What approach should you take during the athletic recruiting process while playing at a small high school? Find out what a parent says – Part 1

Small School Parent Talks Football Recruiting - Part 1As we have done in the past before, Recruiting-101 has had a chance to ask parents questions about the recruiting process who just went through it. These parents were in the same exact stages as those reading early on so they are here to help you.

In this article, we had a chance to get answers about being a small school athlete trying to earn a scholarship. He is from the Midwest and ended up signing his National Letter of Intent to a very good Division II program. In this first portion of the article, this parent talked about how the recruiting process was, his experience prior, the stress, and being at a smaller school.

Q? Describe the recruiting process that your son went through? A. Parents and student-athletes have to understand that regardless of the sport involved, receiving recruiting interest from colleges can take as much effort behind the scenes than it does from the playing field, court, or other sports arenas. I’ll touch base in more depth on this subject in a later question. The process usually starts during the student-athlete’s junior year, sometimes as early as their freshman year, depending on the sport involved and at what level your son/daughter could be expected to play at. In our case, letters from the major in-state schools started coming in during the fall during his sophomore year, maybe one every month.

As the junior year progressed, it started out as a letter once every 2 weeks, and then by spring it was a letter a week. I’m not saying one letter total, I’m saying one letter per school, so some days we would receive anywhere from 2-6 letters per day 3-4 times a week. Let me say one thing about receiving letters, that’s all that they are, just because you are getting mail, doesn’t mean you are getting recruited! To say an athlete is being actively recruited means there should be personal contacts initiated by coaches in person or by phone. During the spring of my son’s junior year, we put together a highlight DVD that was sent out to schools during March, followed up by many phone calls to the coaches they were sent to. We did not send film unless they asked for it. Everyone has only so much time and money, don’t waste either one.

During the month of May is when an athlete will know what schools are really RECRUITING them. For football, the month of May is the first opportunity for colleges to make personal contact with student -athletes at school. If you don’t have any schools stopping by, you need to step up your efforts to get noticed. In our case, after the spring film was sent out, 4-5 schools, Division I through Division II level had stopped at the school. Now we had a better idea where things stood as far as what level to target with our recruiting efforts. During the spring my son was invited to 3 colleges’ Junior Days, a recruiting event held in the spring traditionally, and can be used somewhat as a measuring tool to know again what schools are really looking at you. During the summer we attended as many camps as possible, we also took a couple of unofficial visits, to continue meeting as many coaches as possible.

The fall came extremely quick, and went by even quicker, and during the fall, coaches would start calling when NCAA rules would permit. Depending on what kind of season you’re having, the schools that stopped by in the spring will continue to stay in touch and you might even pick up a couple of new schools. The end of the season brings the busiest time, as the mailings drop off, but the phone calls pick up. Some nights one coach called, others 3-4 coaches called. Most calls were to stay in touch, keeping us in the loop with respect to sending in senior film, and keeping us informed of good things to come from their respective programs. After sending out senior film, again, only to the schools that want it, it came down to the nuts and bolts of this whole “process”. Which schools would call and bring my son in for an official visit.

These are visits where the host college can within NCAA rules, pay for lodging and meals, and if necessary transportation. We were invited for 5 official visits, opting to go on 4 visits. Luckily, my son was able to get a scholarship offer at every visit. This doesn’t always occur, you won’t know if you are going to be offered a scholarship until the end of the visit, when the athlete and parent(s) meet with the head coach. After the dust settles on the official visits, then it is time to evaluate those visits and decide which school is the best OVERALL fit. This can be very stressful, as the schools under consideration will call often, and a decision has to be made within a few weeks. This is not a 4-5 year decision, but a 40-50 year decision! Once a decision was figured out completely, my son gave a verbal commitment to sign a National Letter of Intent with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, a highly respected Division II program.

Q? Did you have any experience prior to this with recruiting? A. Although I am not a teacher, I do have a Coaching Certificate to coach interscholastic sports in the state of Iowa. I coached basketball for a couple of years, and had a 6’9” center that received quite a bit of interest from mid major DI programs and DII schools. He signed with Southwest Minnesota St. My older son was also looked at by smaller schools for basketball, but I learned from his experience, it takes a lot of hard work and effort to get noticed, unless you are in the top 10% of athletes in your respective sport.

Q? What would you say was the hardest part of the recruiting process? A. Three things come to mind. First, being told by a coach that your student-athlete is not being considered any longer as a prospect, especially when it is a school they really were hoping to get an offer from. The second was the deciding on which school to choose after receiving multiple offers. One day you could be leaning towards school A, the next day it would be school B. The third was telling the coaches you were not going to commit to their school, pretty much ending a relationship that had lasted for 6-12 months.

Q? As a parent going through it, how stressful was it? A. The entire process for the most part was fun, exciting, and enjoyable. I guess it is what you make of it. If you approach the recruiting process as a short term “hobby”, you are more likely to have a great experience. If you would look at recruiting as a nuisance, it probably will be negative. There really wasn’t much stress until probably mid January when you are right in the middle of the Official Visit time. The stress comes from hoping as a parent, you will be able to help your son make the best decision that will have a lasting positive impact on his life.

Q? Was it harder to get recruited at a smaller school? A. I would have to say being recruited at a smaller school would be more difficult by larger Division I colleges, because there has to be a greater degree of separation between the prospect and the rest of his peers on the field. For example, a running back better average about 10 yards/carry and run for 250+ yards a game in Class A. A running back can get attention for less yardage per carry and per game playing for a larger school due to the higher level of competition say Class 3A or 4A. Realistically, playing for a smaller school doesn’t mean you cannot be recruited, it is just you are looking more at Division I-AA at best and probably Division II. There is nothing wrong with being recruited at any scholarship level from Divison I thru Division II. Consider that about 1 in 130 high school football players get scholarship offers from major Division I schools, while about 75% of scholarship offers come from Division II and NAIA schools, and Junior Colleges.

Q? Did colleges first recruit your son, or did you help to recruit your son to the colleges? A. The major in state schools, Iowa, ISU, and UNI started sending letters during his sophomore year, however, probably 1/3 of the players in the state get the same form letters. As I said before, receiving generic form letters with a preprinted signature means you are getting more junk mail…PERIOD! It doesn’t mean your son is being recruited. So through our efforts of making highlight tapes, making phone calls, going to combines, camps and taking unofficial visits, we were successful by pushing our way through the masses and recruiting our son to the colleges! You have to promote yourself to colleges. The average recruiting budget for a football coach is $500.00. They cannot possibly find every prospect possible, so you have to help them find you!

Look for part two soon!

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