From the moment you first stepped out onto the field, you knew you were an athlete. You love the competition and camaraderie that comes with being on a team. You thrive on digging deep and pushing yourself (and your body) farther than you thought possible. And, perhaps most important, you simply find the game fun. You know you want to continue playing in college, if possible. But how do you actually go about getting recruited for college sports?
If you're interested in being recruited, you'll have to put in a lot of work and research. To begin with, think about the type of school you would like to attend. Do you want to stay local or experience another part of the country? Are you envisioning yourself at a big state university or small liberal arts college? What kind of majors/academic departments interest you? These factors are just as critical as any sports team.
As you start narrowing down your list of prospective schools, you can begin investigating their sports programs as well. Look into their levels of competition and how big their rosters are. In which positions are they the strongest? In which positions are they lacking? For example, is the star pitcher a graduating senior? Or is there a freshman rookie who won the coveted starting spot? You want to keep an eye out for programs that will need to fill the position you play. Additionally, research the backgrounds of the coaches. What are their approaches to the game? Try and deduce whether their coaching styles will mesh with your own sensibilities.
Beyond conducting research, you'll want to make sure you're proactive about your actual recruitment. This means reaching out to the coaches/schools for whom/which you hope to play. Send an email expressing your interest. You should include a resume with statistics from previous and current seasons as well as any career highlights/accomplishments you've achieved thus far.
Moreover, it's also common for athletes to send along video footage. Fear not; you don't need Hollywood quality film or even fancy graphics. Instead, you want to focus on incorporating highlight clips that demonstrate your ability and prowess. You can also include some footage that shows off your form, strength, agility, etc. And, it's smart to insert some extended footage from a game so coaches get a taste of your skills in real-time.
Aside from reaching out to schools, many hopeful athletes increase exposure by attending recruiting tournaments and/or sports camps. These programs can help you improve your game and help you get noticed. However, we should mention that many coaches arrive at these events having established contact and/or a rapport with certain athletes already. This doesn't mean they can't or won't take notice of students they don't know. But it is something of which you should be aware.
Additionally, students interested in being recruited for sports must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Through this process, students validate/cement their status as an amateur athlete. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to do; you just need to pay $50 and supply a social security number. Nonetheless, you must not skip this important step.
Of course, throughout this process, it's essential not to lose sight of the fact that college athletes are still students. Hence, your academic record will also come into play. You must make sure you keep your grades up and fulfill specific course requirements to secure your eligibility. You can be the best athlete in the world but if you don't meet the minimum standards for academic success, you will not be accepted. Make an appointment with your guidance counselor to discuss whether you (and your transcript) are on the right track!
Finally, we do want to mention that the NCAA has very strict rules about recruitment. For example, coaches typically cannot reach out to athletes themselves until late into a student's junior year. And these rules can actually vary between divisions, sports, etc. If you're serious about becoming a college athlete, it would behoove you to research these guidelines and how they pertain to your specific sport.
There's a tremendous amount of hard work and diligence that goes into becoming a college athlete. If you think you're interested in playing at the collegiate level (no matter if it's Division I or Division III), start doing the legwork now. The better prepared you are, the more opportunity you're likely to find.