Are You Good Enough to Play for the School You Want

researching college rostersResearch doesn’t sound like something you would expect to be doing when it comes to college recruiting, but it plays a critical role in identifying the schools with the best scholarship opportunities. When looking for a scholarship, you need to find a school where you can come in and be one of the better players on the team. How do you know if you are good enough for a particular school; look at the athletes already on the team.

Where does the school typically recruit?

  • In-State versus Out-of-State. There are schools that focus on in-state recruits or out-of-state recruits. The only way to know which is which is by looking over the roster.
  • Are there a lot of international athletes? Usually international athletes are on scholarship. If you want to get a scholarship from that school, those are the athletes you will need to be better than. If you are an international athlete, a roster with a lot of internationals is a good sign that coach will be more receptive to recruiting you.
  • Are there a lot of JUCO transfers? Coaches tend to be creatures of habit; if a coach likes to recruit JUCO transfers, they probably aren’t going to change. If you are in a JUCO, these schools are good to focus on. If you are trying to get recruited from high school, understand there is more competition for scholarships.

Is the Roster Old or Young?

  • Does the roster have a lot of underclassmen? – Having a program that is underclassmen heavy usually means they won’t have a lot of roster spots for the next few recruiting classes.
  • Does the roster have a lot of seniors and juniors? – When a program is going to be losing several athletes to graduation, that usually means more scholarship money is opening up. You want to find programs that have a lot of upper classmen at your position.

After looking at the roster as a whole, you want to begin looking at individual athletes.

Do You Pass the Eye Test?

The eye test is a coach’s first impression of you. This happens when they see your first email or highlight tape. They are going to look for a couple generic numbers like height, weight, personal best times or other sport specific numbers. You want to review the roster and athlete bio’s to see if you are going to pass the eye test. Below are examples of the types of things coaches look at initially and where you should be similar to the athletes currently on the team.

Baseball & Softball – These sports have pretty established measurables  like 60 yards dash, home-first time, but you won’t get this information in an athletes bio on the school website. Instead,  look is the height and weight of athletes playing your position. Look at the teams and leagues they played in as prep athletes. If a school has a roster full of Under Armour All-American or All-Region players, you know what those coaches expect in a recruit.

Field Hockey – You want to identify the club teams and showcases the athletes on the team played in when they were in high school. What regional or national events did they compete in? Did they get any recognition’s at those events? You want to show a coach you have a resume and experience similar to the athletes on the team.

Football – Look at the heights and weights of the athletes at your position. Do you match up? Look for things like what awards and recognition’s the athletes had in high school. If they were all 3-star+ recruits it is pretty clear the coaches are looking for recruits who are active in those combines. With football, coaches are more willing to let a recruit develop, so if you haven’t fully developed (most high school boys aren’t) let a coach know how big your family is.

Basketball – After a coach looks at your height they are going to want to know what teams you’ve played for and if you have any noteworthy awards from tournaments or showcases. If you are undersized, look for opportunities to highlight where you have played well against other highly recruited competition. The facts are, the higher the level of competition in basketball, the more coaches expect you to have been playing at a high level as a prep athlete.

Track & Field/Cross Country – Look at the athletes in your events and see if your personal best times or marks match up to theirs. Another place to look are the conference and national meet results. If you can show a coach you have the PR’s to come in and compete for points at the conference level, they are going to be very interested. To get a track scholarship, you need to be one of the better athletes on the team otherwise a coach will likely only offer you a walk-on.

Tennis – Coaches look for athletes with the tournament experience and rankings that are comparable to the athletes already on their team. Specifically, you want to have a similar ITF or USTA ranking. Another thing to look for are the number of international versus domestic athletes. College tennis has the highest percentage of international athletes than any other sport.

Golf – Look at the tournaments results of the players already on the team. If a program is recruiting athletes that are routinely playing and placing in national and international junior tournaments, you will need to be that level too. If you are playing more regional tournaments, then look for a program who has athletes who played mostly at that level in high school.

Gymnastics – When reviewing the other athletes on the team, look for things like, what level they were competing in high school and what meets they were competing in. Coaches want to see that a recruit has the similar level of experience as the gymnasts already on the team.

Ice Hockey – Coaches are looking at two things when they first see an athlete. How big are you, and what junior team/league are you playing for? While coaches might identify recruits early in high school, they really use the final year of high school and two years of junior hockey to evaluate an athlete. If you want to play for a certain team and they recruit a lot of player from a specific junior hockey league, you should strongly consider playing for a team in that league.

Lacrosse – When reviewing the athletes currently on the roster you want to see what high school and club teams they play for and what tournaments and showcases they played in. If you see two or three athletes on the team that all played in a certain showcase or tournament, it is a good chance the coaches will be recruiting there again.

