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Your Place in Your Community: Why It Matters To Recruiters

By Matt Musico

The foundation of athletic recruiting is a student-athlete’s athletic ability. After all, coaches are looking for players who can help take their respective programs to the next level. It may be surprising to people going through this experience for the first time, though, to hear that athletic recruitment is a rather wide-ranging experience

Yes, coaches are looking for the best athletes to join them and their job performance will be tied greatly to how often the program wins and loses. However, they’re not solely looking for the best athletes--they’re looking for great people who can add value to their surroundings when they’re not competing. 

This is why coaches spend a lot of time trying to get to know recruits before attempting to have them commit to their program. They want to make sure they’re pursuing someone with character, integrity, and a willingness to make an impact outside of competition itself. Athletes can have their character and integrity evaluated on the field, but it’s what they do off the field that can really make the difference while getting recruited.

This is where a student-athlete’s place in their community comes into play. Outside of being an athlete, what else are you involved in? There may be a limited amount of time to get involved in other activities since serious athletes are training or playing for most of the year, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. 

Coaches want to know what causes you support, what clubs you participate in, what kind of volunteer work you like to do, and if you have a job. What you’re involved in — and what you make time for because you’re passionate about it — gives college coaches a glimpse of your character and integrity. 

Getting a great athlete is preferred, but every coach knows that a player on their roster is representing not just the college, but the program itself. They want players who are invested in their academics, as well as being interested in making an impact not just on campus, but also in the local community. That’s how long-lasting connections are made between an institution and the surrounding towns/cities. 

This is not to say that student-athletes have to know everything all the time. Let’s not forget that everyone is human and life is a learning experience. Displaying the right attitude and character can give coaches confidence that a recruit can continue growing into an adult that will continue making an impact long after graduation. 

No one necessarily expects an incoming freshman recruit to immediately become a leader — that’s actually the opposite of what a coaching staff expects to happen. They need to join a program and become a sponge when they’re around the upperclassmen to keep learning the right and wrong way to do things. This way, they are able to grow into being a leader throughout the years and lead by example for younger teammates. 

Joining a specific athletic program is just a four-year commitment when it comes to one’s actual playing career. The association goes on forever, though. Just as you continue representing the school you’ve graduated from in the workplace and community in which you live, the same goes for the athletic program you were a part of. 

With this in mind, coaches know how important it is to not only find great athletes, but also great people who want to make a difference by helping those around them. The athletic part of the equation is likely the biggest piece of the puzzle, but without the parts that include character and integrity, it’s an incomplete picture.

So yes, all the small details matter. How you portray yourself in person and on social media is incredibly important. Are you spending your time building yourself and others up or tearing others down? Whatever the answer is to that question, coaches will notice, even if you think they won’t. 

There are three qualities coaches look for when recruiting. It helps show them what kind of an athlete a potential recruit is, but these qualities are interchangeable and are also important outside of competition. These qualities are having a strong work ethic, being a good teammate, and being respectful.

Having a strong work ethic helps you maximize your athletic ability, and that kind of diligence rarely stays only in athletics — it usually pours out into other aspects of life. Being a good teammate shows a coach how you’ll mesh with the current players on their roster, and it shows them how you likely operate in group settings outside of athletics. Last, but most certainly not least, do you treat your parents, coaches, and officials/referees/umpires with respect? If you don’t, it will be hard for a coach to be convinced things will change in college. If you do, it’s likely that this quality is shown in other aspects of life as well, like in school, at a job, or during some kind of volunteer experience. 

It’s easy to look at four and five-star recruits getting chased by the nation’s top athletic programs and think innate talent is the only thing that matters. But that’s not true. Athletic ability can only take you so far. Character and integrity — both on and off the field — is what can be the difference between earning a roster spot or not, or getting offered a scholarship or not. 

This is an important part of the athletic recruitment experience, so start treating it as such if you’re not already.

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