Recruiting Tip #3 – Start Early

When I sat down and started writing my “Recruiting Tips”, I had no idea of the impact and response from people I’d receive.  Having gone thru this process as a player twice, a coach, and now a mentor, I’ve clocked a lot of hours and experience.  For years I’ve talked individually to kids, parents, and their families.  What I’m excited about now is the fact that with NEI there’s now a podium to be able to reach the masses.  As a result of the requests from all of you for more, I sat down and put everything I know on paper.  I’m glad you liked this idea, hope you like my next “Tip”.

A quote I inevitably hear from kids and families is this, “If we could only go back and know then what we know now.”  They talk about how they’d do and say things differently.  It breaks my heart knowing that a kid won’t be able to be offered, or accept an offer from a school because of something from 4 years ago.  I had a QB that Stanford wanted to offer recently but couldn’t because of a grade he had in English his FRESHMEN year.  Or to see a kid that a school loves and wants to offer, but can’t because it’s too late and they already have their allotement of offers and commits for the year.

So let’s break this down so you really get an idea of what I’m talking about.  The first thing every kid and parent need to know, is that from your 9th grade year on everything counts.  The classes you take, the grades you get, and your overall core and accumulative GPA.  So even if you’re not playing varsity your Freshmen, Sophomore, or even Junior years, you still have to think about the future.  What happens is that a kid doesn’t start or play varsity as a 9th or 10th grader, so they and their parents aren’t thinking about the recruiting process.  This is a big mistake!  Someone who wants to be a doctor goes to medical school and does residency before they can ever think about having patients, doing surgeries, and making money.  But the whole time they’re going through the process, they have their eyes set and are preparing for the future.  Same thing applies to the recruiting process.  Everything up until 9th grade is getting kids ready for High School.  Then 9th grade thru 12th grade is like their graduate or medical school, getting them ready for the real deal which is college.

So when I say start early, I mean as early as possible.  What I don’t mean is to try and call Chip Kelly at the University of Oregon football offices to send him your son’s 5th grade highlights.  What I do mean is to teach, emphasize, and stress the importance of developing the right HABITS.  I capitalized that because habits are harder to learn or change the older we all get.  The younger you instill the correct habits, the easier it is and the better off they are.  What’s the saying?  “It’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks.”  If a kid get’s to his Freshmen year and doesn’t have great study habits or a good work ethic, it’s not impossible but the odds are against him for suddenly doing a 180 and changing.

When I say start early, I also mean be very proactive with colleges.  You can go to college websites and fill out recruit questionnaires.  It doesn’t mean you’ll receive a phone call from a coach that night.  What it does mean is you’ll get your foot in the door and have your name in their database.  I coached at OSU for a year, so I saw how things worked behind the scenes.  Once we signed our senior class, we took every senior out of our database.  Immediately, the Juniors now jumped to the top of the list.  Once we had that list, we went down it from top to bottom circling or crossing off any names we would or wouldn’t recruit.  That included watching film on them to aid in whatever decision we made.  This brings me back to being proactive and filling out questionnaires.  By doing it early, you get on lists before other kids.  So eventually when it’s turn for schools to evaluate your class, you’re on the top of that list.  If you didn’t fill anything out or get on the list late, a school might never get to you.  Maybe they go down the list and see a kid they like but don’t love.  You’re better, but lower on the list.  But they’ll never know that because they make a decision.  They decide to offer the kid higher on the list because they think they can get him, even if he’s not exactly what they want and you would have been.

If you’re in High School now don’t freak out, it’s not too late.  You just have to have more urgency.  Go to college websites and fill those forms out.  If you got a bad grade in a class, retake it over the summer.  If you have a low GPA, study hard and focus semester to semester on improving your grades which will raise your overall GPA.

Again, remember this is a process.  And it’s not an exact science.  I don’t have all the answers and neither does anybody else.  These are just my recommendations through extensive experience.  No matter what though, keep working and getting better on the field and in the classroom. All of this is pointless if you don’t show a great product on the field.  If you don’t have the grades is all irrelevant as well.  I hope this helps in what can be the greatest experience of your life.  Stay tuned for “Recruiting Tip” #4.