As much as players and parents would like to think the opposite, how the college recruiting process ultimately plays out for an individual is largely out of their control. This isn’t to say that doing the rights things won’t put you in position to be successful, but instead means that regardless of the work you put in for yourself, the final result depends on many factors that are out of your hands completely. This is why it is crucial that you recognize going into the recruiting process that in order to be successful in the end, you should avoid boxing yourself in and putting all of your eggs in one basket in the beginning.
For the most part the recruiting process is very fluid, as the environment is constantly changing for both the potential recruits and the college coaches pursuing them. From the player’s perspective, they are likely to change schools, coaches, or travel teams at least once, if not several times, over the course of their high school careers. There are also hitting coaches, pitching coaches, and personal trainers that a player may interact with. All of these people who hold influence in a player’s life will provide their opinions and advice, especially in the area of recruiting. However, it is always good to be somewhat skeptical of what you are told. Putting too much faith in what one individual tells you can end up burning you in the end, and may cause you to miss out on other opportunities.
Everyone has heard the stories of a coach telling a player “my best friend is a coach there, he will get you on the team,” or “I talked to this coach today, they will definitely offer you a scholarship.” You also may have heard things like “go to that school or travel team, that coach really gets their players recruited,” or, “if you get these stats or go to this showcase, you will definitely be noticed by schools.” While in certain cases these may turn out to be true, putting your entire faith in one of these sort of things is a bad strategy.
All too often you see young players depend solely on one factor in the equation, whether it be a coach, a statstic, or an event, to help them reach their goals, and when at crunch time they realize their narrow focus has caused them to ignore other possible opportunities. Accept all the advice that is given to you and combine it with your own research, but at the same time make sure you cast a wide net and remain open to all opportunities that may pop up. Relying too heavily on a given situation could lead you astray if circumstances out of your control happen to change.
As a parent or player, and often times this even includes coaches, the least understood area of the recruiting process is the perspective of the college coaches and programs. This lack of understanding often leads to the players, parents, and coaches flat out ignoring this factor in their recruiting strategy. The truth is that the college coaches control the recruiting process. Players can do the right things to put themselves in front of the coaches, but the final decisions are that of the coach. This is why statements such as “I am going to play at [insert school here]” are comical.
The truth is that given the fact that every school has limited scholarships and limited roster spots, the number of players who actually play at their “dream school” is very small. This is not to say that you can’t play at a school of similar quality, but there are too many moving parts that are out of your control for you to choose which school you will play college athletics at. Coaching staffs are always in a state of change, they are like a revolving door. Schools change conferences or divisions. Players transfer or leave for the draft. Any of these things can have drastic effects on how a coach or a school recruits, and all of these things are completely out of the control of those being recruited. Therefore, limiting yourself to only playing for certain schools or certain coaches may really hurt your chances of making the next level if a wrench is thrown in the works. A coach you really liked may get fired or switch schools, or a player who was planning on leaving school may decide to come back. If you were overly committed to that school or coach, you may be in a tough spot. On the flip side, if you keep as many channels open as possible, you will see that such occurrences may actually open up opportunities at other schools, as there are two sides to each scenario. Of course this is assuming you haven’t already committed to a school. If that is the case it is usually best to stay committed, unless special circumstances arise.
In any case, the best recruiting strategy is to start with the big picture in mind and then gradually focusing in and narrowing down your options over time. If you start with a narrow-minding view and try to expand your options from there, you may find that it is too late to adjust when the time comes to make a decision. When there are so many factors at play, most of which are out of the control of any player, parent, or coach, putting all of your eggs into one basket is only going to set you up for failure.