Athletic Recruiting Beyond Athletics Recruiting Responsibility Special Contributors

The Number One Trait Coaches Want to See From Athletes

Number one trait

This post is by Coach Sue Enquist, who holds more national championships than anyone in the history of softball. She is UCLA Softball’s first All-American, National Champion, and Hall of Famer. Sue completed her career as head coach of the UCLA Bruins as the winningest softball coach among all active coaches, and has been called a “coaching legend” by ESPN.

Today I want to talk about a microbehavior called courage.

One of the areas I’m constantly hearing college coaches talk about is that the players are so regimented. They’re waiting to be told what to do, where to go, and their independent thinking has been dampened.

Over time, you just go on automatic. Your family sets your schedule, they line up all your responsibilities, and all you do is just march to the car, march to the field, march to school.

Coaches want to see student-athletes who have courage.

I want to share with you the importance of a character trait called courage. One of the most important traits you must have when you get to college is the ability to be unpopular. When you get to college, it’s the first time you’ll have a lot of independence. So there’s lots of crazy out there for the student-athlete.

If you’re a student-athlete reading this, I understand how important it is to be cool and to be the one everyone thinks is cool.

But when you get to college and you want to be a high performer. What’s cool with high performers is they are free, independent thinkers.

Coaches want to see athletes who think for themselves.

So if everyone is saying “hey let’s go out Friday night to drink,” that free, independent thinker is the person who has the courage to say, “I’m out, guys, we have a game tomorrow.” That person also has courage to built relationships that allow them to convince each of their teammates: We shouldn’t do it.

If you want to separate yourself in the recruiting process, start right now by practicing your courage. It’s not easy. It’s so much easier in high school to go with the flow, fit right in. “Everyone is doing it, Mom.”

Just take little baby steps to work on your courage. Step out, step up and be the one others will follow. And, as my Dad always used to say: When in doubt, get out.

So if you’re at a party and it’s not looking good, it’s looking a little shady, when in doubt, get out.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself, as long as it’s in moderation. So have fun, good luck and get one percent better today.


Want to talk about more ways you can be a courageous student-athlete and demonstrate the traits coaches want to see from athletes? We’re here to help. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.