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Reflections on 2011: Hard Hitting Recruiting Lessons to Help You

This is Charlie Adams, parent of a current NCAA student-athlete, longtime speaker on the recruiting process, and strong believer in the Athleadership foundation of the NCSA Athletic Recruiting Network. I appreciate all the input on the weekly Charlie’s Corner column I write here, and am glad it has helped you.

NCSA Recruiting Expert Charlie Adams

As 2012 begins, I wanted to bring back some of the top insights of ‘Charlie’s Corner” from 2011. These can help you in many was when it comes to helping your young people connect with the right fit at the next level. In early 2012, look for all of my articles to be put together in one location, so that you can use them as resources. Here are valuable and candid insights on recruiting from 2011:

JANUARY – After speaking at a High School, a longtime Athletic Director told me this:

“Charlie, parents often feel like the Colleges will come to them because their kid is a starter in High School. Well, we are a Class 2A school. Just because a young person can start here doesn’t mean they would be a starter at a 4A or 5A school. Another thing we deal with is many parents feel the High School coaches don’t do enough to get their child a scholarship. Well, that’s untrue. We have coaches that work hard on that but the bottom line is that parents don’t like being told the level of college sports is best for their child. I coached NAIA basketball before getting into High School Athletic Administration. I know a lot of these kids would have a hard time playing NAIA Division 2 sports, yet their parents think they can play D1. ” Dave Seils, former Athletic Director, Hanover Central High School

JANUARY – Read with great interest an issue of “ESPN: The Magazine” almost completely dedicated to recruiting. Here are some of their findings…

In January “ESPN: The Magazine” polled 50 elite high school football players, young men hearing the pitches and promises from all the major schools reveals much about the process. When asked what percentage of what they’re told by college recruiter is a lie, the average was an astounding 61.5%. As for that high school experience to the question, did anyone there in high school take performance enhancers? More than a 1/4 of those elite athletes said yes. When it came time to travel to universities for an official visit, 57% of these high school stars (Division 1 football prospects) said drugs and alcohol were available to them on that visit.

JANUARY – Spoke with a father named Dave Long, who spoke with great passion about how the NCSA Athletic Recruiting Network had connected his son Dave, a golfer at Northridge High in Middlebury, IN at the time, with many scholarship opportunities:

“If a family has an athlete that is fairly talented and loves their sport’” said Dave, “it is ludicrous that they don’t take advantage of NCSA. I am dead serious. If you want a walking billboard for how much it means, it’s me! How much money we saved on College because of NCSA is remarkable. Not in a million years would we have connected with all these good schools.” Dave Long, Dad 

FEBRUARY – Interviewed NCSA Speaker Jimmy Gonzales, who used to be  Director of Football Operations for Oklahoma State. His career saw him also work as Director of Player Development at Notre Dame Football. Gonzales now speaks at High Schools all over Texas for NCSA: * “Charlie, whenever I was told of a possible prospect the first thing out of my mouth would always be ‘how are the grades?’” * “I have always felt young people should find a school based on academics first. I would always say if you got hurt the first day of practice make sure it is at a school you like for reasons other than your sport”

NCSA Recruiting Expert Jimmy Gonzales

* “A lot of people get form letters and think they are being recruited. When I coordinated recruiting we would send out 1000 letters. It became a process of elimination down to about 25. In football you can find out real fast where you stand with D1′s in April of your junior year. From April 15 to May 31 College coaches can call a prospect once. If you don’t get a call April 15 maybe you’re still okay. April 16…? April 17th? I would question whether you are being recruited by those schools. I would know the ten guys I was going to call on April 15th.” – Jimmy Gonzales, NCSA Athletic Recruiting Network (to bring Jimmy to your Texas H.S, email jgonzales@ncsasports.org)

FEBRUARY – After speaking on Recruiting to families at Cathedral High School, their veteran HS Football Coach Rick Streiff told me this:

