One Big Mistake Aspiring College Athletes Make

Don’t Let This Be You

As the school year comes to an end, many rising high school senior athletes will be patiently waiting this summer and fall for phone calls and letters from college coaches.

Competing on a collegiate athletic team is a dream for many high school athletes, especially at the Division 1 level. College athletics is the highest level one can achieve before going professional. Since only a [super] small percentage of college athletes go pro, competing in the NCAA is the next best thing. In individual sports, like track and field and swimming, you can compete alongside professional athletes in open or invitational meets, which can be super inspiring (or if you’re like me, go through a brief moment of fan-girling before snapping into comeptition mode).

I’ve heard many high school athletes (and their parents/guardians) become confused and baffled that they’re not receiving the number of offers they think they deserve. One obvious reason for this could be that the athlete simply overestimated their talent (being the best athlete in your hometown or state =/= being a top prospective athlete). The other reason is what I believe to be one of the biggest mistakes many high school athletes make: they don’t put themselves out there.

*NOTE: A lot of my examples will relate to track and field since I participated in this sport in college. Some of this may not completely apply to your respective sport.

Where Can You Find College Scouts?

Most college scouts show up to the state, regional, and national games/matches/tournaments/meets. In track and field, there are meets that have both high school and collegiate races (e.g. Penn Relays), so college coaches may pay attention if the times and marks are good enough to their standards. The best of the best will be at these events, so it makes sense for coaches to come watch future recruiting classes. Even if you or your team qualifies to these events, you can still get overlooked. The coaches only have two eyes, plus they can easily be distracted by the coveted nationally ranked athletes, whose talent naturally stands out.

A Better Way To Get The Attention Of College Coaches

Put yourself out there and expand your options. There are thousands of colleges and universities with sports programs in the United States. The coaches contacting you and sending you offers may not be the best program for you. The problem with a lot of high school athletes is that they sit around and wait for coaches to find them instead of doing their homework. Finding the right athletic program is like finding the right job. Just because you’re qualified to work somewhere, doesn’t mean it’s the right job for you.

Here’s what you can do:

Create An Athletic Resume

An athletic resume highlights all of your accomplishments in your respective sport as well as key information that the coach is looking to see. It can easily be created on Microsoft Word. It should include the following:

  • Name of your high school (include its location, your graduating year, and the name of your head coach)
  • A headshot in your team’s uniform (or warmups)
  • Height and weight
  • Your position/specialty event(s)
  • Your stats from your freshman year to present (coaches like seeing progression)
  • NCAA Clearinghouse ID number (this verifies that you’re an amateur high school athlete with decent grades, and a clean record)
  • Links to videos (e.g. a highlight tape). Optional for some sports, but this gives the coach an idea of your form. Example: if you have good stats but bad form, a coach will see a tremedous amount of potential in you since they’re usually really good at teaching athletes the mechanics.
  • Awards (e.g. All-American Honors, State Champion, MVP, Rookie of the Year, school/state record holder, team captain, etc.)
  • Contact information (phone number, email address, home address)

See What Your Future Competition Is Doing

Look up the stats of current college athletes, and see you stand with your current personal records. Also, pay close attention to the schools that have a lot of rising junior and/or senior athletes in your respective position/event; this means that the coaches are actively looking to fill those spots with newcomers.

Track and field athletes can go on TFRRS.org (Track and Field Results Reporting System) or DirectAthletics (also has swimming and diving stats), where you can find meet results and the performance lists for every collegiate conference in every division. If your respective sport does not have a database like this, then the information can be found on the school’s athletic website under their respective sport.

Email The Coaches DIRECTLY

Once you identify the schools you that you think will be a good fit for you, go on the athletics website for each school and find the email address for the head coach and email him/her directly. Make sure you create a professional looking email address (e.g. firstnamelastname@gmail.com). No one will take you seriously if your email looks like: sportybabiix0x or iBall365.

College athletic webpages contain athletic questionnaires in each sport for prospective athletes to fill out; however, most coaches do not read them; your athletic resume will contain the key information that is asked on the questionnaire. Unless you cannot find the coach’s contact information, do not waste your time filling out the questionnaire.

In the email you can introduce yourself, state your where you’re from, the name of your high school and your graduating year. In a couple sentences, state why you are interested in the school and the team (remember you’re a student first, athlete second). Attach your athletic resume on the bottom and state that the document is attached. A sample email will look like this:

Dear Coach X,
My name is Nicole Cooper. I am a rising senior at X High School in City, State. I am very interested in applying to X University, and I would love to be a member of your school’s track and field team. X University is known for its business program, which would be perfect for me because I am an aspiring CPA. It would be an honor to continue my athletic career on your team while pursuing my studies. Below, I have a Microsoft document attached below that contains my stats from the last three indoor and outdoor seasons, as well as relevent academic and contact information. I am looking forward to your response. Feel free to contact me directly at (xxx) xxx-xxxx. Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Nicole Cooper

Email Away!

Send this to as many college coaches as you wish. The more the merrier. You’ll probably get a response via email or phone call from about 50% of the coaches, give or take, and about less than half of those responses (again, give or take) will be invitations to visit and/or scholarship offers. NOTE: these are estimations, NOT promises.

What If I Want To Compete For A School That’s Out Of My League?

It depends on how far off your stats are from the current athletes attending the school. I will say it doesn’t hurt to try and get your foot in the door; you never know what will happen. From my personal experience of cold emailing, I have emailed coaches of schools that were “out of my league” on paper, but I did receive an unexpected phone call from the assistant coach of the University of North Carolina. Even though my stats were below their standards, he did say I would be allowed to join the team as a walk-on (i.e. a non-scholarship athlete). I did not attend UNC, but it was a huge confidence booster that I was even being considered.

Last Piece Of Advice: Don’t Be Bougie

Being a Division 1 athlete is a coveted title; however do not stick your nose up to the “lower” levels. There are many Division 2, Division 3, NAIA and junior college athletes who can keep up with (and beat) Division 1 athletes. Scottie Pippen and Ben Wallace are two examples of professional athletes who did not attend a Division 1 school for basketball. Even though I attended a Division 1 school, I was really impressed by my visit to a Division 3 school. They had amazing facilities, All-American athletes, and I really clicked with the team members. If that school offered my desired major, I probably would’ve attended that school over my alma mater.

Stay humble, work hard, do your research, and put yourself out there.