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The Important Role of Highlight and Skills Videos in Recruiting

There is no denying the crucial role highlight videos can play for many student-athletes in their recruiting process. College coaches are extremely busy; it would be impossible for them to travel the country to evaluate every potential recruit. Highlight videos are a chance to get student-athletes in front of coaches and give them an unbiased look at their skills and abilities. It’s a fact that online recruiting profiles that include a highlight video receive more than 10 times as much traffic as those without one. A great highlight video is one of the most important things to include in your recruiting profile to garner some serious attention from college coaches.

Highlight video vs. skills video

A highlight video is exactly that: Clips of your game footage that highlight your talent and skill. These videos are important because they save coaches time by allowing them to quickly review hundreds of student-athletes without having to visit them in person.

A skills video, unlike a highlight video, includes a series of staged sport-specific actions outside of a game setting. It is not necessary for every sport or position but can be a helpful way to demonstrate to coaches your technical abilities and mastery of a key skill.

How to make a highlight video

After you’ve collected enough footage, it’s time to start editing. The goal is to put together a video that showcases what your student-athlete can do, as this is one of the main ways coaches evaluate a potential recruit. Here are some tips for putting together a great highlight video:

1. Include the right highlights. Depending on your sport, coaches will be looking for different types of footage. For example, it’s important for basketball and football videos to show in-game footage, but sports like baseball and softball should focus more on technical skills.

2. Keep your video short—about three to five minutes. If a coach wants to see footage of a whole game, they will request it.

3. Showcase your best clips first. Sometime coaches won’t watch more than the first 20 or 30 seconds of your video. If you start out strong, you have a better chance of capturing their attention.

4. Use freeze frames and/or spot shadows. Right before the action begins, freeze the video so the coach can see what has been set up. Then, add a circle or arrow to identify your student-athlete.

5. Vary the skills you showcase. While it’s impressive to be able to drain three-pointers, if your whole highlight video only shows that one skill, you’re not showing that you’re a well-rounded player. Include footage of other important aspects of the game such as playing defense.

6. Include footage from before and after the play. Coaches aren’t just interested in the execution; they want to see how you react and communicate during gameplay.

7. Make sure the quality of the video is high. You might have made an amazing catch, but if the camera is shaking and you’re out of focus, you’re more likely to be looked over. Coaches are making split-second decisions when they watch highlight videos. Don’t give them any reason to stop watching.

8. Keep it simple. There’s no need to include special editing effects or music in your highlight video. The fewer frills, the better.

9. Provide detailed information along with your video. The first frame of the video should include your name, school, jersey number, position, graduation year and contact information. You can also add sport-specific measurements such as height, weight, etc.

Get more highlight video tips.

Insider tip: Video editing is tricky, and while the software that makes creating highlight videos is more accessible today than ever, something this important is often best left in the hands of professionals. There’s skill and technique involved, and the stakes are high for your student-athlete.

FAQs about highlight videos

Below you’ll find some common questions we get about highlight videos.

How long should a highlight video be?

A highlight video should be between 3 to 5 minutes long. The video should be long enough to showcase your skills, but short enough to keep the coach’s attention. 

When and how do I get footage?

It’s never too early to start collecting video. You might not use the footage from middle or early high school in your final reel, but it’s a good idea to get used to filming, as there are nuances to capturing the best video for each sport. Ultimately, you should aim to have your highlight video created by the end of your junior year, as long as it feature varsity-level competition.

There are a few different ways to get video:

Once you’ve secured video equipment, it’s important to keep in mind some filming best practices:

Insider tip: If you haven’t gotten any attention from your junior year highlight video, update it with good clips from the first few games of your senior year.

When and how do I send it out?

Once you’ve put the finishing touches on your highlight video, it’s time to put it online and in your NCSA athletic recruiting profile. Your best bet is to upload your video to a video hosting website like YouTube or Hudl and then add it to your NCSA profile. After it’s uploaded, you will be provided with a unique link. When emailing with coaches, include that link and let them know it’s your highlight video. You can send your video to coaches at any time as long as it is varsity footage. Before the varsity level, you should be focusing on your fundamentals and building relationships.

Read more: How to send highlights to coaches and get them to view them

Insider tip: Who you should send your highlight video to varies by sport and division. For Division I, you should include the position coach or recruiting coordinator in the email, as the head coach is unlikely to view it. At the other levels, you will want to include the head coach and/or assistant coach.

What happens after I send the highlight video?

It’s crucial to follow up with coaches after you’ve sent your video. After two to three days, you should send a follow-up email or give them a call. Make sure to have the highlight video ready to resend when you reach back out. Check out these tips for maintaining communication with coaches. As you continue to progress in your season, make sure to update your highlight video with newer, better clips. This can be a great reason for reaching out to a coach again when you’re trying to build that relationship.

Do college coaches only watch varsity film?

Is it worth it for student-athletes to put together a highlight video when they’re not on a varsity team? Yes! While varsity-level footage is most valuable to college coaches, some coaches also like to see how athletes have developed athletically over time. Recording footage early on, even starting freshman year, will allow you to update your video (and follow up with coaches!) more frequently so coaches can see how you progressed throughout each high school or club season.

Watch NCSA recruiting experts Phill Wells and Kyle Winters break down why documenting (and sharing!) non-varsity level with college coaches won’t set you back in your recruiting process.