Big time DI college sports are the dreams for a lot of athletes and families. It’s no secret this level of sports is big business with billions of dollars being generated through TV and commercial contracts. College coaches at this level are among the highest paid coaches in their profession and they know the life blood of their program is finding the elite athletes.
Anytime you are getting recruiting advice, remember there are subtle differences depending on the sport you play. You can learn more about those nuances by visiting your sports specific recruiting page.
It Starts with Athletic Talent and Potential
The first thing any coach is looking at is, do they think you have the athletic potential to play at the DI level. Coaches need to make this snap judgment on thousands of recruits each year and in order to speed up this process, they use a couple key indicators:
- Do you have the general athleticism (size, skill, or speed) required? For sports like football this means they are looking at your height and weight. In sports like track or swimming, they are going to look at your times and see if you are even close to DI times. For sports with big club team communities, coaches look for athletes who are already playing at the top level and against elite competition.
- Do you have the potential to develop into a DI athlete? Coaches will look at your family’s athletic history and the size of your parents/relatives to see if you might develop into a DI athlete. In sports like track and swimming, they will be interested in you training history to see if you have a lot of room to improve with proper training.
- Are you the best on your team? Very rarely is a team deep enough that athletes with DI talent aren’t starting or playing significant minutes. Even at the top football and basketball high schools, almost every DI recruit is a starter. There can be a lot of politics that go into determining who plays/starts, but coaches don’t have time to try and understand that for each team. They use a rule of thumb you should be playing a lot for your current team to quickly identify potential DI recruits.
They Say No A Lot More Than Yes
D1 coaches are contacted by hundreds of recruits ever year and evaluate hundreds more. They say “no,” meaning they pass on the vast majority of recruits. This means you need to have something exceptional for them to say yes. Exceptional means different things to different coaches, but for recruits, that means you need to stand above your competition. Maybe you have exceptional academics and are a good athlete. You might be undersized but have blazing speed. Maybe you have a lot of room to improve once you focus on your sport year round. Whatever it is that make unique, make sure you highlight it when you are reaching out to coaches.
They Go to the Biggest Event and Only Look at the Best Players
When you are a DI program, you get the chance to recruit the best players in the country. This means they are going to the biggest showcases and tournaments in the country and looking at the best players. Don’t expect there to be a big contingent of DI programs at regional or local events unless there are going to be several confirmed DI recruits there.
They Are Going to be Very Aggressive in Recruiting
When you hear about athletes committing to schools in the 8th grade or sooner, those are DI programs. These coaches are racing one another to find the next best athletes and this has lead them to begin evaluating athletes before they are even in high school. This does not mean your chance of playing DI sports is over before high school, but you need to be prepared to be making the right recruiting moves by the time you are in your freshman year.
It is also these same coaches that are aggressively recruiting athletes who are verbally committed to another program. It used to be it was only Football and Basketball that openly recruited verbally committed athletes, but we are starting to see it happen in almost all sports. These types of aggressive recruiting tactics are not good for the athlete or the coach, but they are a reality at the DI level. DI coaches are recruiting every athlete they want right up to signing day and as a recruit, you need to keep the same perspective.
Make no mistake, DI recruiting is not a recruit/family friendly environment. If you want to play D1 sports, there is no avoiding the facts, you will need to show DI potential early, play against other elite athletes and be prepared to make high pressure decisions about your college future very early.