Getting recruited to play varsity sports requires a certain amount of hustle. Athletic talent alone will not get you noticed. As a student-athlete, you need to quickly learn to promote and market yourself. You also need to become expert at relationship building.
Why do you need to promote yourself? In short, because there is a lot of competition. You need to remain top of mind for coaches. This means you need to develop and maintain relationships with those coaches who express interest in you as an athlete.
Getting recruited: The Context
ScholarshipStats.com offers very useful data highlighting the odds of American high school athletes competing in university sports. For the graduating high school class of 2016, approximately 7% of student-athletes went on to play on a varsity team. Only 2% transitioned to competitions at the NCAA Division I level.
In the Canadian setting, the probability of a high school student-athlete making the transition is equally staggering. School Sport Canada, the national body for high school sport, boasts a membership of more than 750,000 student-athletes. The odds of being one of the 11,000 athletes participating in Canadian university sports are just under 1.5%.
Useful tips for student-athletes
To improve your chances of participating in university athletics, consider three things:
- Timing: You don’t have the luxury of starting the university search process in your senior year. Ideally you need to start your search by the middle or end of tenth grade. Remember you are looking for a university that matches your academic as well as athletic aspirations. An early start means you have more time to search for the right university and athletic program, to make mistakes, and to catch up if there are delays. The result: a less stressful university search experience.
- Unrealistic expectations:This is not meant to discourage you from living the dream. We want you to understand the academic and athletic requirements of your dream programs. You need to give deep consideration to the schools on your list — from an academic as well as athletic perspective. Many student-athletes pursue universities that are not a good match. The results are often predictable.
- Hustle: Most student-athletes are not discovered. You need to get on coaches’ radar. Get noticed by taking the initiative. You need to send coaches your athletic profile, send videos, and keep them updated on your academic as well as athletic achievements. At times, it will feel like a full time job. If you’re good, it can be. That’s what we do at VerveSmith. (shameless plug)
What can you do to get started? Coordinate unofficial visits early to get feedback from university coaches on your athletic ability, and to ask coaches for their assessment on your realistic level of competition. You may also receive invitations to summer camps and clinics where coaches are better able to evaluate your ability.
You need an honest evaluation of your academic and athletic abilities. Speak with your parents, school counselor, independent educational consultant, teachers, and coaches to get a more holistic evaluation. A well-researched, thoughtful approach to the university search process can be the difference between disappointment and finding a university looking for a varsity athlete just like you. Follow our first recommendation and you will have plenty of time to make your dream a reality.
Coaches are looking for student-athletes who take the initiative. You need to show serious interest in their athletic program and in their institution. You need to be prepared to show them why you are interested in their program, why you are a good fit for their team, and why their university is a good match for you. As a student-athlete, you also need to assure them that you are as serious about academics as you are about athletics.
Check out VerveSmith’s list of things to consider to make a good university match.