March 27, 2013
By Angela Kraus
As I write this column, local newspaper articles and sports blogs are reporting the first NLI signings and college commitments of this fall’s recruiting season from student-athletes in the current senior class*.
How did they arrive at this day? How did they transition from high school student-athletes to sought-after collegiate student-athletes? How did they get on coaches’ radar screens? Read on for tips about how to make contact with college coaches, and what to do once you’ve got their attention.
After registering with the NCAA Eligibility Center, student-athletes can contact coaches at the colleges where they believe they might like to compete. Visit a college web site, find varsity or intercollegiate athletics, select men’s or women’s water polo, and click on the different tabs to read all about the program. Look at the team roster to see if you know anyone, such as a former high school or club teammate. If so, contact that person to get information about the school, team, coach, and upcoming schedule so you can attend any events in your area or even arrange an unofficial visit (more on that in the next issue). Click on the recruiting tab, complete, and submit the prospective athlete questionnaire. Click on the coach page for information about the coaching staff, including contact information. Send the head coach a letter introducing yourself and expressing interest in the school and its water polo program.
If a coach replies and asks for unofficial transcripts, copies of standardized test score results, or other information, respond promptly and send the requested information (scan and e-mail or by fax). This is an indication that the coaching staff is interested in learning more about you. Once the line of communication is open, send periodic updates about significant events, such as if your team wins a major tournament, league, or section championship, you’ve earned good grades, scored well on a standardized test, received postseason honors or recognition, etc. Use good judgment and write at appropriate intervals—i.e., don’t interpret a request for information as an invite to become the coach’s pen pal! Also, assistant coaches are often in charge of recruiting, so they may respond to inquiries addressed to the head coach and screen prospective student-athletes, organize recruiting events, etc., so be sure to treat them with the same respect and give their requests the same attention you would the head coach.
Be careful about sending videos of yourself. A DVD or YouTube video containing game (not practice!) highlights, demonstrating a range of your offensive and defensive skills, labeled to identify the opposing team and explain what you’re trying to emphasize, may help a coach understand your capabilities, especially if the coach is unable to observe any live games. Be sure to keep it tasteful and short (maximum of 4-5 minutes)—remember, coaches get a lot of inquiries from prospective recruits and have limited time to review materials they receive. If a video clip of you in action appears in an online column, consider including a link to the clip in your next correspondence.
If you and your family plan to visit a school, call or write in advance and try to arrange an on-campus, in-person meeting with the head or assistant coach during your visit. If a college team is competing in your area, ask if you can meet the coach during the trip. If your team is involved in a competition the coach might attend, invite the coach to watch you (don’t forget to include your cap number in the invitation!) and suggest a meeting at that event.
The time and place of off-campus meetings is strictly regulated by the NCAA, may be subject to NCAA mandated black-out periods, and the coach must carefully follow instructions from the school’s compliance officer to avoid violating any rules—so be respectful of and comply with the restrictions the coach must observe.
You can correspond with prospective coaches by snail mail or e-mail or fax (emails and faxes are not considered telephone calls by the NCAA). You can telephone a coach, and if the coach answers, you can converse. Prior to July 1 of the summer following completion of your junior year, a coach cannot call you; on or after July 1, a coach can call you up to once a week. Remember—the foregoing are very general guidelines for juniors and seniors only. For recruiting purposes, the NCAA considers you a prospective student-athlete when you start ninth-grade classes, and generally contact with a coach can occur only as specifically permitted by NCAA rules (e.g., sending camp brochures, nonathletic school publications, etc.).
Finally, remember that coaching is a job, and that coaches may change jobs or get fired, so don’t get too attached to a particular coach or rely too heavily on promises made—use common sense. If a new coach comes on board, you may have to start over the process of getting acquainted. Also, don’t forget that only authorized admissions officers can make offers of admission to college—a coach can support student-athletes throughout the application and admissions process, but they do not make the final admissions decisions.
*I’ll cover this more thoroughly in a future issue, but note that for girls’ water polo, the early-signing period begins the second Wednesday in November and runs for a week, while the early-signing period for boys is early February. The regular signing period for both genders in all sports is mid-April.
Questions? Write to Angela Kraus at email@example.com. Angela is an experienced and certified college counselor providing comprehensive services to help students prepare for and ensure eligibility for high school graduation and admission to college. A special focus of her practice is advising high school athletes as they pursue the college athletic recruiting process, with emphasis on water polo players.
This article was originally printed in the Winter 2011 issue of SkipShot Magazine.
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