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Parents and players always ask me what they can do to attract college attention. I'm no expert. Anyone who calls themselves a recruiting expert is a joke because there is no exact science to recruiting.
For full disclosure, I've covered more than 400 Division I games, mostly football, baseball and men's basketball. I don't even want to begin to count the number of high school games.
In between bylines, I cut my teeth on recruiting from all sides. Because it was my ticket to the college beat, I learned all I could about the game of recruiting. I stayed up late on the phone with top recruits and their parents, listening as both voiced their concerns. I've hung with college coaches while they've broken down highlights or critiqued prospects during live games.
With hats lining tables at pressers all across the country every first Wednesday in February, it has become more like entertainment than sports. I'm intrigued by it, but certainly not an expert. I have seen what works, and what doesn't.
What works is when prospects take recruiting into their own hands. If they truly desire to play college ball, they shouldn't rely on a high school coach to get their name out there. That's not in their job description anyway, although some are more active than others.
What doesn't work is when prospects rely on parents to help. Most have never read an NCAA manual and actually become counterproductive to the process in some college coaches' eyes. Plus, parents who appear too involved can scare coaches because obsession with their kids often follows to college (and I've got tons of horror stories about such that I won't share). In essence, overly involved parents can be distraction no college coach wants or has time to deal with.
The kids are supposed to be becoming men, and young men who appear to be in charge of their own recruiting are elevated in a recruiter's eyes.
So if you want to play in college, take charge now. Don't wait until your senior season to start. That's too late these days. Borrow game films from your coach and take the initiative to find the dozens of free video editing software online. Put your best five highlights at the start. Most coaches either keep watching a film or turn it off after five plays, depending on interest.
Then upload the video to Youtube and also put it on free recruiting web sites like berecruited.com, takkle.com and playnextlevel.com. Do not pay for the services. The free sites are utilized as often, if not more often, than the paid ones by recruiters.
Send the video to rivals.com and scout.com, Web sites that follow college recruiting all over the country and ranked prospects, largely based on the films they receive.
Most importantly, send one to every college you are interested in, and send it directly to the recruiting coordinator. Make sure you include your class, contact information, height, weight, 40-yard dash time, GPA and an ACT or SAT score.
If you pass the initial eye test, the very next question a coach asks is about grades. If you haven't taken the ACT or SAT, then sign up for the very next one to get it out the way.
Follow up every video you send with a phone call, “Hey coach, this is Johnny Phastfordy and I just wanted to make sure you got my tape.”
After talking to you in person, every coach that is worth his salt will then take the time to watch a few plays. If he's interested, he will call. If not, no call. Don't keep calling repeatedly trying to get feedback. That's what camps are for, and you should attend as many camps as possible — especially at the schools you're interested in — as long as it doesn't break your family's budget.
If no calls come back after trying multiple colleges, then something doesn't measure up and perhaps college athletics are not for you.