College Recruiting – What Parents Need to do

So Mom and Dad, you have visions of your youngster playing sports in college. You got them involved in youth sports when they were 5, 6, or 7 years of age. You noticed that they were a little bit or a lot better than their peers. You noticed that they always wanted to go to practice, had fun in games, in some cases, they hated to lose. At some point in time you started wondering if playing college sports could be a way to help pay for college. If you came to this conclusion your child’s junior year in high school, you already know how late you are in preparing them adequately. However, if you come to this conclusion when they are 6th or 7th graders, then you are wondering what you need to do to prepare your child for playing college sports. Depending on the sport, how does a parent find the best competition for their child so they can develop their athletic skills? How much money is all of this preparation going to cost? How competitive is it and how can I get a return on that investment?

In the following series of articles, I’ll address the following questions: In part one, how competitive is it to play a sport in college? And, what do parents need to do to give their child the biggest competitive advantage over their peers? In part 2: how much of an investment needs to be made in time and scarce resources? What activities should you invest in? In Part 3: a history of the recruiting help industry.  In Part 4: if you decide you need help, what are the best resources for that help?

The numbers are daunting! If you’re a boys high school basketball player in the US, you have a 4% chance of playing in college. Now statistics lie, so let’s dig into this one a little. Last year, there were 552,935 HS basketball players. There are 1733 college basketball programs at all levels – Junior College, NAIA, NCAA D1, D2, & D3. With an average of 12 kids on a roster, you can do the math. (Find out your sport’s numbers here.)  Now obviously not all 552,935 basketball players are going to be good enough to play in college, have the competitive desire to play in college, or have the grades and test scores to be accepted into a college. So the reality is for the one college roster spot that boy’s basketball player is seeking, he’ll be competing with 5 other kids from somewhere else in the world. He’ll have about a 17% chance to play. Depending on the sport, that percentage could be as high as 25% chance. So what will give your child the competitive advantage to be one of those roughly 20% of kids who want to play in college AND actually get to play AND get college funded?

A child must be competing at the highest level possible and sometimes that’s not at the high school. Every sport has outside of the high school programs where the student-athlete can compete. Football has camps, combines, 7 on 7, etc, where elite athletes compete with each other. Girls and boys basketball have “AAU”, basketball camps, like NCSA partner 5-star, etc. Soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse, volleyball, field hockey, ice hockey, water polo have elite club or travel teams. Golf, tennis, swimming, track and field, cross country, and wrestling have elite tournaments or competitions that student-athletes earn their way to compete in. Some student-athletes don’t play their sport at their high school because of a variety of reasons. Some parents are shocked to learn that these kids who don’t play at their high school are getting recruited and, in some cases, getting drafted by professional sports teams. All of these club, travel, and camp activities that are outside of the high school cost money. So let’s get rid of the myth that you, the parent, don’t have to spend any money to get your child recruited. Even the most elite athletes have personal trainers to give them an edge over the other elite athletes they are competing with. So what should your budget be to get your child recruited? What is the best way to invest your money?  

Part 2, part 3, and part 4 has those answers – stay tuned!

Comments Closed

  1. Claire Odie

    Well this is a little late considering this is the weekend for the Global Sports Tournament in Burnaby. I was amazed at the prep school costs and why is it that kids that have all the potential but no money can’t be included in a fair chance to go to a prep school and compete for college? The system is just not right!

  2. Doting Dad

    For Men’s Ice Hockey, playing in college requires competition at the Junior B or above level. A lot of players are 19 or 20 when they are incoming freshman. NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey is the most competitive of sports to find a college scholarship at because there are only 138 college programs and only 65 of them have athletic scholarships.

  3. Susan

    We have just re-located to MA from AZ I am trying to get my son aged 12 into a soccer league can anyone help? We are from London UK and as you know Soccer is to us as Football is to the Americans.


  4. Keith

    Hi Susan:
    I suggest you look on There are announcements on travel soccer teams tryouts by state on that website. You can also google Massachusetts Youth Soccer. Look at the state cup tournaments at the elite levels and find the names of the soccer clubs who compete there. Call those coaches up and ask for their recommendation on clubs where their players come from. That’ll get your 12-year old son involved in the most competitive 12-year old soccer clubs in your area. If the club is highly competitive, your son will have to try out and make the team. If he doesn’t make the team, find one he can play at. The most important thing is that he play a lot at the highest level he can. I hope this helps. Good luck!

