I recently received a question from a parent about online recruiting websites. The question was:
How can joining an “online database” website can enhance my son’s chances in the recruiting process?
I think we all know the kind of website this parent is referring to… there are many of them out there. Students sign up, create an online resume using a template, fill out some preferences for their ideal college program, and then the site algorithm generates a list of potential schools of interest. Students can even contact coaches directly from the website.
From my experience, online recruiting services don't add anything that students can't do on their own. And actually, they can detract. Directly reaching out to coaches via email is often the best approach -- much more personal than reaching out through an online database, and definitely more effective than simply building a profile and hoping coaches find you. Most kids need to be proactive to get on a coach's radar. And coaches love to hear directly from kids (rather than their parents or coaches). When kids lead the outreach and communication, they demonstrate genuine interest, maturity, and self-advocacy, all of which are things that coaches want in their team members. It's also a great opportunity for kids to develop a lot of important personal skills.
The way online recruiting services can add value is by providing kids with a basic resume template and way to reach out to coaches. It's a kind of "entry into the recruiting process", which can be helpful, as this is an overwhelming process and it's hard to know where to start. But there's so much more to it after that.
I work with kids on navigating the whole process -- everything from writing a well-crafted introductory email and concise resume, managing the ongoing communication with coaches (what information to share when, and how to market yourself with humility), preparing for phone calls and visits, building a strong tournament schedule, planning for the SAT, to asking coaches for honest feedback and making a well-informed decision based on your options and goals. Knowing their goals and what they really want is often the hardest part of this process for kids, which is another reason why it can be helpful to have someone helping kids and parents through this process. What I do is much more personal and in-depth than what most online databases offer.
When I work with students, advising takes place via video conference every 2-3 weeks. I meet directly with the student to help him/her feel comfortable and confident moving through the recruiting process and exploring options. I'm not a scout who markets kids to coaches; I'm an advisor who helps kids get more out of their recruiting and college selection process.
Unofficial visits occur anytime a PSA visits a college campus at his or her own expense. Some visits might include a meeting with a coach or current team member, an overnight stay, and/or attending a class and/or practice. A prospect can make as many unofficial visits as he or she desires.
Official visits can only occur after the start of a PSA’s senior year and can be paid for by the college. They usually include an overnight stay, attending a class and practice, and meeting with the coach. Official visits are limited to 48 hours and a prospect cannot take more than five official visits, with a maximum of one visit per institution.
Spending time on campus, whether in a formal or informal setting, is the best way to get a sense of a school. Even if you visit schools are you aren’t seriously interested in, you will likely learn a lot about what general qualities you do or don’t like.
Most PSAs begin visiting campuses during their sophomore or junior year. You should let a coach know when you plan to visit a school and, if appropriate, ask to meet and attend a class or meet with a team member. It never hurts to ask, just be sure to ask politely (see previous post!).
Some NCAA rules might make it difficult to arrange for a meeting. For example, coaches are not allowed to communicate via email (beyond explaining the rules) with PSAs prior to the start of their junior year. However, the PSA can call coaches and coaches are allowed to talk on the phone provided the call was initiated by the PSA.
The official visit is really the best opportunity to spend time on campus. As a senior in high school, you will have a much better sense of what you are looking for in a school and you will be able to connect with your peers on campus in a different way than you would on an unofficial visit as a sophomore or junior. A lot of PSAs make commitments before their senior year, which doesn’t allow them to use the official visit as part of the decision-making process. If possible, try to wait until after your official visit to make your final decision.