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Athletic Recruitment: When to Start the Process and What to Know

By Matt Musico

The game that is athletic recruitment for prospective college student-athletes can feel daunting. There’s a lot of gray area throughout the experience for those getting recruited, and while it can feel like a deeply personal process, it’s also very impersonal at the same time. 

That’s why it’s important to set realistic expectations and goals as early as possible. For student-athletes and families navigating collegiate athletic recruitment for the first time, there are two common questions we hear asked frequently:

  • When should I start promoting my athletic skill set?
  • When should I start trying to contact coaches at colleges I’m interested in?

Answers to these questions will vary depending on the current path a student-athlete is on for their specific athletic journey, but we have some general thoughts on each. 

With regard to finding the right time to start promoting your skill set, we recommend beginning that process in seventh grade (between 12-14 years old). There are many stories of college coaches following middle school students, and while you won’t be signing a National Letter of Intent at that time, coaches enjoy watching your trajectory and rate of improvement through middle school and into high school. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, either. Something as simple as sharing your highlights via social media or playing in showcases and clinics — which you’re likely already doing — can help put yourself and your skills in front of the right people.

With regard to coach outreach, we recommend students begin doing this during their freshman year of high school. From what we’ve seen, many athletes make the decision to try and play in college pretty early on. Starting outreach efforts earlier rather than later allows you the opportunity to go through this process slowly and thoughtfully instead of feeling pressured to rush through it.  

Have you not done this and immediately feel like you’re behind? That’s OK – just start now. Getting this process underway once you’ve decided to seriously pursue playing your sport of choice at the next level is what’s key because of the supply-and-demand economics of college athletics. According to the NCAA, there are approximately eight million students participating in high school athletics throughout the United States, with only 480,000 (about 6.0%) moving on to play their sport of choice in college. 

The NCAA breaks out these numbers by sport each year, which you can view here. Here’s some perspective, though — women’s ice hockey is the only sport where the percentage of high school athletes who end up playing in college is higher than 13.0%.  But even with its 26.2% mark, that means three out of every four high school girls’ ice hockey players aren’t participating at the college level. 

Sharing these numbers and percentages is not our way of discouraging you from reaching for your dreams. However, it’s necessary to realize you’re not only competing with other athletes in your region – you’re competing with athletes from across the country, and in some cases, around the world. That’s why we suggest you start promoting your skill set and introducing yourself to coaches as early as possible. The more time you have to make an impression will increase your chances of finding an academic and athletic home for your college career. 

Collegiate athletic recruitment goes way beyond how a student-athlete performs on the field, court, ice, or mat, though. That’s the first hurdle many must jump over when having initial conversations, but it’ll soon get much deeper, especially on the academic side. To properly navigate the complexity that comes with athletic recruitment, it’s essential to have dependable resources on hand. 

The NCAA Eligibility Center updates and releases a College-Bound Student-Athlete Guide annually to provide the details many prospective recruits and families aren’t aware of but need to know, like what the differences are between the three divisions of play, why the Eligibility Center needs a copy of your SAT/ACT scores and transcript, what core courses are and why they’re important, academic standards for each division, and much more. It’s a terrific all-encompassing guide to read before diving head-first into this experience. 

While NCAA sports is the focus for many high school athletes, it’s not the only option for four-year varsity athletics participation – the NAIA is also an option. There are 27 sponsored sports with National Championships available for athletes to compete from. It’s not NCAA-affiliated, meaning there’s a whole other set of rules for student-athletes getting recruited from these particular schools. Thankfully, they also have a College-Bound Student-Athlete Guide to walk prospective recruits through the important aspects of their recruitment, which will be unique from the NCAA experience. 

These guides provide tons of information, but as any athlete knows, the probability of winning skyrockets with a detailed game plan. That’s why we created mygotgame’s Recruitment Playbook. Being exposed to all components of athletic recruitment is essential prior to diving in. But after seeing how many high school athletes are potentially competing for a college roster spot, getting tips on how to put yourself in the best possible position to get noticed is what will make a difference. 

Our Recruitment Playbook includes eight installments packed with information about athletic recruitment and exactly what aspiring college athletes should be doing to reach their goal of playing at the next level. Whether it’s diving into your desire to play, building your resume and brand as an athletic recruit, tips and tricks for initiating communication with coaches, or anything else within this experience, we’ve got you covered. 

There are lots of moving parts to the athletic recruitment process and having a support system to help you through it is huge. Knowledge and awareness are powerful. Throughout an experience where there are so many things out of your control, it’s crucial to be mindful of what you can control and stay within that. This is what we’ll help you focus on as you begin or enhance your journey toward becoming a college student-athlete.

As an emerging leader in collegiate athletic recruiting, mygotgame provides student-athletes with unique opportunities that fulfill their dream of playing college athletics while simultaneously developing life skills and relationships that last long after those playing days have ended.  mygotgame specializes in partnering with parents, coaches, scouts, recruiters and event organizers to open doors for student-athletes to enjoy success in competition, in the classroom and in their communities.  By combining emerging technologies with a personal touch, mygotgame’s unique approach provides a comprehensive playbook for life that helps chart a course for the next chapter of your athlete’s journey. 


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