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My Recruiting Tips

I recently shared the exciting news that my son had committed to play baseball in college and I had a lot of sports moms message me asking for tips for the recruiting process. While I am by no means an expert on recruiting, I learned a lot along the way and there are several things I wish we had known before we got started. 

I will also clarify that if your child is the kind of star player that the top D1 schools are fighting for then these tips probably won’t be needed. But the truth of the matter is, most athletes are competing for their place on a college field. Worse, many great players get missed because of the way they approach the process.

I have also had a few people ask how much experience my son had because their kid started late but is talented. My son started baseball in 6th grade at his small private school that played a handful of games each spring. He never played T ball or little league. His 7th grade year was Covid so no baseball. In 8th grade he played on his school team again and then played Babe Ruth that summer and made it to the All-Star team. 9th grade he played on his small school team again and played junior Legion that summer. In 10th grade he played fall Babe Ruth, his small school team in the spring, and then senior Legion that summer. It was during spring of 10th grade that he really started to want to pursue college ball. He decided to transfer to public school in 11th grade in order to play more competitive baseball. Fall of 11th grade he played on a travel team of area high school kids but it was just a 4 weekend season. Other than that, he never played travel ball. The reason I am saying that is because many people think they have to play travel to go on to the next level. That wasn’t our experience. He then played public high school baseball in the spring of his junior year.

Image of baseball field at Sewanee
Baseball field at Sewanee

With that being said, here is how we started the process. While he was in 10th grade, we got him registered with the NCAA for eligibility. Shortly after that we learned about an organization called NCSA. While you can navigate the process without it, it did help us since we knew nothing about it and his small private school was not equipped for the process either. NCSA is a platform where your child builds a profile, has their transcript and test scores, videos and stats, etc. This allows coaches to search and filter looking for kids to fill the spots they need. NCSA also “matches” you to schools based on specifications you put in, notifies you of roster openings and things like that. 

The biggest thing I wish I had known as his sophomore year was coming to a close and we were beginning this process was how to target schools. Some kids will be fine playing anywhere that wants them. But the majority of kids (and parents) want to land at a school that is aligned with their intended major and what they overall want in a school (size, location, etc). My son said early on that he wanted to play baseball in college but only at a school he would love to go to without baseball. Also, if your child does well academically there is “high academic” recruiting you can target as well. 

That first summer (rising junior) we attended two prospect camps. One was a stand alone camp at Washington and Lee. This camp had about 25-30 kids, rising juniors and seniors. The coaches were able to evaluate skills, get to know the kids, etc. The next camp we did was a high academic prospect camp at William and Mary. This camp had significantly more kids, I would estimate around 75 and there were coaches there from 15-20 academically competitive schools. The thing about the high academic camps is that the coaches know a kid they are interested in should be able to get into the school. Coaches don’t want to waste their time pursuing a kid that can’t get in academically.

During early spring of junior year we started looking at camps to attend that summer. We planned to do the one at Washington & Lee again as well as William & Mary. We also added a large high academic camp in Richmond that would have about 30 coaches attending. In May, he got more aggressive sending emails to coaches (more on that later) with updated videos. We were originally trying to keep the school list to places that could be a “weekend” drive but in May he started receiving correspondence from coaches in Ohio and Pennsylvania. While they were fantastic schools they weren’t where he wanted to be. We looked at how far away those schools were and decided to revise our search in NCSA with a bigger radius but staying in the southeast. Several additional schools came up and we did some homework on them and began emailing those schools. One of which happened to end up being where he committed. 

Tip #1: Do your homework on schools you would want to attend. Divide them either by preference, geographically, etc. Don’t just make a list of 5 schools, shoot for 15-20 and create a target list for your campaign. It is easier to dwindle down the list than try to reinvent it.

