucks to see what coaches have done with this promising crop. But, why does this time of year hold such a special place in our hearts?

Maybe part of it is the subtle changes we wish for in outdoor temperatures from the dog days to cooler breezes, from short sleeves to sweatshirts.  Who doesn’t love donning a sweater before heading  out to a Friday night high school football game?  We may not be there yet, but if hoping helps, leaves will start turning yellow and red and falling to the ground sooner than later.

Maybe it’s that we simply miss seeing our kids playing with other kids in our communities.  You know, the ones they grew up with, instead of their being dragged around the countryside wrapped up in the trappings of club or travel sports where every at-bat, serve, basket or great play holds more significance than it probably should.  In the fall, it’s more of a game than a career choice and everybody from town shop owners to school cafeteria workers sit side-by-side cheering on their young heroes.

Maybe we see a new school year as a nostalgic reflection of ourselves and what we experienced during those heady high school days.  We smile as the little ones run around with boundless energy.  First-year high schoolers gather at the end of the bleachers avoiding their parents yet wondering where they fit in.  Former athletes gather in pockets spouting off about how this year’s team will perform and how much they miss the game.  The athletes themselves bound out of the locker room sneaking a glance up in the stands to see their parents standing, clapping and glowing with pride.  And the coaches nervously pace back and forth because no amount of practicing can really predict how their team will actually perform until it really matters.

When we look around us and see that we aren’t alone in our joy and full-throttled exuberance, we finally get it, don’t we?  These kids in front of us, the athletes in uniform, have worked their butts off just to make the team, much less play every minute, and we appreciate what they have sacrificed to be there.  We are excited for them and this is our way of honoring them for reaching a milestone in their lives.   They’ve made it and we love and admire them for it.  Few things could mean more.  It’s a time-honored cultural thing.  And the fall once again gives us hope for another generation.

 
Hayley Hunter is an NSR prospect that exudes a positive attitude and work ethic.  She is just the type college coaches have come to expect from NSR-enrolled high school student-athletes.

Hayley Hunter is an NSR prospect that exudes a positive attitude and work ethic. She is just the type college coaches have come to expect from NSR-enrolled high school student-athletes.

If there is a common thread which runs through the minds and hearts of high school prospects that NSR represent, it has to be the athletes’ immeasurable optimism.  Their deep-seeded belief that they will succeed in their efforts to secure a college athletic scholarship offer is the engine which drives NSR scouts to help these deserving young athletes achieve their dreams.

At NSR, we look for prospects willing to sacrifice and work harder than anyone else for this goal.  It is not something mystic in nature.  We recognize it immediately in athletes’ affirmative approach to their sport, their coaches and teammates.  It’s in their eyes, body language, intensity and competitive drive.  They single themselves out from the crowd through hard work, selflessness and an uncommon dedication to learning and improving on every detail and aspect of their position and as an integral part of the team.  These athletes are special and deserve to be recognized, supported and well-served.  That’s what we do at NSR.  That’s what makes us different.  We love these kids and we admire their burning desire to succeed.  It’s really at the heart of what drives us to push open doors of opportunity which would not otherwise be accessible to them.

Is it obvious, yet?  We are very selective in the athletes we choose to work with because during the scouting and recruiting process we know that this shared optimism fuels championships at the collegiate level.  It is impossible for college coaches to construct successful teams consisting of pessimists with substandard work ethics.  No coach goes in search of undesirables.  They want winners and we provide them.

That’s why so many college coaches are attracted to the athletes NSR enrolls.  Coaches know that each NSR student-athlete has passed a rigorous, pre-qualification litmus test.  They trust that NSR scouts will continue a proud, 33-year reputation for only presenting them with athletes they will want to recruit as part of their programs.  And that is precisely what we do every day.

 

 
If you really want to play college sports, select a service that has real scouts that can actually tell coaches about you, not cubicle counselors that never see you play and know nothing about you as a person or athlete.

If you really want to play college sports, select a service that has real scouts that can actually tell coaches about you, not cubicle counselors that never see you play and know nothing about you as a person or athlete.

Ten years ago, college coaches were just getting computers installed in their offices.  Emails were a novelty.  Digitized videos were a faraway thought.  Personal Web sites were emerging technology.  Smart phones and tablets?  Non-existent.  But that was then, as they say.

Today coaches can link to prospects and their information more readily than ever.  Athletes’ profiles seem to be everywhere online.  As a result, coaches are being overrun by incoming data and it’s not all good, reliable stuff.  Not by a long shot.

Sifting through it all has become a genuine pain for coaches and as a result many prospects are still being overlooked as coaches have become numb to the digital onslaught.  What yesterday were thought to be recruiting advantages both on the coaches’ and prospects’ ends are now burdensome, confusing and terribly unmanageable.

