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How Does the Size of Your High School Affect Recruiting?

I hope everyone had a safe and pleasant Fourth of July!

Sports Illustrated recently came out with a list of the top high school athletic program in each state.  If you are anything like me, you are instantly attracted to any sort of “Top (insert number here) list,” so I am sure many of you will find it interesting to discover which program from your state made the list.

There are several important lessons to take away from a list like this pertaining to the recruiting process that apply to ALL student-athletes and parents…whether or not your high school appears on this list.

First of all, it is important to recognize that although SI chose to focus on one program from each state (check out the list here), it is safe to say that every state has numerous wonderful public and private high school athletic programs that receive statewide (maybe even nationwide) recognition.  Several inferences in the coming points will be made under this premise.

When student athletes and families discuss their high school experience as it relates to their current recruiting success or failure, the typically fall into one of two categories:

Let’s address these scenarios one at a time and find out what lessons every student-athlete can take away regardless of which scenario they relate more to.

Scenario 1:  “I attend a small or poor quality high school program and for that reason, I will be overlooked by college coaches and my chances to play in college are lowered”

If the year was 1970 and a student-athlete attended a high school with 150 people in the middle of nowhere, they faced quite an uphill battle in their quest to play collegiate athletics.  In fact, it was next to impossible to get “discovered.” 

The good news is that due to all the advancements in technology with the internet and video, the recruiting playing field has been leveled in many ways.  Although the recruiting process can be time consuming, costly and overwhelming for some, no student-athlete is doomed from the start based on their high school size or stature.   For those from smaller, lesser known high schools it just might take a little extra work.

Scenario 2:  “I attend one of the best high schools in the state and for that reason; I will receive a great deal of exposure and have little to no trouble finding recruiting success”

There are advantages to attending a high profile high school athletic program.  There is no getting around this, so we might as well acknowledge it up front.  The high school might receive more natural exposure, college coaches might be attracted to athletes from these programs more often, the high school coach might have more experience with recruiting, etc.

However, these inherent advantages do not guarantee recruiting success or athletic scholarships.  In fact the assumption that they do might actually serve as a negative influence on a student-athlete’s potential to find collegiate opportunities.  For example, some athletes from big time programs might believe they are DI caliber simply due to their high school’s reputation when in reality they are a better fit for DII or DIII.  This might cause them to target the wrong schools.  Other student-athletes might not believe they have to put in any work to get recruited and rely solely on their high school’s prestige, which can be a huge mistake.

College coaches want the best possible recruits regardless of what high school they play for.  No one is guaranteed a scholarship simply because they play at a nationally known high school.  If a recruit is willing to take all the right steps, then the size of their high school should only be a minor factor in the recruiting process. 

Ultimately, families tend to point the finger towards their high school size undeservedly when it comes to recruiting.  For recruits from major high school programs, you still need to put work into the recruiting process even though you have slight advantages.  For recruits from smaller high schools, you can overcome your minor obstacles by taking advantage of all the resources available…you just have to be willing to put in a little more effort than your competition.