Coaches are the people who determine which athletes get scholarships at the college level, not athletic directors, the admissions offices, or the NCAA or NAIA Eligibility Centers. High school athletes who want to continue their careers at the collegiate level already know they want a scholarship, but do they truly know what factors go into a coach’s decision to offer a scholarship to an athlete? Coaches look at more than just your athletic profile, such as academics, personality, maturity, and position specific needs.
A coach will first evaluate an athlete’s athletic ability. An athlete’s skill level won’t be the only thing that gets an athlete a scholarship, but it could very easily be the reason an athlete does not get one. Make sure you use every advantage to properly market your athletic abilities, and take the time to research which schools best fit your abilities.
Depending on what sport you play, you will need a highlight video (individual sports that focus on times/races such as swimming, track, and rowing, don’t usually require a video); but don’t just create a highlight video because you need one, create a great highlight video and use it to best display your athletic ability.
Sending your highlight video to coaches is a great start toward getting evaluated, but make sure that you also take the time to introduce yourself; it will help go a long way to building a relationship that will eventually lead to coaches evaluating your athletic ability in person, either at your games or at camps (which are vital to being recruited).
Grades are greatly underestimated by many athletes. They tend to think that athletic ability alone will get them into the school of their dreams, but both the NCAA and the NAIA have academic requirements that are minimum academic standards for receiving a scholarship. These requirements are standards for the lowest you can perform to be eligible for a scholarship- they are in no way the requirements for individual colleges and universities. Most schools have academic requirements that are higher than what is required by the NCAA and NAIA, so make sure you set your goals appropriately. You will want to research each individual college to make sure you fit their academic profile.
Coaches want to recruit athletes with good grades. Athletes still must apply for admission through a college’s admissions department, so even if you have a scholarships offer you will be subject to the same admissions process as other students. Coaches will always offer a scholarship to an athlete with better grades over an athlete with similar athletic skill but lower grades because they know it will be easier for the admissions department to accept them. Good grades also show coaches that an athlete works hard in the classroom, not just in their sport.
The personality aspect of the recruiting process is the one that athletes have the most control over. Coaches want to see athletes interact with them in mature, responsible ways. When athletes contact coaches they need to be professional- think of it as applying for a job. Don’t use slang or inappropriate language when contacting coaches. Edit your correspondence for any mistakes and use spell check before sending emails. Coaches want to build their team around athletes with great character and personalities, so make sure that your interactions with a coach illustrate the best qualities of your personality.
Coaches look to recruit athletes that are mature and can handle the rigorous workload that comes with being a collegiate student-athlete. Athletes can show coaches their maturity by being proactive and starting to contact coaches on their own in a professional manner. Respond to coaches’ correspondence promptly to show an interest in their program. The more mature an athlete presents themselves, the more likely they will be offered a scholarship.
Position Specific Aspects
An athlete may have all the correct grades, athletic skills, and other requirements to fit a university, but sometimes a coach may not be recruiting for their position. Look at current rosters and graduating classes to see what positions a college team may need. If you are a soccer goalie, your chances of getting a scholarship are much higher at a school that’s about to graduate a couple of goalies than at one that has two or three freshman or sophomore goalies.