So, what’s a high school prospect to do?  Here are some solid suggestions:

  1. Avoid free recruiting sites:  These are one way streets leading to nowhere.  Coaches do not go to these sites because it is too difficult to find legit, qualified athletes.
  2. Avoid open-enrollment companies:  If you are paying to have your profile and video on a scouting service site without having been scouted in person or had you video evaluated by a trained college scout, you are throwing good money after bad.  Case in point:  college football coaches at the National Football Coaches Association Convention in Nashville this past February, college coaches told us that they had stopped by our competitor’s booth to request being taken off their email list because a large majority of the athletes the coaches were getting info on were not qualified or screened for ability and it was a waste of their time to get the info, much less taking up valuable time perusing the info.  (We call these companies Cubicle Counselors.)
  3. Select a scouting service that actually scouts you:  If you want your profile info to be opened by a college coach, select a service that really scouts and that college coaches appreciate and respect.

If you are an aspiring college prospect with the skills, grades, desire and character to be a college athlete, you deserve to be promoted to coaches in the most effective way possible.  Choose wisely.  Do your homework.  Find an organization that can put you in front of college coaches without being surrounded by tons of mediocre talent.  That is the way to set yourself apart.

 
Prep athletes today must start early to build the street rep of being a dependable, solid person if they want coaches to recruit them.

Prep athletes today must start early to build the street rep of being a dependable, solid person if they want coaches to recruit them.

Two outside forces are major contributors to today’s high school athletes having to demonstrate a high level of maturity to college coaches.  The spate of troublesome behavior by college athletes having run afoul of the law and the proliferation of technology in recruiting are putting the pressure on young aspiring college athletes to be more attuned to their character and comportment.

When was the last week, if not day, that we’ve not been subjected to an expose on a college athlete that has tripped and fallen into the rubble of other ill-fated athletes unable to help themselves?  This has led college coaches to more carefully scrutinize the actions and attitudes of the prospects they target to recruit.  What’s on the line is more than wins and losses, but the coaches’ jobs as well.  And, in the world of college sports, the prime objective of any coach has sadly devolved to keeping his or her job.

There was a time when athletes’ antics had little or no impact on a coach’s employment status.  No longer.  Today, the character and actions of athletes are directly linked to their coach and that coach’s ability, or inability, to properly control their program.  Justifiable or not, coaches are coming and going faster than ever before in the history of college athletics.  And the acceleration of this revolving movement can be traced to who coaches recruit and how they manage those recruits once they arrive on campus.  Even the off-campus conduct or athletes is now inextricably tied to their coaches.

These are lessons which high school, not to mention middle school, athletes must heed and respond to with careful calculation regarding their own activities, the friends they cling to, and the trouble they purposefully avoid.  Without this type of planning, a promising athlete can be left at the wayside, quickly to be forgotten and passed on.

In this game, as it is played in modern recruiting, adults are on the hot seat.  It is they who must tend to the fire and make certain that their athlete does not stray far, if at all.  But, isn’t that the way human behavior has always shaken out – parents lead and their children follow; parents discipline and their children learn;  parents provide high expectations and children strive to satisfy.

 
Athletes that exude a positive attitude during competition and socially are very attractive to college coaches.

Athletes that exude a positive attitude during competition and socially are very attractive to college coaches.

Flippin’ a bat.  Flippin’ a cap.  Flippin’ a towel.  You name it and flippin’ gets a high school athlete into hot water with college coaches.

We scout alongside college coaches every day at tournaments, matches, meets, showcases, combines and camps.  And the conversation often abruptly turns to an athlete that does something inane like flippin’ a piece of equipment, a uniform item or a nasty look, any of which brings the observing coach to an immediate halt.  “Now,” said one coach to me during a basketball tournament in Greensboro, NC, a few years back, when a player stared down a referee following a questionable call, “that was stupid.  That one act of defiance, temper tantrum or whatever you want to call it, may have cost that athlete a scholarship offer from one or more of the coaches here.  How does that make any sense at all?  But, I really don’t blame the kid.  Know who I blame?  The parents and coaches.  They let have let it happen over and again without cracking down on the kid.  He thinks it’s acceptable because he’s never had to suffer the most dire of all consequences – sitting on the bench as punishment.  When a kid loses playing time, he or she gets the point, and so hopefully do the parents.  It’s sad that we see so much of it.  It should never get to this point.  High school athletes need to learn early on that being a jerk does not work and that there is a price to pay for choosing to be one.”

