By: Michael Dufek –> find out more about Michael here!
In today’s recruiting world, we often hear remarkable stories involving student-athletes making their college commitment at unbelievably young ages. While most of these stories involve basketball and football players, there have also been instances in which baseball student-athletes make their commitment at an early age (as young as 8th grade in some cases). While these stories continue to prove that recruiting is occurring much sooner than it used to, there also thousands of student-athletes across the country that will attest to the contrary.
Yes, it is true that there are student-athletes making college commitments before attending a single high school class, but the numbers will show that these stories make up less than 1% of all student-athletes heading to college. While these stories of young commits tend to take over the recruiting headlines, 99% of college bound student-athletes will make their final decision in their junior or senior year. While recruiting can and should start early, it more often than not is a long process that can be drawn out over the course of one to three years. Only those student-athletes that have been identified as clear cut, surefire top prospects will receive offers early on in the process. For most recruits, offers tend to come in later on.
I am actually a perfect example of how long the recruiting process can be and how things can happen later on than you might think. I attended a big high school in Arizona with a rich history of success in baseball. Every year my high school would send at least a handful of players on to play in the collegiate ranks. Because of this success, many good, young players in the program were forced to play on the JV team as sophomores. I was one of them. Having to wait to play on the Varsity team until your junior or senior year will certainly not kill your recruiting, but it will definitely make matters a bit tougher. College coaches tend to only look seriously at players once they have made the Varsity team at their high school. With that being said, you can still work hard on your recruiting to get your name and information in front of college coaches prior to making the Varsity team. I did a little bit of this through attending camps and sending emails to coaches, which set me up for success once I did make the Varsity team.
As a junior, I ended up making the Varsity team as a starter in the outfield. After a season in which I was named as an All-Conference performer, I still had very little interest from colleges heading into my senior year. I was still raw and relatively unpolished in the eyes of many coaches, but had good size and a decent amount of upside. It wasn’t until midway through my senior season (and shortly before graduating high school) that I finally received a few calls from coaches at the Division I level. After taking a few visits and continued communication with coaches at these schools, I finally decided to attend the University of Michigan as a recruited walk on. I ended up being an All-State player at the highest level of high school competition in Arizona, yet still had to wait until the second half of my senior year to have coaches really become interested.
While I have already named a few, there are several reasons why offers may come in later than expected in the recruiting process. Here are a few more:
- College coaches want to monitor a student-athlete’s progression. This can take time as significant progression will happen over the course of months and years rather than days at a time. In baseball, this can be particularly true if the athlete in question is raw or unpolished, but may have great size or potential in a certain facet of the game.
- College coaches will also want to take time to get to know a recruit and his/her family. This is also an area in which time is needed. Camps, visits (official and unofficial), junior days, and general correspondence are all areas a coach will use to learn more. Coaches want to recruit people they like. Getting to know someone does not happen overnight.
- If a student-athlete is not at the top of a coach’s recruiting list, the coach may need to wait for other recruiting targets to make their decision before an offer is extended. You must realize that each school you are communicating with will also be communicating with hundreds of other recruits at the same time. Where you stack up against the other recruits may determine the timeline for an offer to be extended.
After reading through all of this, you may be asking yourself what you can do to help your recruiting now knowing this information. I suggest two things: be patient and be persistent. We often hear from families that there is a lot of work being done with little results to show for it. Stories of hundreds of emails and phone calls with few responses and little significant interest are common in recruiting. All the student-athlete can do is continue to reach out to new coaches and follow up with coaches he/she may not have heard back from quite yet. If you cross a school off your list because you didn’t hear back from one email you sent them, you are doing yourself a disservice. Sometimes it takes two or three emails and even a phone call to get through to a coach and express your interest in his/her school. The trick on this front is to not be so overbearing (an email every day for example), spread your emails out by a couple of weeks if you didn’t hear back after the last one. Coaches want to know that you are interested in their school, but they don’t need to know every day.
Another thought may be to expand the list of schools you are interested in. If little has come from emailing your initial list, it may be time to expand your search and preferences. If you loosen up your search parameters (states, majors, enrollment size, tuition, etc.), you will add schools to your list that are at least in the ballpark of your ideal school. For example, let’s say you are having little luck in talking to coaches at schools in states you are willing to attend college in. I suggest looking in the surrounding states at similar schools. This will often uncover more schools for you to research.
At the end of the day, you must remember that recruiting is a marathon and not a sprint. Being patient and persistent throughout the process are keys to being successful when all is said and done. If you take time off from your recruiting efforts, your results will suffer. Always look for opportunities to get your name in front of new coaches and be sure to follow up with every coach that reaches out to you. You never know when the right opportunity will present itself.