What approach should you take during the athletic recruiting process while playing at a small high school? Find out what a parent says – Part 2

Small School Parent Talks Football Recruiting - Part 2As 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.  Click here to see part one.

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 second portion of the article, this parent talked about how they tracked recruiting process, why he didn’t try going Division I, highlight tapes, and more.

Q? How did your family keep track of the recruiting process and what schools were in contact? A. I put together a database of 28 colleges ranging from DII to major DI colleges within a 12 hour radius. Information such as coaches names, position coaches, addresses, and phone numbers. I kept this information on a laptop so I could update any contact information. I also was able to keep track of who had been sent film and who needed film. We kept mail if it was hand signed by a coach with whom we had a relationship with that had information about upcoming games or recruiting. If it wasn’t hand signed, after awhile we just threw those away…junk mail! After the initial junior film had been sent out and reviewed, we followed up with phone calls to find out which schools were genuinely interested. In the beginning, there was Iowa St., Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Kansas St., Nebraska, Northern Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Dakota St., Nebraska Omaha, Missouri Western St., Western Illinois, Northern Illinois, and a host of smaller DII schools. The key was to have as many options as possible, because we knew by fall this list would narrow down quite a bit, and were hoping 6-10 would still be in the mix.

Q? Did your son go to many camps? How many did he get invited to? A. He did not get invited to any camps. Most camps do not require any invitation, just an application accompanied by the required fees. I’ve estimated we spent or maybe I should say invested over $1000.00 during the summer. We did go to 8 schools during the summer, 5 were camps and 3 were unofficial visits. This is a very important thing to do! It gives you the opportunity to meet the coaches in person, while getting some excellent instruction at the same time! It gives coaches a chance to get a first hand look at your son to get a true idea of how they move, how fast or quick they are. Things that are harder to measure from just film, an in person evaluation can be a make or break situation. In my son’s case, UNO had coaches working at the Iowa State camp, and that is where they first had a chance to see him in person. Many Division II coaching staffs work at the large state school camps to look for prospects!

Q? Your son decided to go the Division II route. Did he have thoughts of trying to play Division I football? A. Of course most if not all kids want to play at the highest level possible, Division I. It appears glamorous to be on television and be in the spotlight. My son wanted to play at a Division I level, especially since he had early interest from Iowa St., Wyoming, and Nebraska. He entertained the idea of talking about walking on, however, as a parent, I tried to keep the focus on playing at the highest level possible, but on scholarship. In today’s age, if a student can graduate owing $10,000 or less after 4-5 years, they are way ahead of the curve. I know of a couple of kids that have walked on at major Division I programs and have worked their butt off, however, they still haven’t seen the field after 3 years of hard work. Plus they are getting a very minimal scholarship or none at all. My son figured he would have a better college experience going to a DII program in a very competitive conference and have a realistic chance of playing for a national championship and getting a chance to PLAY and pay little out of pocket.

Q? How many highlight tapes did you send? A. In the spring during my son’s junior year we sent out 28 tapes to schools. You need to call to make sure the right person gets them. Coaches look at hundreds of kids each year, you want to make sure your film gets looked at. By calling and following up, you greatly increase your chance of getting your film evaluated, which is what you want. The film will speak for itself, different coaches will see the same film differently.

Q? How important were the highlight tapes during the recruiting process? A. Having a highlight tape is probably THE most important thing a prospective recruit can do for themselves. It is good to have a highlight tape, usually 7-10 minutes in length, along with 2 COMPLETE game films for in depth evaluation. I look at the highlight tape as the cover letter and introduction, and the complete game tape as the resume. Most schools rely solely on junior/senior game film as the means for their evaluation process, and in determining who will get a scholarship and who will not.

Q? Talk a little bit about official visits and what you did there as a parent? A. As a parent, you want to talk to as many coaches, players, student ambassadors, and anyone else you can get information from. While your son is soaking everything in, they are obviously the focal point of the Official Visit, and a lot of information goes by and they don’t even realize it. My job as a parent was to be more of an interested observer, and really listen to anyone I could talk to and ask questions. It helped in discussing the various visits with my son and evaluating each one to help in determining if a particular school was the best overall fit.

Q? Did any coaches lie to you during the recruiting process? A. While some things told to us may have been overstated or embellished to sound the best at times, I believe the coaches we dealt with were very professional, straight forward, and honest.

Q? If you had to do the recruiting process all over again, would you change anything? A. I believe everything we did was the best way for us. We worked extremely hard, and were very diligent about everything we did. You have to be realistic about your expectations, because most kids will not play at a major Division I program on a scholarship. The sooner you can establish whether that is the case or not will allow you to focus your time, money, and energy into the most probable college programs that your son can have a chance to be successful at. If I would have done anything differently, I might have started the process on our end during my son’s sophomore year, instead of his junior year.

Q? Do you have any advice for parents that will be reading this? A. Yes. First of all be REALISTIC about the abilities of your son. In high school, a player can play linebacker at 5’10” 175 lbs. However, to play linebacker at that size at a scholarship level, is not a realistic expectation. College coaches really stress speed and explosiveness when evaluating players. They are less impressed with a 350 lb bench press than a kid who can run a 4.5 40 yard dash and has a 36” vertical jump. College coaches can help gain strength and help kids gain weight, but it is more difficult to coach speed and explosiveness.

Make sure you encourage your student athlete to take care of business in the classroom. Take the ACT test 3-4 times to try to get the highest scores possible. This can trigger discounted tuition rates or scholarships! Usually one of the first questions a coach would ask me after “what position does he play?”, is “what kind of grades does your son have?”

Strong academics and character are two extremely important factors coaches are looking for; it can make the difference whether they choose your son or someone else for the same scholarship!

If you can keep and open mind and not have any preconceived ideas about where you want your son to play, the chances of playing at a scholarship level will be better if you don’t limit yourself by favoritism, geography, or other personal preferences. We started out with 28 schools ranging from small DII to major DI schools. The highlight film and game film will not lie. Your son can only do what he can do. Recruiting is not an exact science by any means, but if you believe your son truly has the ability to play DII or higher, whatever his position, do yourself and your son a favor. Roll up your sleeves and get to work on making your son a known player to as many coaches and schools as possible. It can be a really educational experience and you can have a lot of fun along the way. If nothing else, this experience can help make your relationship with your son that much stronger. Good luck and happy hunting!

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