Athletes gain reputations not just for their skills but for their attitudes.  A prospect with a good demeanor consistently gets more offers than the one who can’t control his emotions.  A display of temper is trouble waiting to happen down the road and coaches know that it could happen during practice, a contest or on campus in social situations.  All one has to do is read the daily sports new to discover yet another instance of an athlete’s encounters which have led to legal entanglements.

When coaches watch athletes, they are examining more than their athletic talents.  They are also scrutinizing how that athlete deals with unsettling scenarios.  The athletes that have enough self-control to shake it off and move on are the ones coaches will recruit.  Coaches can project this behavior in the college athletic, academic and social settings.  And predicting how an athlete will behave on and off the field or court is a big part of the scholarship-offering process.

 

 
Staying hydrated Is more than keeping as water bottle close by.  It is a serious issue which deserves serious attention and planning.

Staying hydrated Is more than keeping as water bottle close by. It is a serious issue which deserves serious attention and planning.

We’re in the middle of summer now and our biggest concern for the athletes we work with and advise is dehydration.  Because the athletes we represent to college coaches have to be in peak condition at club and travel events as well as during workouts, combines, showcases and camps, we constantly harp on the need for them to keep liquids in and flowing through their bodies.  It is a topic which is too often overlooked by athletes, parents and coaches.

We rarely scout a summer event where some athletes don’t succumb to the heat.  And what is most disturbing about this trend is that dehydration can be avoided with some simple steps which include taking in fluids prior to, during and following any physical exertion.  Compounding the potential onset of dehydration is the increased heat and temperatures athletes must contend with from inadequately ventilated gyms, insufficient water sources or a lack of preparation and ongoing attention to hydration.  Please make no mistake, this is a critical issue which should be at the top of every high school athlete’s to-do list.

All athletes should heed this warning:  you can do serious harm to yourself unless you take careful and certain steps to avoid falling victim to dehydration.  Go to this link to find out more about dehydration, its causes and what you can do to keep yourself, or  your loved ones, safe from its debilitating effects.

 
As a coach, I have to be smart about how I spend my office time and NSR gives me the edge like nobody else can.

As a coach, I have to be smart about how I spend my office time and NSR gives me the edge like nobody else can.

Okay, here’s the scene.  Let’s say for a moment that I am a college coach.  Three packages, or emails, say, arrive on my desk.  I will open them in order, but which will be first, second and then last, and why in that order?

Time?  It’s a precious commodity and I don’t have much of it.  So, identifying quickly who sent them is important.   The time I spend in the office has to be productive just like practices and recruiting trips.  The dress code may be casual in the athletic department, but my focus is anything but casual.  Office time is work time, plain and simple.  Efficiency is everything.

Back to the stuff that’s arrived.  One is obviously from a parent.  The name is unfamiliar.  That one goes on the pile in the corner if it’s a package and in the file called Other Prospects.  My assistant will get to it when time permits, but she’s busy, too, so when its contents are known is, well, unknown.  She’ll either get to it or she won’t.  I’ve told her that those are low priority.  Why?  Parents are not reliable and the ordeal we have to go through to get what we need is not worth the hassle.  It’s usually disorganized and the important stuff is hard to get at which, again, wastes too much of our time.  Got it?  This will get opened last, if at all.  Sorry, folks, but that’s life.

The second one is from a recruiting service.  But when I look at the sender, I know that it’s another waste of my time.  The kids in this group will not have been seen or scouted in person.  This company is like a puppy mill – they just keep pumping out the kids without any real sense of quality.  No in-person scouting.  No personal interaction.  Just call ‘em and sign ‘em.  Don’t get me wrong, they do a great job of trying to get me to open their stuff, but I’ve been bitten too many times by these guys.  No more.   If I get hard up for recruits, I might go down this road, but it’s so tough to find qualified athletes that we know going in that it’s a chore.

The third one?  Now, this one I’ll open.  This is also from a scouting company, but the difference?  These guys actually scout their kids.  They do what I do.   They identify good athletes, check them out for grades, stats, all that, then they go see them play.  They study their athletes, meet them, meet their parents, interview them, get to know them and when they know that a prospect is a real, college prospect, they work with them.  That means that when I get a package or email from this company, I open it.  No hesitation.

This company saves me and my staff time and a lot of front-end work.  They’re almost like my advance scout team.  They help me lock onto legit prospects.  And when their info comes to me, it’s all right there in the format that I want and need to make a quick call on moving ahead or not.  And there’s video which is the final step that I have to take before deciding to reach out to a prospect.

Put yourself in my shoes, would you?  What would you do?  Look, people can talk and talk and talk about how things work, but I’m here to tell you that when it comes to recruiting, for me at least, it’s all about time, efficiency and reliability.  When a coach lines finds those three things, life is good.