College Recruiting is a Two Way Street

College Recruiting is a Two Way Street

I talk to a lot of parents and one of the topics that comes up most is balancing where to play (D1, D2, D3, etc.) with what happens after college (working career).

That leads to what is perhaps the most important question an athlete will have to answer – where they should try to play to keep their athletic career going while balancing what they want to do once their athletic career draws to a close.

Often, I like to compare the athletic career process with the professional career process that all of us will face at some point (or perhaps multiple times!) in our lives.  I’m going to head down that path again.

Our Goalscollege-recruiting-goals

Often times, we can get so caught up in the process of playing at the college level that we miss the bigger picture.  What I mean by that is the choices that we make at any stage in life carry with them outcomes – sometimes intended and sometimes unintended.  Choices that focus on one or two key objectives versus the “whole” decision.  Here is my perspective on how I look at any choice that I make professionally as my athletic career is now way behind me (unless recreational golf counts!) and how that connects with the college recruiting process.

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

One of the most frequent questions you will get asked in an interview for a job without question.  Sometimes it is a throw-away question but it really shouldn’t be.  That is certainly the case for the aspiring college athlete something they really need to think through.  Consider these two scenarios:

Scenario 1 – You intend to play professionally.  

And, based on that, your decisions will point you in a direction that is going to help you get exposure to professional teams.  Certainly, that leans toward Division 1 athletics but is not always the case.  But, a fair bet.  Your research would take you down a path to see:

  • How many conference or national championships a college has won
  • How many athletes a given school has placed professionally
  • How well connected the coach is into the professional space
  • Did the coach play professionally and is their style of play preparing athletes for that next level

Scenario 2 – You intend to get a job or seek a higher level degree.

Based on this criteria, your decisions will likely take a very different path:

  • How is the school ranked for the degree you are seeking?
  • How strong is the alumni group at the school and where do they work?
  • What is their placement percentage for graduates in the degree you are seeking?

That is not to say that you can’t have it both ways.  You can.  But you have to be exceptionally gifted athletically and academically to accomplish both.  Which brings me to my next point.

The Funnel is a Thing

We have all heard the stories about “the funnel”.  The funnel is the progressive drop off in athletes who play at the next level –College-Recruiting-Funnel

from grade school to high school to college to the pros.  The math is what it is and we all know the opportunities at the next level continue to get smaller and smaller as the level of play increases.  So, we have to do that “sober assessment of self” to make an informed decision about our next steps and how we approach the opportunity to play at the next level.


Get Clear on Who You Are – Athletically and Aspirationally

I have to admit that it took me until I was in my mid-40’s to get clear on who I really was and what I really wanted to do.  When I was coming up in the working world, the prevailing thought was to get with a great company (which I was fortunate to do) and then stay there until retirement (which I ultimately did not!).  We all remember the recession of 2008.  It was brutal and it forced some hard choices.  In my case (without getting into too much detail), I had to choose between an uncertain future out of my control or feed a desire within me to doing something more entrepreneurial and have some level of control over my destiny.  I chose the latter.  The short summary is, since 2008, I have chosen to do what I am passionate about and links back to the work I did to sit down, take time and really understand my passions and my strengths.

One of the ways I did that was to take every assessment test and personality profile I could find to see what drove me internally.  One that I love is the Strengths Finders by the Gallup Organization.  And, there are many more.  The point here is to spend time assembling the things that are important to you and then line up your decisions against that criteria.  There are tons of books on this stuff.  But, worth the time and effort to set up the rest of your life.

Athletically, be realistic about where you see yourself playing.  And do not think that it is only for a D1 school.  You can feed your desire to compete at the next level and get that done at any level of collegiate play.  And, here’s a secret for you from a guy who hired a ton of college graduates.  I always looked for athletes.  Athletes “get it”. Athletes know about commitment, teamwork, preparation, hustle and dedication.  When I’m building a team at work, it’s an easy decision between a college athlete with great grades and a candidate who only has the grades.

Look for a Great Fit

Whether in your career or college athletics, you have to find that great fit.  Pretty simple here.  Think back to all the teams you have played for or the places you have worked.  Which ones bring a smile to your face and which ones leave a bitter taste?  Then, figure out what made you smile. Things such as:

  1. A motivating, positive and great teaching coach or mentor.
  2. Great teammates that you got along with and actually liked spending time with.
  3. “We” versus “I” mentality.  Everyone on the same page and striving for the same things.
  4. Personality of the Team.  They all have them.  Think through which “team personality” you enjoyed most.
  5. Winners versus whiners.  Enough said.
  6. A place where you contributed.  Pay close attention to this desire within you.  It’s one thing to make the team and another to get on the field.  You will have to balance the internal tug of war on this important question.
  7. Geographically.  You may want to be close to home.  You may want nice weather most of the year.  You may want to play in an area where you intend to get a job.

So What Are You Saying?

I am saying that you have to think through all of it.  And, you have to be clear on what you expect and what you are willing to accept.  Project your future self out those 5 and even 10 years down the road and line up your decisions to get to that point.  It changes how you approach your college interviews in a hopeful and intentional way.

Summary and The Formula

We covered just a few points.  I will likely add to this topic going forward because it is something I am passionate about.  But let’s recap in bullet points how I recommend you approach your college athletic career:

  1. Get clear on who you are as a person and what drives you internally
  2. Get clear on where you see yourself in 5 – 10 years after your college career has concluded successfully!
  3. Formulate questions you would have for a coach that would align with your goals so that you get clear on who they are and who you are
  4. Only approach colleges that align with your goals.

And, by the way…..  Coaches are looking for athletes who are clear on what they expect to get out of their college careers.  They are interested in you as an athlete and as a student.  Your preparation will make a difference.

I hope this is helpful for you and your family.  And I have no doubt that I have missed some points.  That is where the Prospect Nation can help!  Like us on Facebook and join the conversation.  We are stronger together.

Have a great week!