The year was 2008.
I found myself having a shoe box full of letters from prospective Universities to be a part of their volleyball programs. What the heck do I do with this? Believe it or not, but I had no cell phone, nor did I have my own computer. Technology eh? I had no highlight tapes, but I had a family friend able to make some dvd’s (lols) of me playing to send out. Writing this just makes me laugh at how far technology has come in such a short time.
Okay, so I was lucky. The teams were coming to me in the masses. My name was out there, and I found myself on the radar. But, what about if that wasn’t the situation?
Late last year many of you will probably remember that it was National Signing Day. A pretty big deal for high school athletes who have made the decision of where they will be investing in their future as a student athlete. Or for those who haven't committed to any schools yet, maybe it brings on a little bit of anxiety and stress.
Whatever it brings you or your parents I want to take a little bit of time to talk about recruitment.
Well over the last year I’ve spoken individually and to classrooms of athletes and parents about the recruitment process, and my own personal views. I’ve listened to the concerns and questions of those going through the process when they have no idea where to start. I’ve had personal meetings to help clarify some best practices as an athlete, and I want to do my best to provide a helpful hand in what can be such a monumental part of an athletes transition to the next phase of their game and their life.
Now, you guys might remember the post I wrote about the reasons why I chose to stay in Canada. I 100% still stand by my decision to do so and the words that I wrote, so don’t worry I won't promote the Canadian dream to you again. I intend for this to give a bit of guidance on the do’s, don’ts, best practices, and keys to navigating the world of college/university recruitment and being seen.
And just to clarify this is my personal stance, so by no means do you need to take my advice. But, I think it’s worthwhile to learn from as many people as you can and take what you need out of every discussion. I’m just trying to help add to your knowledge, and or, education base on this topic based on my experience.
The easiest way to show your skill and talent as an athlete. You can upload a video to youtube and send it off to prospective coaches, and share with your your friends and family. But before you get started on making that tape here’s a few things to keep in mind.
Your highlight tape should be less than 5 minutes, coaches don’t have all day to watch you play as they are continually planning practices, scouting opponents and managing their current roster of players.
Music should not be detracting from what’s going on in the film - no profanity or explicit lyrics, BIG no-no. The other thing when making a highlight tape to keep in mind is the length of each clip. I think this is so important and often missed in the highlight tapes of athletes that I am seeing today. Ideally it would be more than just the action that your making (highlight). Include the build up whether that’s coming from serve or the first ball passed etc. You need to give some context to your play not just the final result.
Last, have a full game tape as well. Highlight tapes are great, but if a coach cannot see you play in person they will have a better chance to evaluate you in a game situation. We want to see you at your best, your worst, how you recover, and potential intangibles that show how you are as a teammate on the court - something that a highlight reel just won't illustrate.
Not sure how to make one? Here's a video to help you get started. Youtube will be your best friend to walk you through it.
Third party recruitment websites.
You know, the ones you have to pay for. A hub to build your recruitment resume. Stay away. In my opinion these are just money grabs, and ultimately won’t do very much for you as an athlete. Recruitment is more about making a name for yourself, and if you are an unheard of name then it’s up to you to do the work, not these websites. Educate yourselves, make your own connections, and don't sign up for one of those just because everyone else is doing it.
Put yourself out there by attending provincial team tryouts, summer camps, University club games, coaches symposiums. There are so many avenues where you can gain exposure other than the internet.
Make some lists.
I’m talking lists of top 5 schools you wish to attend. Assess your own skill to see where you think you would fit in best (Div. 1, Div. 2, USports), and if you’re not sure ask the opinion of your current coach. Add the pros and cons of each school to your list. Where you see yourself academically, because you may be an athlete, but you will be a student first and many programs put high emphasis on academics.
Once you’ve made your list determine what you need to do to set yourself up to get to those schools. I’m talking SAT’s, having all the courses needed to get into prospective academic programs within the school, etc. Check all those boxes off to set yourself up for success in the recruitment process.
I think this may be the biggest thing that a lot of athletes miss out on. You’ve made your list of top schools, now reach out to the head coaches or assistant coaches of those programs to share your interest. There is nothing preventing you from being able to do this. There are rules in place for coaches being able to contact you, and though I’m not well versed in that aspect I know that there is nothing against contacting a coach first.
This step is even more important if you are not a high profile athlete that is already on the radar of coaches. Maybe you’re still young and you know that coach is running a summer camp - why not attend? Put your best foot forward in making sure that coach knows your interest level. It won’t always pan out, but there is nothing against trying. Being vulnerable here is okay.
Also, this point of first contact should be coming from the ATHLETE not the parents. I’m super shy, so I’m pretty sure I made my mom do a lot of the contacting coaches for me, and if there’s anything I would have done over again it would be taking more control and showing more initiative in determining my future.
(But thanks mom for helping me reach my dreams as a clueless kid)
This is the last point that I want to make. Have you ever heard of stories where athletes had their scholarships taken away because of something they did on social media? It’s a real thing. We live in a world now that we have more access to each other, more ways to share, like and post than ever before. Everything is so easily accessible, and for this reason it is a lot easier to make poor judgement decisions that the whole world is able to see.
Do yourself a favour. Make your profiles private. If your profile is public, don’t post anything inappropriate - profanity, nudity, racist remarks, inappropriate jokes. As someone who is being recruited to a program you will be a public figure representing yourself, your family, and your school at all times. Share yourself in the best light, always.
Recruitment is such an exciting time for both athletes, and parents (and coaches too). Though it can be stressful to make decisions, I hope you take the time to educate yourself through the process about what you can do as an athlete to make your dreams a reality.
And though these tips will help (at least I think so) don't forget that you have to put in the work in order to get there first. So I'll leave you with the words of the GOAT.
What did I miss?
Any coaches reading this, what would you like to see from your players? Athletes do you have any questions on being recruited? And parents if you have any further questions or comments please feel free to share below!