College coaches may confuse parents during the athletic recruiting process but what they are looking for can be boiled down to a few simple things. They may seem rather mundane but have these five attributes can be the difference from you playing at Auburn or the local junior college. It could make or break your chances are a variety of schools.
While the attributes that college coaches are looking for do vary by sport (no reason to have a 7-foot wrestler), there is no doubt in my mind that college coaches are looking for a lot of the same things in the athletes that they recruit. And if you are good enough to receive a scholarship at any level, then these coaches have faith in you with possibly all five areas. Here are what I feel are the five biggest things that college coaches are looking for in potential recruits:
It doesn’t matter what level or what sport but the number one thing that a college coach looks for in a potential athlete is their ability in that sport. College coaches are getting paid thousands and sometimes millions of dollars for their job and they must recruit the best athletes they can to remain in that position. There is no doubt that this ability trumps every other thing on this list. Why do you think people with question character and bad grades still end up at some of the best schools in the country? It is because they can flat out play and have what it takes to be successful at that level. Many college coaches are often willing to take a risk on an athlete if they can play.
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Character is something that can make or break your chance to receive a college scholarship. When college coaches are recruiting athletes, they are like private investigators while trying to find out as much information as possible about potential recruit. The coach will talk to the high school coach, any other coaches that they have, assistant coaches, teachers, administrators, and people in the community to get a feel for what type of person you are. If you are a trouble maker, that honestly does hurt your chances of being a scholarship athlete. The coach does not want to recruit that trouble to their school so it may be something that they eventually look away from. The coaches want to be able to recruit high quality kids make it easy for them to sleep at night. They would prefer not to worry about who is in trouble at 3 AM on a Saturday night. But as shown by many Division I schools, ability does trump character.
3.) Work Ethic
A good story I heard once regarding work ethic came from a Division I basketball coach. We were talking about why they offered a certain athlete a scholarship. This basketball player was from about as small of a school as they come but he was a talented and had some major size. The college coach knew he was good but what was the tipping point to offer the scholarship? It was when talking with people around the school, he heard that the athlete came in every morning at 5 AM to lift weights. As a high school athlete with other priorities in your life, coming in every day that early really shows something about the type of person you are and how bad you want to succeed. Who wouldn’t have wanted to get an extra hour of sleep and not worry about being sore the next day? That work ethic helped this player be a three year starter at the school and eventually named All Conference in the Big 12. Not bad considering his level of high school was the smallest in a state that is not considered a basketball powerhouse.
It may not be fair for some athletes out there who have an outstanding ability in their sport, great character, and work harder than anyone around. But if you don’t have the size that college coaches are looking for, it may be tough to get a scholarship offer. Again, you can be strong with #1, #2, and #3, but if you are a 6-foot-3 center, chances are that your college options will be extremely limited, especially at the scholarship level. For the most part, you can’t control size (at least not height) so it is a difficult thing to talk about. But it is definitely something that could hinder you in the recruiting process, regardless of the sport that you play.
Grades are an essential factor in the college game, especially in the last few years with scholarships being taken away if the graduation rate slips to a certain percentage for schools. The pay of college coaches are sometimes tied in to the graduation rate so that means it is even more important when it is affecting the bottom line. Grades in my opinion are vital during the recruiting process. I say this because if your grades are good, a lot more doors will open for you. If they are bad, more doors will shut for you than anything. Having strong grades (By this, I do mean GPA as well as ACT/SAT) can help you get academic scholarships that will pay for your education. While it doesn’t always mean it, having good grades does imply at times that you have strong character. And that is another essential factor in what college coaches will be looking for at the next level.
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