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The Five Stages of the College Recruiting Process



The recruiting process can be compared to a funnel containing five specific stages. College coaches begin by contacting a large number of prospective athletes that they believe would add value to their program. Coaches use evaluations, highlight videos, and contact with recruits to help narrow this list until they have filled their available roster spots. Below are the five stages of recruiting coaches go through to fill their rosters. Knowing these stages will help you understand where you are in the recruiting process and what needs to happen next.



WHAT IS RECRUITING


In college sports, recruiting can be defined as the process of a college representative identifying, evaluating, interviewing, and offering a student-athlete the chance to play sports for their college. Typically recruiting is done by college coaches, who will be actively seeking players to fit their program’s specific needs. Coaches are able to actively recruit prospective student-athletes in various ways including face-to-face contact, mailed & emailed material, phone calls & text messaging, or through social media.


When Does Recruiting Start

The recruiting calendar varies for different sports, but the majority of NCAA Division I and Division II sports allow coaches to contact recruits June 15 after their sophomore year of High School. The recruiting process can begin before student-athletes are officially contacted by coaches.


Depending on the sport, some athletes could be involved in the recruiting process as early as their freshman year of High School (sports like women gymnastics, where athletes develop very quickly), or as late as their senior season (sports like track & field, where athlete’s tend to develop throughout their High School career).


It is never too early for student-athletes to be proactive in recruiting, by researching colleges & sending coaches their recruiting information, but college coaches can’t respond until the recruiting rules allow it.



WHAT COACHES ARE LOOKING FOR

Academic requirements, level of competition, roster positions available, and more variables are considered when college coaches are recruiting prospective student-athletes. Coaches might put more emphasis on certain areas, but these are some of the most important categories considered in the recruiting process:


Athletic Ability

Winning games and having success is how college coaches secure their jobs, so coaches will be looking for the best athletes available to them.


Academics

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If a player isn’t academically eligible, that saying is even more evident. When recruiting players of similar abilities to fill roster spots, coaches will always choose the recruit with stronger grades and test scores. That recruit is less likely to experience academic issues in the future and lose their eligibility. Coaches want players who can play.


Character

Sports are oftentimes considered to “build character”, and college coaches believe that to be true. If a recruit has good character traits, they will be able to add value to the program. Recruits with major character flaws will find themselves attending schools that reflect those flaws.


Location

Programs with large budgets are able to recruit all over the country & internationally, while smaller schools will have to recruit from specific regions. The region a recruit is located in could have a major effect on the amount of attention they receive in the recruiting process.


NCAA DIVISIONS I, II, & III EXPLAINED






FIVE STAGES OF RECRUITING

The recruiting process can be compared to a funnel. College coaches begin by contacting a large number of prospective athletes that they believe would add value to their program. This number could be in the hundreds, or even the thousands for larger programs, and must be narrowed down until they have filled their available roster spots. Coaches use evaluations, highlight videos, and contact with recruits to help narrow this list. Below are the five stages of recruiting coaches go through to fill their rosters. Knowing these stages will help you understand where you are in the recruiting process and what needs to happen next.



1 - Create a List of Prospective Athletes


College coaches will cast a wide net identifying a large group of prospective recruits. During this stage of the recruiting process, 600 to 800 athletes may be added to the school’s initial list. Larger programs will have numbers in the 6,000 to 8,000 range.


This group of recruits will meet some of the basic criteria like position, graduation year, academics, location, height, weight, and more. To collect so much information for this initial list, coaches will rely on various resources including:


Recruiting Media Sites (Rivals.com or 247Sports)

Third-party Recruiting Services (Podyum Preps)

Recommendations from Coaches (High Schools or Club Teams)

Communications from Recruits (Emails & Messages)

Camps & Showcases


RECRUIT TIP: At this stage of the recruiting process, you should have a similar process regarding schools you would like to attend. Cast a wide net based on programs that fit your athletic, academic, financial, location preferences, and any other factors important to you.



2 - Send Out Information Gathering Materials


Recruiting letters, questionnaires, information pamphlets, and camp invites are sent to athletes in that initial group mentioned previously. These materials help coaches understand which athletes are mutually interested in their program. Responses will help the coaches narrow that original group to 300 - 400 (3,000 to 4,000 for larger programs) athletes.


If you receive any of these materials from a school you are interested in, respond with a personal message to thank the coach and let them know you are interested in their program. At this point, school’s that are genuinely interested in you, will respond in kind to your thank you message. Even if a coach doesn’t respond, remember that hundreds or thousands of responses can be difficult to filter through, so give them the benefit of the doubt if you continue to receive letters, questionnaires, and camp invites.


3 - Conduct Player Evaluations


At this stage of the recruiting process, coaches begin to rank their recruits in a list of top prospects. To do so effectively, college coaches will perform in-depth evaluations of recruits athletic abilities, academic standing, and character traits.


Coaches will begin to make contact with athletes, as well as their High School and Club coaches for evaluations & recommendations. They will attend tournaments, showcases, and big games where recruits will be competing, to provide accurate evaluations. Some programs will invite recruits to their own camps to be evaluated. Official and Unofficial visits will be taken, and coaches will be able to make a solid list of top prospects.


After a thorough evaluation stage, coaches will have a ranked list of 20 to 25 (200 to 300 for larger programs) athletes.


RECRUIT TIP: Be proactive in this stage, contact coaches with evaluation materials. Send coaches your updated athletic stats, academic progress, and highlight videos of your recent game footage. Ask your High School or club coaches to reach out to college coaches and give recommendations. Let coaches know that you plan to make an official or unofficial visit and arrange a date that works for everyone involved.



4 - Make Verbal Offers


With lists narrowed down to 20 to 25 (200 to 300 for larger programs) athletes, coaches will begin offering scholarships to their top ranked prospects. Coaches aren’t guaranteed to receive commitments from everyone on the top of their list, so they will work their way down the list until they have filled their available roster spots. The final recruiting class can range from 2 to 30 athletes, depending on the sport and program size.


VERBAL OFFERS EXPLAINED

Verbal offers are non-binding agreements. These can be given at any time or any age. They can also be rescinded at any time or age as well. If you receive a verbal offer early in the recruiting process (Freshman or Sophomore year in High School), it is recommended that you thank the coach for the opportunity and remain uncommitted. Offers become official scholarships once a recruit signs their National Letter of Intent, which happens during their senior year of High School.


RECRUIT TIP: At this stage in the recruiting process, athletes will have in-depth conversations with coaches about offers, scholarships, and financial aid options. Make sure to discuss your college options and preferences with your family to ensure you are prepared to commit when the time comes.




5 - Sign Athletes & Complete Academic Eligibility


The last stage of the recruiting process is the recruit signing their Letter of Intent and meeting eligibility requirements by taking the necessary courses and receiving the required GPA to compete in college athletics.





Every year there are athletes who sign their Letter of Intent, but finish their senior year of High School ineligible to compete at the collegiate level. This usually means that the athlete’s scholarship is no longer available and they will need to compete at a Junior College for a year or two to gain academic eligibility. The coach will have to return to their prospect list and find an athlete to replace the ineligible recruit. Coaches will look for an athlete that plays the same position, is interested in their program, and academically eligible.


NEXT STEPS

Now that you understand the stages involved, you should Schedule a Free Assessment to begin your recruiting process.

If you have already begun the recruiting process, be sure to increase your efforts through our Recruitment Services.