“Charlie, parents need to know that I can’t get their child a scholarship.” Do I help? Yes. But, I am not ‘The Process.’ Streiff emphasized that he will talk to college coaches about the character and the academics of his players. If families ask for help in a realistic evaluation of where their child can play at the next level, he will give his honest evaluation. Whether they accept it or not is up to them. He did say that his years of experience have shown him that the better the grades, the more options a player has in recruiting.  Period. Cathedral has produced their share of D1 athletes, but one of his frustrations is families don’t understand how competitive college sports are at all levels. “Go watch a Wabash vs DePauw football game at D3,” he told me. “There will be 10 to 15 to 20 All State football players in the game. They are really good. They may not be as big or fast as D1 but they can play.” – Rick Streiff, head Football Coach, Cathedral High

MARCH – Shared these observations of where the recruiting process is headed, technology-wise:

I was in the office of a D1 Top 25 ranked men’s tennis program recently. The head coach said they only had one DVD sent in recently. Everything else was online. Some of it was good. Some was awful. He brought me over to show some of the emails. They were links to You Tube video. “This player has gone way too long on his forehand video,” said the Coach. Delete. He didn’t have the time to wait for the video to get to the backhand. He deleted the crappy ones left and right. Zap. Zap. Zap. Off they went into internet oblivion. He showed me some good ones, and more bad ones, but the point was just about everything was online.

To make sure you understand where recruiting is heading with technology in 2012 and to learn how to make an effective video, you can set up an evaluation here

MARCH – Heard one of the greatest HS Football coaches of all time speak at a state Athletic Director’s Conference:

In over three decades as a head football coach at midwest power Penn High, Chris Geesman helped place dozens and dozens of athletes in college, from the University of Michigan to Franklin College. Along the way, many of them started out not having a realistic evaluation of where they best fit.

“Most kids, “said Geesman” are a level above as far as projecting where they realistically can play college and most parents are two levels above.”

Geesman explained how he helped kids in the recruiting process. “I told them I would try to place you where you want to play,” said Geesman. “I would call the college coach and make sure they got tape at whatever program they wanted, which often was Notre Dame since we were located near them. The athlete’s part of the deal was to listen to every offer, whether it was Grand Valley State, Hillsdale, University of Indianapolis, Findlay or what have you. You listen to their coaches while we’re trying to place you at Notre Dame. About two thirds of the way through the recruiting process, everything kind of sorted itself out. The kid who started out thinking ND would come to me and say, “Hey coach, can you get me a visit to Indianapolis?” I never told him he couldn’t play at Notre Dame. They usually came to the realization that a smaller school might be better.”

During Geesman’s era, there was a definite lack of recruiting education for families. “I think we are starting to see more awareness about the recruiting process now,” said Geesman. “(NCSA’s) Charlie Adams is speaking about it a lot and people are learning more. I think a lot of families still don’t understand how good the high level of D3 is in college.”

His book, The Geesman Game, covers his insights on recruiting as well as the 60 Principles he learned on building and maintaining top High School programs during his 30 years as head coach at Penn.

For more on The Geesman Game, click here

APRIL – Before speaking at Benton Harbor High in Michigan, their head football coach Larry Jackson – who played at Michigan State – shared these insights:

“Charlie, it is important that young people know they need to start the recruiting process early especially regarding academics,” he said. “They need to know about Core GPA and to research Colleges and know their entrance information.”

Benton Harbor HS brings in NCSA's College Recruiting Simplified

“Athletes today think the recruiting process just happens,” said Coach Jackson. “Many of them also don’t understand how disciplined they have to be in academics. They have to be on top of things because they are competing against thousands of athletes for scholarships.  Families also have to know the FAFSA and fill that out. A lot of parents don’t even get into that.”

MAY – Spoke on recruiting at the Cal South Soccer National Cup in California, which attracted over 100 D1 college coaches. Here is what some of the college coaches told me:

“We are looking more at the 2013′s (sophomores) and some 2012′s,” the coach told me. “I will come back with a Yes or No opinion on these players that I will report to the head coach. Some of these players have contacted us. I will go see them to see whether we like them or not. I want to see a kid that no matter whether they are winning or losing is playing hard. Effort! You can’t teach heart! I can usually tell within five minutes who the best players are on the soccer field.”

JUNE – Had the opportunity to speak at Dan Tudor’s National Collegiate Coaches Conference in Nashville that included Coaches from all levels of College Athletics, from schools such as the University of Missouri, Clemson, Vanderbilt, Belhaven, Emmanuel College, Swarthmore College and many others. The coaches shared these current trends in recruiting:

A growing Sense of Entitlement among many High School athletes that are being recruited or that are playing College Athletics.

