Timeless Advice on Dealing With College Coaches

advice for communicating with college coachesBill Pennington is a writer for the New York Times. Back in 2008 when his children were going through the recruiting process, he wrote many excellent articles detailing the various aspects of recruiting and scholarships. One of my favorite pieces was “Recruits Clamor for More From Coaches With Less.” In it, he interviews several college coaches about the balance of recruiting an athlete and having to explain to them the limited scholarship money available. While the article is now over 5 years old, much of the advice is still relevant. Here are some of the the key points.

Non-Revenue Sports Aren’t Full-Rides

“Then I tell them I have a 25% scholarship for them… And no one believes you, but that’s a good Division I baseball scholarship. You have to convince his parents that you’re being really fair.”

Unless you play a head-count sport (guaranteed full-rides) your scholarship will probably be a partial scholarship. When we talk about “negotiating” a scholarship, we don’t mean keep looking for a full-ride. Often times a successful negotiation is going from a 10% scholarship to 25% or an unrecruited walk-on (not guaranteed a spot on the team) to recruited walk-on (on the team but no scholarship).

Coaches Talk to One Another

“Families will try to play the coaches off each other… What they don’t know is that we coaches all talk to each other… We will call the other coach”

I am a big proponent of having multiple schools recruiting you and being able to tell coaches you have interest or offers from other schools; this is really your only way to negotiate with a coach. But you have to be 100% truthful about the nature of the interest coming from other schools. It is tempting to exaggerate an offer, but when one coach calls the other, they will get the truth and both schools could stop recruiting you if they found out you lied.

You Will Feel Pressure to Decide

“I’ve waited patiently in the past and lost all three.”

This is a coach talking about how she makes scholarship offers. She will make the same offer to three recruits and let them know, the first one to commit gets the scholarship, the other two lose out. When or if this happens to a family it can feel almost unfair. The truth is you can’t go through the recruiting process without feeling pressure from coaches. Recruiting is competitive and scholarships are hard to come by. At some point you need to be prepared to just make a decision or have other options.

Talk to Those Who Know

“Go sit with the parents of the current players… By the end of the game, they’ll know everything — good or bad. And that’s what really matters.”

It is a great idea to talk to parents of college athletes or former athletes, but, I would caution against trying to talk with the parents of the school you are getting recruited by (as is suggested by the coach in this article). Technically, the parents are considered “boosters” for the program and per NCAA rules aren’t allowed to communicate with recruits or their families. You can always talk with former college athletes or their parents and often times their perspective will open your eyes to the true recruiting process.

It is critical you understand the realty of scholarships for your sport. Not every team has 85 full-ride scholarships like NCAA DI FBS football. Most sports have to stretch their scholarship money and expecting to get full-ride is going to leave you and the coaches recruiting you frustrated. If you have questions about your scholarships in you sport or are feeling unsure about the types of feedback you are getting from coaches, leave them in the comments below or email me directly david@athleticscholarships.net.

Posted on by David Frank
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14 Responses to Timeless Advice on Dealing With College Coaches

  1. Jeff Usdansky says:

    How many scholarships are available for NAIA girls softball

    • David Frank says:

      A fully funded NAIA program has 10 scholarships. These are equivalency scholarships meaning they can be divided up as partial scholarships and usually are.

  2. Christine says:

    We were given from the women’s track coach 60 percent….. We don’t know if that’s a fair and honest scholarship. From a division one university. Should we take it?

    • David Frank says:

      That is a good scholarship for a freshman track and field athlete. It terms of if it is honest, it really comes down to the relationship you have had with the coach. Track generally is an “earn it” sport. If your daughter is able to come in and have a good first year, I would expect her scholarship to increase. Congratulations.

  3. steve white says:

    If your kid committed to an NAIA school and a different NAIA school has a better offer can he still decommit?

    • David Frank says:

      Are you talking about a verbal commitment or an official commitment (having signed for a scholarship)?

      • steve white says:

        It is a signed commitment.

        • David Frank says:

          You will need to check with the university and potentially the conference as each school and conference makes their own rules regarding letters of commitment. There are no NAIA rules that restrict you from signing, but the school or conference might have something else.

  4. Mark says:

    Football question. A coach told my son ,if he comes on an official visit he will not be able to play this upcoming season as a preferred walk-on. If he comes on an unofficial visit he will be able to compete for a starting position. Is there a NCAA rule about this? The offer is from a D1 FBS school.

    • David Frank says:

      It sounds like the program is trying to keep your sons “unrecruited” status. There is a subtle distinction between recruited and unrecruited players and has implications on roster numbers. I would talk with the coach and confirm if this is what they are doing.

      • Mark says:

        Thanks David ,
        Does this mean my son would still have a spot on the team or could they say there is no room on the roster later in the process? Bottom line which one would be more likely to confirm that he has a spot on the roster?

        • David Frank says:

          Large programs like this are always moving players around. My guess is he has a spot on the team, whether that is dressing, red-shirting or practice squad I couldn’t say. Being a recruited or unrecruited walk-on wouldn’t change the security of his spot on the team much. It comes down to your relationship with the coach and how honest you feel they are being with you.

  5. Cindy says:

    Four Div 3 schools in the same conference are contacting my daughter for women’s basketball. What is the smartest way to negotiate?

    • David Frank says:

      I feel it is always best to let a coach know that you are talking to other programs and what schools those are. You can say “I wanted to be open and honest with you and let you know I have also been contacted by xxx, xxx and xxx. I like all of the schools and am working with my family to decide which school will be best.” Hope this helps.

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