  5. Diane

    Hi Keith, My daughter plays softball- Recreation, travel & middle school team (catcher,3rd,ss). She is in 7th grade. She has no idea what college or even if she wants to play ball in college, but right now it is her passion. Is there anything we, as parents, should be doing now or next year or when she starts high school… I dont want to blow it out of proportion and cause her any pressure at this point. But it would be great if she could get a scholarship in something she loves! What do we do at this point in her career?

  6. Keith

    Hi Diane:
    As with all potential student-athletes, the best thing she can do to have the most opportunities to earn a scholarship is for her to earn the best grades she can. The higher her grades, the more scholarship opportunities available. She can work on those study habits now so when she hits high school, she’s practiced in doing her school work. On the athletic side she should work on her hitting. The more accomplished hitter she is the more opportunities. Of course, she needs to do that against the best pitching she can find. That means playing on a highly competitive travel softball team. I don’t know where you live, but in most parts of the country, HS softball is a joke compared to competitive travel softball. The best travel teams are ASA “A” or Gold level teams. AFA, USSSA, NSA, Colt, Little League, are other sanctioning bodies that could be relatively strong in your part of the country. It’s okay for your daughter to play up in age group if she’s capable. Good luck!

  7. Randy

    For Doting Dad-
    According to the NCAA, hockey might be the best route to college athletics. 11% of HS hockey players go on to play collegiately vs. a low of 3% for basketball. See

  8. Keith

    Keep in mind that’s US hockey players. A large number of American College hockey players are from Canada. They aren’t included in those numbers.

  9. Randy

    Not to go round and round, but likewise for other sports. The percentages are not gospel but give a good feel for chances to compete at the next level. Really the best chances from purely a percentage standpoint are to try for sports that are not supported at the HS level at all, i.e. rowing, archery etc

  10. Diane

    Keith, Thanks for the input. Her grades so far have been high honors in middle school, so hopefully she can keep that up throughout high school. And you are so right about the level of play in the schools; it is definitely a step down from travel ball! By the way, we live in New England area. In her Rec season this spring, she is playing “up” with 14 yrs and up to 18 yr olds, so she is getting good competition even if it is at the rec level. She is sort of lacking in the hitting area; she has an awesome swing, but the power is not there yet. So thanks for the info on working on the hitting. Thanks again and we’ll keep reading NCSA – alot of good info here!

  11. Keith

    Diane, you’re welcome. You must be proud of her grades and I suspect she’ll carry that work ethic into high school. The power will come as she matures and her bat speed improves. I’d recommend that she see a competent hitting instructor to ensure that her swing mechanics are sound. We appreciate you’re reading this site and your comments.

  12. Dual Althlete

    Is it possible or has anybody heard of any student athlete playing both NCAA Div I hockey and Baseball for the same school?

    I know the seasons do overlap some?

    Please advise


  13. Keith

    Dual Athlete,
    The closest I’ve hear of that situation is a young lady who played both softball and ice hockey at a D1 school. She didn’t play both sports in the same year because of the overlap. I’m open to being wrong here, but I’d be shocked if a D1 college men’s hockey coach would allow a kid to play college baseball in the same year. I’d be equally shocked to hear a D1 baseball coach allowing an ice hockey player join his team late and that student-athlete seeing any significant playing time.

  14. Dual Althlete

    Thanks for your input……..

    I thought that it would be very difficult to do. Guess I gotta choose one or the other!!

    Dual Athlete

  15. Keith

    Good luck! Ice Hockey has the more D1 & D2 athletic scholarships. But there are only 58 D1 and 7 D2 Ice Hockey programs. Baseball has 291 D1 programs and 242 D2 programs. Good luck!

  16. Sylvia

    My son will be starting high school in August. He played soccer in AYSO, FYSO, travel team, and a soccer club. He loves soccer. He has expressed interest in track, cross country and of course soccer. His middle school coach is trying to recruit him to play football going into HS as he’s a good runner, kicker, and has a good arm….interesting. I just want a healthy, well rounded child! Any suggestions with moving forward? Should we send him to a camp this summer? If yes, any suggestions for the southeastern area?