The athletes keep getting younger that the College Coaches are looking at or that are contacting the College Coaches.

Many athletes’ parents have been spending a lot of money on Club, Travel Ball, AAU, Strength and Speed Training, and things of that nature and they expect a return on their investment in terms of significant scholarships.

Parents are more involved than ever before in recruiting and many are saying things to College Coaches such as “We are taking the SAT’s” or “We made it to State this past season.”

Many athletes know all about texting their friends but their phone communication skills are weak, which hurts them in recruiting

AUGUST – NCSA’s vision of Athleadership includes the passionate foundation that being a true college student-athlete will impact a young person for the next 40 years of their life. NCSA sent me to Maryland and Virginia to speak to families at the Pro Lacrosse Camps. While there, I interviewed former University of Virginia All America Lacrosse player Kyle Dixon:

“We have something at Virginia Lacrosse called VLand,” he told me. “It is the Virginia Lacrosse Alumni Network. There is a spread sheet that has all of the UVA Lacrosse players that have graduated and their field of study. I work for RBC Wealth Management in Annapolis, MD. It is a fantastic job and there is no chance I would have that job if I didn’t have the network of having played at Virginia.” I talked with Kyle about the value of playing multiple sports in High School. In Lacrosse, especially, college coaches prefer High School athletes who played more than one sport. “I learned a lot from playing basketball,” said Kyle. “You set picks in basketball and in Lacrosse and the spacing is similar.”

SEPTEMBER – Caught up with the Dad (Mike O’Neill) of an Elkhart Central HS swimmer (Sean) that has been having success in recruiting. They came to hear NCSA’s College Recruiting Simplified when Elkhart Central A.D. Brian Buckley brought it in during the winter of 2010.

“D1’s, 2’s and 3’s have looked at Sean through NCSA. Through the process he determined he wanted to go to a College with a highly rated chemistry program so he could be a research chemist one day, and that had a competitive swim program. “At last count he had over 20 official visit invitations,” said Mike, the Dad. “It is a good problem to have, and my wife and I will tell you besides his very good grades the main reason for all this attention is NCSA. We have done very good communication with all of these schools after they saw him through NCSA, but it all started with at least 90% of them finding Sean on NCSA.”

As a Dad, Mike said there were 4 Things he had learned about recruiting over the past 2 years:

“One,” he said, “It is obvious that College Coaches turn to NCSA as a trusted source to find qualified student’athletes. Two, don’t wait for a Coach to reach out to you. Reach out to them and you will know from their reply or lack of reply if they have interest in you. Three, everything – no matter how good – needs to be marketed and NCSA markets Sean better that we can. Fourth, the package of ‘good times/ability combined with good grades’ are what EVERY College Coach is looking for.”

To learn more about what the O’Neill family did to get their child in front of College Coaches

SEPTEMBER – Spoke with Rod Creech, the President of the Midwest Basketball Academy and Director of MBA Select Basketball about how Club/AAU Coaches are involved in the recruiting process:

“The first thing College Coaches ask me about are character and academics,” said Creech, who played College Basketball and is also a College Referee, “then once that is cleared the rest can almost be easy if the kid has the ability.” As we talked about this point, Creech elaborated on how he and other trusted third parties like the NCSA Athletic Recruiting Network have to develop a realistic evaluation of a recruit. “When College Coaches call me about a kid,” said Creech,” I tell them the truth. I tell parents of players that my credibility is on the line and I have worked hard for 15 years to develop trust with a Network of College Coaches. I tell College Coaches about the strengths AND weaknesses and something that is important for athletes to know is that I tell the College Coaches if the kid is working hard on the weakness. With Bo Calhoun (Washington High player going to D1 Ball State), his weakness used to be his jump shot, but he worked so hard on it. I also told the College Coaches about his upside. The weight program isn’t the greatest at his High School. When he adds 20 pounds to his 6’7” frame he will explode.”