About those emails. You have to do them and you have to be persistent and consistent. The good thing about NCSA is you know if the coach opened your email and you know if they looked at your profile. We found that short and sweet emails with pertinent info worked well. Include something personal about the school in the email. For example, if you are interested in Finance and they have a fantastic program, mention that. Let them know you have done your homework on the school. Including a video link is also helpful. We created videos with a variation of content, games, plays, etc. You can post the video to You Tube as private and then whomever you share the link with can view that video. A lot of times the reply you would get to an email (if you got one) was an invite to their camp (more on those in just a minute). You have to remember that these coaches get A LOT of emails. 

Tip #2: Create a Google doc where you write your email and then cut and paste that email adding in the coach’s personalized name, etc. This saves a ton of time. Create a spreadsheet or log so you can track who you have sent emails to, when you sent them, what was the response etc. You will target a lot of coaches initially and it can be hard to keep up with. 

Back to the camps. There are a lot of showcase and prospect camps. Some of them are huge with hundreds of kids and dozens of coaches. If you attend camps like this, have dialogue going with coaches that will be there in advance. You may be a stand out athlete but they won’t be looking for you otherwise. We found the stand alone prospect camps to be the better avenue. These camps are at the school so you are able to tour the school at the same time. These camps are smaller with usually less than 50 kids and all of the coaching staff is in attendance so you have a much likelier chance to stand out. We repeatedly heard from coaches at these stand alone camps that they did the majority of their recruiting from those camps because if you make the effort to come to the school then you are making a statement about your interest in the school. 

Tip #3: Attend stand alone camps at your most desired schools. Email the coaches and get dialogue going before you arrive. 

At this point you are probably thinking, how much is all of this going to cost? The large showcase style camps are sometimes over $1,000 just to attend before you even factor in travel. The stand alone camps are generally about $250. While they are cheaper you are also only getting in front of one school. If you don’t have the time to attend a lot of stand alone camps and you go to a large one, make sure it has several target schools and you get the dialogue going in advance.

Tip #4: Make a plan for how much travel you have time for and how much you can spend. That will dictate the type of camps you attend and the number of them.

Do grades matter? Yes. As I mentioned above, if your child is doing high academic recruiting they matter greatly. A coach doesn’t want to waste his time on a potential recruit that the admissions office isn’t going to give the green light to or will be a problem academically once they get to college. Coaches have enough on their plate and they don’t want a player that has a high likelihood of being ineligible to play due to grades. Plus, while D1 schools can offer large athletic scholarships, D2 is more limited and D3 does not give athletic scholarships. But good grades and high test scores can get you merit and academic scholarships. You want to create every opportunity you can so keep the grades up, take a challenging course load, and prepare for standardized tests. Many schools will do a “pre-read” on your academic qualifications and you don’t want this to hinder the coach’s ability to make you an offer.

Tip #5: Make good grades, do well on tests, and take a competitive workload so that you have the advantage over another recruit in the admissions process.

Lastly, the portal. If you watched the College World Series you probably heard a lot about the portal and a lot of talk about transfers. That landscape has already changed greatly in the year we were in this process. We attended some stand alone camps where the high school kids were competing with 20 year old college transfers that had entered the portal. When a college coach loses a junior in the portal then he needs to replace that player with another at that level, not one that needs a few years to develop. That being said, if your kid is a D1 athlete or aspires to be, don’t rule out D2 or D3 to get playing time your freshman and sophomore year, prove yourself as a college athlete, and then enter the portal yourself. While the portal is making things different and harder for the high school kids, you might as well use it to your advantage when you can. 

Tip #6: Know how active your target schools are in pulling in transfers from the portal versus filling roster spots with high school recruits. Likewise, know how you can use the portal to advance your athletic career later down the road. 

These tips are just a summation of what we learned along the way and I definitely wish we had been told this information before we began navigating the process all on our own. It is time consuming and can be stressful. The better you plan and the earlier you get started, the easier it will go. I feel like we were late to the party getting started but we stayed consistent and persistent. We focused on finding the school that was the right fit but also came with a baseball opportunity. 

Your child is their best advocate. They need to be coachable and respectful. They need to exhibit great character and be a good teammate. They need to have self control and lose gracefully. 


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