Athletic Recruiting Recruiting Responsibility

3 Ways Not To Feel Like An Underdog In College Recruiting

(Wawrinka at the French Open in 2011. Flickr - Carine06)

(Wawrinka at the French Open in 2011. Flickr – Carine06)

Like many tennis lovers and sports enthusiasts around the world, I was up this morning watching the Men’s French Open Final with #8 Stan Wawrinka taking on #1 Novak Djokovic.

It seemed to me like every expert or commentator leading up to the match had Djokovic coming out on top. His ranking alone implies he’s, well, better – #1 is #1. And after winning the first set 6-4, Djokovic seemed to be on his way to fulfilling the prophecy-heard-round-the-globe.

Until #8 Wawrinka took the court for the second set.

Competing against the #1 player in the world, in a grand slam final, has to wreak havoc on your mental game. And in our own way, we’ve all been there. For state titles, club championships, or under the regular-season Friday night lights, we’ve all been the underdog at some point, in one way or another.

So how do you use adversity to your advantage?

Does it make you anxious? Do you thrive as the underdog?

I’m a Djokovic fan, (he cracks me up), but watching Wawrinka just hand it to him in the final three straight sets got me motivated, and got me thinking about the fact that until you step foot on the court, the field, the pool – “in the ring” – nothing expected or projected really matters, because actually, anything is possible.

Anything is possible when it comes to being an underdog in college recruiting. If you’re preparing the right way, you can be just like Wawrinka and take down not only your competitor (the #1 competitor in the world), but every other opponent and obstacle in your path. Check out these three ways to not feel like an underdog when it comes to getting recruited and set yourself apart – and above – the rest.

Set realistic goals, then go after them with all you’ve got.

When a student-athlete in our network commits to a school and we get to ring the bell for them here at NCSA, we also ask for their help in advising other student-athletes and parents on the recruiting process based on their personal experience. The number one piece of advice we hear? Set realistic goals.

Playing sports at the collegiate level is not about the division you play in or the prestige of a school’s program. It’s about finding the right fit for you – athletically, academically, and personally – and making the most of the opportunity the sum of these abilities gets you.

Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t lose the chance all together for not being realistic.

Use the summer to reach out to coaches and research schools on a daily basis.

Once you have recognized the appropriate academic and athletic level(s) best for you, use these summer months off of school to search for colleges that fit your criteria, and start calling coaches at those schools as soon as you can.

I understand this can be much easier said than done. Calling a college coach takes some gumption but–I promise-–getting just that first call down will make the rest seem so much easier. Reaching out to coaches and getting your name on their lists and in their vocabulary is just too important to put off any longer. Set a call and email schedule for yourself this summer and make it happen – your recruitment is up to one person: you.

Character and work ethic will set you apart 100% of the time.

If a coach is having a hard time deciding on you, or deciding between you and someone else, your work ethic and demeanor will set you apart 100 percent of the time.

Being timely and respectful when it comes to communicating with coaches, teammates, teachers, and your parents will not go unnoticed.

Staying an hour after practice to help a freshman with their ground ball or to meet with a tutor will not go unnoticed. Cleaning up the field after two-a-days or looking nice and put together at a campus visit will not go unnoticed. A good college coach isn’t measuring by wins or losses; he or she is measured by the kind of people they develop and send out into the world.

Signing a high school student-athlete who already “gets it” will not only make their job easier, but will put someone in the locker room they can trust as a leader – set yourself apart by your character.


If you’re looking for more ways to stop being the underdog in college recruiting and meet your full potential, our scouts can help. The best step to start is by building a recruiting profile.

About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.