Rowing – It would be great if a team listed the ERG for all of their crew members, but they don’t. You instead need to look at things like where they are from and some of their accomplishments. The good thing about rowing is that coaches aren’t as inundated buy emails from recruits as they are in sports like football. If you have a well put together email with your academic information and ERG, coaches will get the info they need to get started.

Soccer – First look at the size (usually just height) of the players. You can get a good idea of how important size is to a coach by looking at the size of the players on their roster. Second, look at the club teams and recognition’s of the players on the team. Specifically, you want to see how many of the players are coming from the ODP system or have other national recognition’s. Some programs will recruit almost exclusively from ODP.  Finally, look closely at the number of international players on a roster. Some schools are open to recruiting international players and others don’t (or very rarely do).

Swimming – You need to have swimming times that are going to be among the best on the team. Look at the athletes in your events and see where you stack up. You also want to review the conference and national championship meets and see if your times will be competitive there. In general, coaches award scholarships to swimmers who can score points at the conference and national level.

Volleyball – The first part of the eye test is height. You need to be close to the height of the girls on the team at your position. After that, you want to see what club teams and events athletes on the team played in. If there are two or three players on a team that all played in the same event, chances are the coach will be recruiting there again.

Water Polo – You want to see how you match up against the current team members in size and experience. To play at the highest levels in college you are going to need to match up physically.

Wrestling – You want to compare your prep results to those of the athletes on the team. If the current team members have results in NUWAY and USAW events, this is going to be what a coach expects from anyone they are going to recruit. You want to find a team with athletes who had similar results to yours at the prep level.

What To Do With This Information

Just because you don’t match up with the current athletes on the team doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contact that school. However, it does mean that a scholarship at that school is not very likely. College coaches like to see that an athlete has taken the time to learn about their program; showing that you have researched the team roster and you understand where you fit in with the athletes on the team will impress the coach.

Are you having problems finding schools? Have you looked at some teams rosters and can’t figure out if you are good enough? Leave your questions in the comments or email directly

14 Responses to “Are You Good Enough to Play for the School You Want”

  1. Kelly Thompson

    My son and I were interested in this info about how to know when you are the right fit for a certain college, but your section “Do you pass the eye test” fails to include soccer, so we are thinking that your site doesn’t really focus on soccer recruiting. Do you have advice for “passing the eye test” in soccer? Thanks!

    • David Frank

      Kelly, that was an over site and I made sure to add it to the post. How to approach soccer recruiting really comes down to what programs you are targeting. The elite DI programs are going to look almost exclusively for players with ODP or comparable backgrounds.

  2. phyllis ferrell

    I have been researching, information about any and everything that will prepare my son who is now in the 8th grade have a better chance of being offered a college basketball scholarship. I have been doing my homework for about 3yrs now, and when I think I know a lot or think I have got to be one of the most knowledgeable basketball parents there is when this site always educate with other information I just couldn’t have imagined myself not knowing. I’am so thankful for their help.

    • David Frank

      ODP is short for Olympic Development Program. This is the top level of club teams in the states where athletes are competing for the opportunity to play for the US Junior National team.

    • David Frank

      Darren. Fixed. The most important things to look for are the number of domestic versus international athletes and the rankings/tournament experience of the athletes when they were in high school.

    • David Frank

      If you haven’t play in tournaments, it is going to be difficult to get recruited. You will need to look for a school that has open walk-on tryouts and see if you can make the team that way.

  3. Starting Late

    My son is a Junior in HS and plays football. He recently contacted a state university and they contacted him back and asked him to send his highlight video. The problem is that we are getting a late start in the recruiting process simply because we didn’t know where to begin or what to do early on. He does not yet have a video but this school is a top choice, academically as well as athletically. We don’t want to miss out on any opportunities simply because we don’t yet have a video to send. How should my son respond to this coach? Is it ok to tell him we don’t have one yet and are working on it or will he be disregarded for being unprepared?

    • David Frank

      All you can do is let the coach know you don’t have a highlight video and will get it to them as soon as possible. After that, you need to move as fast as possible to get film to those coaches. The worst thing you can do is say nothing; you need to respond and let them know what the situation is.

  4. My daughter just completed her freshman year of HS. Her resume is just beginning to develop. My understanding is colleges are looking at players earlier and earlier (particularly Goalkeepers – her position). Since she is still young, she has not had time to earn many recognitions. Will coaches take that into consideration as they look at her lacking resume? She tried out for ODP last year and was 1 of 4 who were called back out of 15, but didn’t make the cut. She plans to try again this year. But with resumes already being sent, All-state… HS awards not yet earned, and ODP not part of her resume yet, should she just assume D1 is not a likely option at this point or does she still have time to earn them and make an impression?

    • David Frank

      Elite DI schools are getting the really early commitments, but there are over 200 DI programs and they won’t all have commitments from 8th graders. She is on the right path, they key for her is to establish contact with the schools she is most interested in.

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