Tim Tebow really nails it here. At the end of the day, it is so much easier to get over a disappointment than a regret!
I recently wrote a guest blog for the National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA). The NCCGA is an amazing organization that helps promote golf and provides a number of different outlets for competition, particularly collegiate club golf. If you're thinking about playing golf in college but aren't sure if you want to play at the Varsity level, be sure to check out the resources that the NCCGA provides. Thanks so much to the NCCGA for inviting me to write a blog for them!
Here's a link to their website and the blog post I wrote -- 11 Tips for a Successful College Golf Recruiting Process.
For most kids, hearing that a college coach wants to watch a competition is filled with lots of emotions.
The initial reaction is one of excitement… “This is great! The coach must be really interested!” But then the nerves set in… “Oh no, what is the coach going to think when (s)he sees me play? What is (s)he looking for?” The nerves create fear, and fear leads to pressure… “I have to play well or the coach won’t want me.”
Yes, coaches want to see you play so that they can evaluate you. But they are looking at so much more than how many goals you score or birdies you make! My hope is that but shedding some light on what coaches are really looking for, you can stop worrying, move past the fear and play up to your full potential.
Here are five things coaches evaluate when they watch prospects play:
When I was coaching, I would almost rather see a prospect play poorly so that I could get a glimpse of his/her true character.
And finally, know that most coaches believe that seeing you play for only a few minutes or a few holes only provides a snapshot of your ability. Everything doesn’t ride on this one performance!
A lot of people wonder how to initiate contact with a coach and what they should say. The simple answer is that you should write an “intro email” to the head and assistant coaches.
What should you say in this intro email? Some of you may have heard of the concept of an “elevator pitch”. The intro email is your elevator pitch -- your simple, concise, sales pitch in which you introduce yourself with the goal of piquing the coach’s interest and opening the door for a much more in depth conversation. The intro email is NOT the time to tell your entire life story.
Coaches receive hundreds of emails. And sorting through all of those emails takes time. Long emails, no matter how great they are, can easily fall into the “too long, didn’t read” category. So your goal as a prospect is to provide coaches with your elevator pitch in an intro email, and then hope that the door opens for a much more in depth conversation as a result.
How do you attract a coach? Let the numbers speak for themselves. In your intro email, share your recent tournament results from the last year or two (and include ALL of your results -- not just the good ones -- in an easy to read format), as well as your GPA and scores from any SAT or ACT tests you have taken. Your intro email will be fairly data heavy, and that’s a good thing. Data is the best way to demonstrate your ability to a coach.
Finally, once you have written your intro email, you should draft the email to each coach individually. Here are a few final steps to make sure all of your details and personalization are correct:
Sometimes it can be hard to know where to find contact information for coaches. Here’s what I recommend:
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.
Most coaches receive hundreds of requests for in-person meetings each year. To be efficient with their time and yours, coaches limit in-person meetings to those with prospects they believe are strong candidates for their program. Figure out well ahead of time what you need to do to make yourself a strong candidate.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are asking to meet with a coach.
Do your research. Before requesting a meeting know the academic and athletic benchmarks the coach likes to see in a prospect. Provide the answers to the coaches’ questions before he or she has to ask. In short, make less work for the coach.
Be courteous - and acknowledge that you are asking for someone to take time out of their schedule. It’s refreshing when prospects have an honest sense of themselves and whether they qualify to meet. Saying something like, “I would love to meet with you in the future after I prove I am a strong candidate” goes a long way.
Provide plenty of advanced notice. If you are planning a visit to campus, contact the coach well in advance. Prior notice shows true interest in the school and program. It also demonstrates respect for other people’s time. Hearing from a prospect who is already on campus is less likely to be received well.
First impressions matter. Remember the cliche -- you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Prepare as you would for a job or admissions interview. You should look nice, shake hands, smile, and make eye contact. And then relax! The primary reason for meeting a coach is to get a sense of each other. Try your best to be yourself.
Be prepared. You researched the program initially. Now you need to dig deep. Ideally you will be able to share something and ask questions that show you know a lot about the coach and program. At the same time, think about what the coach will want to know about you. Coaches care about your interests and accomplishments. They also care about what you want. Be prepared to share your goals with the coach.
If you aren’t able to meet with the coach, you may want to visit anyway. Spending time on campus is the best way to get a sense of a school. Ideally, your visit will involve spending time interacting with current students. Your peers at college will have the most significant impact on your experience. Take a tour, attend an info session, and visit the athletic facilities on your own if permitted.
Knowing what you want is one of the most important, and often challenging, parts of the recruiting process. The classic quote from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland certainly applies here: if you don't know where you're going, any road will lead you there.
You need to know, or at least have a good sense, what you want to happen during your recruiting process. This doesn't necessarily mean that you need to know exactly where you want to go to school right away, but you should try to have an idea of what you want to accomplish during high school and within your sport. And you need to be sure that your motivations and preferences are driving the process, not those of the coach who is recruiting you.
So, all of the info above is helpful and good to keep in mind, but it doesn't actually help you with the how.
What can you do to help you identify what you want?
Start by asking yourself the following question: if I could choose, right now, what school to attend, and I knew that I would be granted admission and a spot on the team, what would I choose?
Of course there are a few caveats and provisions to keep in mind. You have to be somewhat realistic with yourself. If you're a second string football player in New England, saying that you want to play for Alabama doesn't mean that it is hands-down the right school for you. At least not if playing football in college is truly important to you. Similarly, if you struggle to maintain a 3.0 unweighted GPA, setting your sights on Yale might not be the best strategy.
However, there are several pieces of information that you might be able to draw out of the Alabama answer. Maybe this means you want to go to a large school, where athletic competitions are widely supported and attended. Maybe this means you like the idea of getting out of New England for college, experiencing a different part of the country.
