When it comes to recruiting student-athletes, college coaches evaluate more than just athletic ability and academics—they care about potential recruits’ coachability and character too. Attitude, work ethic, body language and a recruit’s actions on and off the field are paramount in the recruiting process. However, many student-athletes are wondering how they can demonstrate these qualities to college coaches with the suspension of in-person recruiting through July 31.
Learn more about what college coaches are looking for in recruits and how student-athletes can still impress coaches without in-person contact below.
- What do coaches look for outside of athletic ability?
- What can student-athletes do to demonstrate character without in-person contact?
- Who can student-athletes ask for references and letters of recommendation?
- How can student-athletes make this information accessible to college coaches?
What do coaches look for outside of athletic ability?
When college coaches were asked what they value most in recruits, the 2019 NCSA State of Recruiting Report found that a recruit’s character was the most common answer. St. Ambrose’s Track and Field Head Coach Dan Tomlin says he recruits “attitude and character over athletic ability. We’re looking for good students. I would say personality makes the athlete.”
Watching how players interact with their coaches, teammates and parents before, during and after practices, games and recruiting events is important to college coaches because they want to recruit student-athletes who have a positive attitude, strong work ethic and a willingness to improve.
With sports seasons canceled and recruiting events postponed, coaches are also turning to a recruit’s grades and test scores to find these traits. Geneva County Head Football Coach JimBob Striplin says “the first thing [college coaches] ask me is (a) what kind of kid is he and (b) what kind of grades does he have.” While school closures and a recent shift to online-learning has been challenging for many recruits, coaches still want to see athletes staying on track to meet the minimum academic eligibility requirements to compete—and to meet a college’s admissions requirements.
What can student-athletes do to demonstrate character without in-person contact?
There are still plenty of opportunities for student-athletes to demonstrate character and coachability without in-person contact, including references, letters of recommendation, personal statements and social media.
- References are key to a successful recruiting process this year. Without the chance to see student-athletes in person, college coaches are reaching out to people in a student-athlete’s network (via phone calls, texts, emails and video chat) to confirm their character, coachability and to learn more about them.
- Letters of Recommendation go one step further—having a written statement vouching for a student-athlete can help distinguish them from other prospective recruits with similar athletic and academic abilities. An honest assessment of a recruit’s personal strengths from a reputable source can help them land a roster spot.
- Personal Statements give college coaches an inside look into who recruits are—what are their interests outside of the sport? What do they value? What are their goals, and what steps are they taking to accomplish them?
- Social Media is more important than ever in the age of digital recruiting. Keeping profiles public and sharing appropriate posts could make or break the recruiting process for most student-athletes. Striplin agrees, saying that college coaches “will eliminate half the people they are looking at just by checking their (players’) Twitter feed or Snapchat.”
Who can student-athletes ask for references and letters of recommendation?
Student-athletes have many people in their network to ask for a reference or letter of recommendation. However, it’s important to select references who a) know them well in an athletic or academic capacity and b) will provide college coaches with a positive review. We suggest reaching out to:
- Current or former high school/club coaches from your sport(s)
- Current or former high school teachers
- Guidance counselors and school principals
- Athletic/personal trainers and high school/club staff
- Managers and supervisors—from a part-time job, internship or club
Recruits should avoid asking family members or close friends. While they may know them best, college coaches may find these types of references to be biased. Instead, recruits can introduce their families when they’ve established a relationship with a college coach. Nowadays, college coaches have more time to connect with recruits virtually. Private football quarterback coach Danny Hernandez agrees, stating that “coaches also have more free time to call recruits, establishing better relationships with prospects and their families while also filling up their phones.”
How can student-athletes make this information accessible to college coaches?
Once a student-athlete has received a reference and/or letter of recommendation, they should add it to their NCSA recruiting profile to make it accessible to all college coaches in our recruiting network. Student-athletes can also share their academic achievements/awards and non-sports related activities to give college coaches a more holistic view of themselves:
Student-athletes should take some time to share references, letters of recommendation and/or any recent updates to their profile, such as a new personal statement or athletic/academic stats, with all college coaches they’re currently in contact with,
Prospective student-athletes can set themselves apart from other recruits and find success in their digital recruiting process by offering college coaches a chance to evaluate their character and coachability by hearing directly from the coaches, teachers and mentors that know them best.