  17. Keith

    Hi Sylvia:
    Your son is obviously a talented athlete. If he loves soccer, he may not want to play football. But he should explore any sports he does have interest in. There are good camps and not-so-effective camps and they all have a profit motive. I’d need to know more about your son’s situation and your family’s goals to be able to recommend an appropriate camp – if any. I will suggest that as long as your son is playing his sport and doing so a lot against great competition, he’ll improve. If it’s a choice between a camp and his travel soccer team, choose the travel soccer team.

  18. Joan

    My son Ben has been playing on select baseball teams since he was 8 or 9 years old and wants to play at the college level. His high school baseball has just ended and his school has never shown recognition to this sport , therefore there has never been any information as to what we need to do as parents to help him find the right college. He is 6ft. tall 190 lbs and wears a size 15 shoe and has a 3.8 GPA. All the coaches that have ever coached him have said that he has all the potential to play at the higher level of baseball and hope to see him recruited some day. What can we do to get him recognized?

  19. Keith

    Hi Joan – See part 2 of this series here: Click on the 2 links in the 3rd paragraph which answers your question. To get an objective evaluation from a collegiate scout click on the link in the 4th paragraph of that article.

  20. KR

    My daughter who has put her heart and soul into her softball since the age of 6 will be graduating this year. Her dad and I had absolutely no idea how important it was for her to have joined a “club” travel team all these years to have the possiblity of being “noticed” by the college recruits/coaches. In addition to now learning that she should have attending camps as much as possible that were held by the colleges. Her High School coaches that she has played for since 7th grade did not provide any information to my daughter or us to increase her chances for college play. We were not informed about travel ball, NCAA, college recruiting, etc. I even asked the coach her Sophomore year what we needed to do and received no reponse. I am sure since we live in a VERY small town there was no possiblity of her being seen and evaluated for possible recruiting. Now she graduates in 2 weeks…any suggestions?

  21. Keith

    Hi KR – I’m sorry you didn’t get the information you needed before this late period in time. Do not waste any money attending college camps unless your daughter has spoken to that college coach and she’s guaranteed a college roster spot. Your daughter needs to pursue college coaches that have roster openings for her position. She can start by contacting the junior colleges in your area that play softball. Your daughter must do this. You the parent can’t do this for her. If you need help, go here:

  22. Mike


    For baseball, I need some key dates and I’m having trouble logging on to the link. Here’s what I need:

    What is the early national letter of intent signing period?

    Is the first day college coaches can call recruits July 1 of the recruit’s senior year?

    Is July 1st the first day to be Seniors can make official campus visits?

    Are there other key NCAA related dates I need to be aware of for baseball recruits?

  23. Keith

    Hi Mike:

    Early signing for D1 and D2 members of the NLI is the 2nd Wednesday of November through the following Tuesday.

    D1 college coaches can call July 1st between junior and senior year. D2 college coaches can call on June 15th. D3 and NAIA coaches can call anytime, even when a kid is a freshman in HS.

    A student-athlete can take an official visit beginning the first day of class, senior year.

    The last day of the regular signing period is Aug. 1st after a student-athlete graduates HS.

    I hope this helps.

  24. Mike

    Keith, thanks for answering, and on Memorial Day week-end, no less!

    One last question for now. You mentioned the final day for regular signing of the NLI. What’s the first regular signing day?

    Thanks again!

  25. Keith

    For baseball it’s the 2nd Wednesday in April. This year, the first signing date for D1 and D2 NLI members was April 8th, 2009.

    You’re welcome. I do like discussing this stuff.

  26. Kat

    We began looking for a school pretty late in the game (senior year). We weren’t able to afford the recruiting services that NCSA provided so we did the next best thing. I read all of NCSA’s articles, watched all of the recruiting videos, and read all of the downloadable information that NCSA offered and we followed all of their advice.

    We made a highlight tape (, contacted coaches, and got the school involved with sending out game tapes and information and he ended up getting into a D2 program.

    NCSA’s recruiting information was invaluable!!

  27. Keith

    Hi Kat:
    Thanks for your comments and congratulations!! Great job. In retrospect, how many man-hours did you spend on the process? Also, did you have to spend money on trips, videos, etc? Again, congratulations and great job!

  28. Pat

    Does anyone know what percentage of high school girls get chosen to play ice hockey at the college level?

  29. Keith

    Pat – That’s a tough one because ice hockey players also come from Canada and Europe. Make sure your daughter is playing at least at the Midget AAA level so she has a chance.