As you can probably tell, the second level question is why was this school my answer? what about it do I find appealing?
Even if you haven' t visited many schools, the line of thinking outlined above is still helpful. Being honest with yourself is hard. It also gives you the best chance of attaining what you really want. You owe it to yourself to be honest and give yourself the best chance of getting what you really want.
It's much easier to get over a disappointment than a regret. Please do yourself a favor and don't leave yourself regretting not going after what you really want.
In the Recruiting Process...
Most college coaches prefer to work directly with the prospective student-athlete (PSA). There are several reasons that it is important for PSAs to be working directly with coaches rather than having their parents or coaches do it for them including:
In your work with PSACC…
We take a similar approach as college coaches. Our goal is to help PSAs learn about themselves throughout the recruiting process while maximizing their college options. In order to do that we need to work directly with the PSA. However we very much want parents to be included in some elements of the process.
Ideally, PSAs will feel comfortable sharing all of their work and progress with their parents, and ideally parents will be supportive of their child’s decisions. Many PSAs have close relationships with their parents, the people who first introduced them to sports, drove them to practices and competitions, and sometimes coached their teams. Parents are often a PSA’s most trusted advisor. We hope that PSAs will engage in open conversations with their parents, especially at the beginning and end of the process when they are making big decisions.
Parents, please let your child do the work throughout this process. Stepping in and “helping” will limit many valuable learning opportunities.
Your college selection process ideally includes creating great options and then making an informed decision on which is best for you. Knowing how standardized tests fit into this process is one effective way to maximize your options. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the standardized tests.
Should I take the ACT or the SAT? You can take either or, preferably, both. Since most colleges will count either your ACT OR your SAT score, it can only help you to take both tests. Check each school’s Admissions website to confirm the application requirements.
When should I take the tests? “Early and often” is perhaps the best answer. Students who wish to maximize their options will take the tests twice by the end of their junior year. To gain experience, some students consider taking the tests during their sophomore year. That said, there is plenty of time for testing during junior year. Retaking the tests in senior year can be an option. But waiting to start the test-taking process until senior year will limit options for recruited athletes since coaches often need to make recruiting decisions before or early in your senior year.
Why more than once? Colleges will often only count your best score. Additionally and importantly, most schools will “superscore” the SAT -- admissions will count the highest score from each section. Therefore, it can only help students to take the test multiple times. Note that some colleges do NOT superscore the ACT; only the SAT.
Other colleges are saying that I don’t have to retake the test. Why are you suggesting I should? Having higher scores can only help you gain admission to the best schools. Retaking the tests will expand your options. Which approach is in your best interest? Some coaches at schools with lower academic requirements are telling students not to retake the test, thereby limiting the prospects’ options so the prospects are more likely to choose their school.
Does practice help? Yes! Just like studying for any test in school, preparation and practice for the standardized tests can have a significant impact on your results. Similarly, the experience of taking the tests will usually make you more comfortable over time allowing you to improve your scores through familiarity with the process. There are many test preparation organizations and tutors available. Khan Academy offers a free version.
How early during junior year should I start testing? The SAT test is offered several times over the course of the academic year offering plenty of opportunities to fit with your schedule. Taking the tests for the first time during fall of junior year provides flexibility to retake the tests in the winter or spring. Keep in mind that you will want to take SAT II tests in May or June of your junior year.
What are SAT II’s? The SAT IIs are subject tests. Most schools strongly recommend or require that students take at least two SAT IIs. From a purely quantitative perspective, taking the SAT II’s can only help a student’s application.
What do you mean by “strongly recommend”? A few schools no longer require students to submit SAT II scores but expects that anyone with access to the tests will take them. The removal of ‘requirement’ allows exceptions for some international students.
When should I take the SAT II’s? Most students take SAT IIs in subjects they study during their sophomore or junior year of school. We encourage students to take these tests in May and/or June immediately after having studied that subject. Taking one or two of these at the end of your sophomore year can lighten the load during a hectic junior year.
Does it matter which subject tests I take? The subject tests are an opportunity to show colleges your strengths. Select the subjects you know best. Visit each school’s admissions website to determine if there are any restrictions or recommendations for which tests you should or shouldn’t take.
How do test scores factor into the recruiting process? A prospect’s academic profile impacts their ability to gain admission. Test scores are a key component and are needed as early as possible in the process in order to avoid wasting time if gaining admission is unrealistic.
The question should actually be phrased, “who is a PSA?”
This new company gets its name from a term created and defined by the NCAA...
“A prospective student-athlete is a student who has started classes for the ninth grade.” (NCAA Handbook, Definition of "Prospective Student-Athlete" [Bylaw 13.02.12]).
Accordingly, PSA College Counseling is for any and everyone who is interested in learning about how they can become a more attractive PSA and maximize their recruiting and college options. My goal is to help PSAs so that they will have a better recruiting process and a more fulfilling experience as a student-athlete in college.
The NCAA defines a recruiting as “any solicitation of prospective student-athletes or their parents by an institutional staff member or by a representative of the institution’s athletics interests for the purpose of securing a prospective student-athlete’s enrollment and ultimate participation in the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program”.
With a quarter of their team graduating each year, college coaches rely heavily on recruiting. They need to do this in order to have a successful team and be good at their job. But if coaches are trying to “secure a PSA’s enrollment,” which helps them accomplish their own goals, who is looking out for the PSA’s interests?
There are many college coaches who are outstanding educators who have dedicated their lives to developing others. But it can still be difficult to navigate the recruiting process -- to find the school that best fits your goals -- especially in the midst of stress and pressure from others.
PSA College Counseling is here to help! We put the PSA first and his/her goals first as we work together to navigate the recruiting process and identify the best fit school.