OCTOBER – Got this note that showed how life-changing it can be for families to attend College Recruiting Simplified:

Dear Mr. Adams My name is Vijayan Rajes and I live on a coffee plantation in a very small village located on the Shevaroy Hills, in Tamilnadu state in India.  My wife and I met you briefly at Bradenton, FL, in summer 2010 while our son Vishnu was there for tennis training at the IMG Academies.

We were there at IMG to try and improve the chances of Vishnu being recruited to play college tennis.  His aim was to play serious tennis and pursue his education.  Our goal was to try and get him the best possible college for tennis and academics.  We felt that we were groping in the dark and did not know what the future held in store for us.  We were glad to hear of your NCSA presentation and eagerly attended.  Subsequently, with the help of Justin and Kyle we were the first at IMG Camps to sign up with NCSA, as we were returning to India in a few days.

The recruitment video and all the assistance we received was timely and invaluable.  Sitting in a remote area in India we felt secure  to know we had someone representing our interest in the US.  Vishnu was recruited within a few months to Washington College, Chestertown, MD.  He did recieve some very interesting and financially lucrative offers from several colleges, but finally decided on Washington College for its very highly ranked academic program. My wife, Madhumathi and I accompanied Vishnu in Aug 2011 to Washington College in time for the fall semester.  We felt extremely satisfied and immediate knew that we made the right choice the minute we landed on campus.  The feedback we had been recieving from the staff at NCSA was spot on.  We felt we were at the right place immediately.  We spent the next two weeks in the Chestertown area and made some new friends on and off campus.  We also visited some old friends in the DC area.  They all were curious to know how we found Washington College in Chestertown, MD, while living in Yercaud, India.  My reply was we never found them, they found us, thanks to NCSA. I am glad to inform you that Vishnu is happily settled in Washington College and plays on their tennis team. We thank you and the entire team of NCSA for all the help.

Best Regards,Vijaya Rajes

Vishnu as a College Tennis Player

NOVEMBER – Interviewed NCSA’s Amanda Rawson, who is an encyclopedia when it comes to recruiting knowledge and current developments in recruiting. Her reaction to the NCAA’s recent D1 academic reform:

“Just because you have a killer cross over dribble,’ says Amanda, “doesn’t mean you will get a scholarship anymore. Your grades are more important than ever. You could be the best athlete in the country, but if your grades are borderline you could affect their Academic Progress Report and they will have to move on towards the next prospect.”

“If you are a borderline student,” continues Amanda, “College Coaches may think twice and take someone who is more stable academically. That player may not be a stud, but one that is very good. Because of the APR, they cannot afford to take athletes that could cause their team to miss the NCAA Tournament.”

“They need to get focused freshman year,” says Amanda. “If you don’t do well those first two years, it is extremely hard to pull up core GPA junior and senior years. Athletes need to study every day and make sure they do their homework. If they are struggling, seek help with tutoring. Pride is a big problem as many don’t think they need a tutor, when they do need one! You just can’t get a C or a D and then try to get by as you sit in the back of the classroom.”

DECEMBER – Spoke with NAIA Hall of Fame basketball coach Mike Lightfoot, who has over 630 victories as head coach at Bethel College. He has seen many families struggle with recruiting because of lack of knowledge and an unrealistic expectation of where their child can play in college:

“Charlie, we get phone calls in April or May from parents of seniors that say they assumed when their child was done with senior year of playing that they would get phone calls from College coaches and sign on the dotted line. They take it for granted that everyone is a D1 player and when they realize they are not it is sad because by that time we have made our decisions on recruits. They become distraught because there is no place for their child to go and play. They have to start becoming involved by sophomore and certainly by junior year.”

To Talk with a College Recruiting Expert Now for an Analysis of Where You are in the Recruiting Process, click here

NCSA has over 30 former College/Pro Athletes and Coaches as well as former Athletic Administrators and Sports Broadcast Journalists that can come to your High School, Club or Event to educate audiences on the recruiting process. To learn more, contact Amanda Rawson at arawson@ncsasports.org

Amanda is setting up 2012 speaking events. Thanks to our partnership with the NFL Players Association, there is often no fee to bring in speakers. College Recruiting Simplified presentations can cover recruiting in all 27 sports, or can be sport-specific.

Charlie Adams
NCSA Recruiting Expert/Parent of current NCAA student-athlete
cadams@ncsasports.org
About the author
Charlie Adams