Am I being recruited? It’s a fair question.
If only we had some Jedi mind trick we could use to figure out if that dream college really wants us (or at least where we stand among the competition)…
After all, there’s a lot at stake.
Parents put up good money and spend hours of time helping their student-athlete get into a good club program, driving them to and from tournaments, perhaps a training and physical conditioning program, and of course, helping to support them in school.
Athletes spend hours of time in the gym working on their skills, developing their mental game, and working hard in the classroom, while navigating all that goes along with being a teenager in today’s world, at times feeling the huge pressure that it all can bring.
All in hopes of that payoff: Landing a spot on a college team.
As soon as you start to see a few signs that a school may be looking at you, the natural tendency is to wanna shout from the rooftops,
“Woohoo, _____ (insert dream school name) wants me! They really want me!”
Not. So. Fast.
If you ARE getting signs of being recruited, yes, that is a big deal; HOWEVER, you need to be realistic enough to know how to gauge those signs, to know just how intently they are pursuing you.
The College Recruiting Funnel
Before you can really tell, you should know about a thing called the “recruiting funnel”. It’s a metaphor to represent the different stages a potential college athlete will go through on his/her way to signing their National Letter of Intent (NLI). Basically, as you make your way down the funnel, you get closer and closer to sealing the deal.
It starts with a coach evaluating you, it ends with an offer, but the middle is where it gets a little squiggly.
If a coach likes your potential, he or she may or may not:
- Ask your high school or club coach about you as a player/student/person, etc. and extend a message to you (they aren’t allowed to contact you directly until September 1 of your junior year in high school)
- Relay that he’d like to see more of you, perhaps through a highlight video (you should definitely be ready with video footage to send out)
- Contact you through email by phone
- Schedule an unofficial and/or official visit to the campus
- Extend an offer if all the other pieces are feeling like a good fit.
Unfortunately, the recruiting funnel doesn’t always travel in a straight line and work like a real funnel. That’s why it can get a little confusing for recruits sometimes. This is because there are MANY other athletes traveling along the SAME FUNNEL, and coaches, if they’re smart, will cover their bases.
They have their eyes on their definite top tier players, and they have others who are in their “back pocket”. They do keep tabs on all of them, but like I said, just remember you are one of many.
The reality is, coaches work off of a list of several recruits (it can be 10 or 20 or 100) that they are evaluating for each position. Again, if we had those Jedi mind tricks and could just get our hands on that list…
Most times, you have no idea (especially at the beginning) how far up or down that list your name might be.
Unless you know some of the signs.
There are signs you can look for, to help you differentiate whether you’re being noticed, evaluated, or really being recruited (there’s a handy pdf of this checklist on the bottom of this post):
You’ve been NOTICED and might be being EVALUATED if…
- You receive a letter from an admissions office (this, of course, could be totally unrelated to volleyball)
- You’re playing at a tournament and see a coach/coaches watching you/your team
- A college coach talks to your club/high school coach about you
- A college coach asks for your SAT scores/grades, etc.
- You or your current coach get an email/letter/text that says the college will be “keeping up with”, “following”, or “evaluating” you
- You receive a letter from the athletics office (especially a form letter or generic xerox of a news article with an envelope signed by what looks like a student clerk)
- You receive the team’s media guide (you’re getting closer though, especially for smaller schools – postage costs money!)
- You receive a response to an email you sent (good job if you do get this – you are definitely now on their radar!)
- You are invited to a camp (this has different levels, and could mean you’re getting closer)
You are likely being RECRUITED if…
- You receive regular or personalized email and/or phone responses
- You receive a handwritten letter or card from the coach or assistant
- A college coach comes to your practice or game specifically to see you play (coaches are extremely busy, and this says a lot)
- You’ve been asked to go on an official visit to the school – an unofficial visit is good, too, but an “official” means now you’re really separating yourself from the pack (you can only do a total of 5 official visits and only one per school, so this is a strong sign)!
- You are being extended an offer (scholarship or not) to become a member of the team!
As you can see, there are several nuances, and each coach is different, so even these lists are not an exact science. Really, the best way to really know where you stand is to ask. Most coaches are honest and will tell you at least where along the range you are (and that’s not to say that’s necessarily where you’ll stay).
Download a PDF of the “Am I Being Recruited” checklist.
Click the image here:
Every athlete starts off at the same place – trying to get seen. Once you’ve accomplished that and you know you are at least on their radar, you need to understand where you stand, so that you can help the process along and eventually make your way through that funnel to get your offer.
If you are being NOTICED, that’s nothing to scoff at. If you are being RECRUITED, even better! Just remember that you are not the only one, and nothing is a guarantee, so don’t think if you are getting some communication that you can just sit back and take your foot off the gas pedal. Even with all these signs and the fact that you are making your way through “the funnel”, the bottom line is nothing is a done deal until the deal is done – that is, until you’ve signed your NLI.
Until that day arrives, continue to work hard, keep your options open, and be proactive in getting yourself connected with your potential schools. The time to get started on this is now.
To your success,