About the Author
Part of team PLT4M, Coach Hadley is a former D-1 football athlete and competitive USA Weightlifter who has spent the last 8 years as both a football and strength & conditioning coach at the college level. Hadley has spent time at Rhode Island, St. Lawrence University, Ithaca College, and is currently entering his 3rd season as the Defensive Coordinator and Head Strength Coach at Endicott College.
1. Decide if you truly love your sport. Decide if it is for the right reasons.
Find what you are passionate about. College athletics is a commitment like you cannot imagine. If you have true, unrelenting passion for your sport, all of the time and energy focused on being successful will be enjoyable. Even the longest practices and most grueling workouts followed by hours of meetings will be fun. If you try to make this commitment without passion – well, there’s the door.
Coaches constantly ask students in the recruiting process to define their motivation. Your answer could tell them a great deal about your character. If a student-athlete tells us that they play football for the stats, the press, the parties, etc, we know that person is not in it for the right reasons. He won’t make it in the long term. Sure, the correct answer is not cut and dry. But, putting more thought into what truly motivates you or the answer as to WHY you play your sport, could open up more doors for you in the recruiting process.
2. You love to play. Know where you can.
Everyone wants to be the best and play in the biggest games. However, not all of us are fortunate enough to have the genetic make-up, family situation, close personal contacts, or high-quality exposure that would allow for the opportunity to play “big-time” athletics. Sure, you could try to re-live the Rudy Ruettiger story and devote your life to simply being on a team. But you LOVE to play your sport. Go to where you will play a major role in helping that team succeed.
Now, you will not be handed a starting role anywhere. You will not be handed playing time. Every second of action in a meaningful contest will have to be earned. Understand and accept that you will no longer be the best player on your team when you reach the next level. The most difficult part of transitioning to college is having to rebuild your confidence. In high school, your confidence is sky high because you’re comfortable, you know what your mind and body are capable of doing in every situation. In college, whether it is new schemes, new teammates, or even a new state/city, everything will be different – and that means hard work and effort to regain your confidence and be able to again operate at your highest level. Choose the school that gives you the opportunity to grow as a student and an athlete in order to play the sport you love.
3. Don’t waste money.
In the age of instant gratification, free-flow of information, likes, and followers, there is intense pressure to sign up and pay for recruiting services. While many of these services promise more views of your highlight film and more exposure to colleges, the truth is: if a coach wants to recruit you, they will find you. Part of our job is to actively find recruits and we spend countless hours doing so. Whether it’s reading newspaper clippings, talking with colleagues, contacting coaches, speaking with school counselors/teachers, or watching game film, we will find you if your play and potential stands out.
Your best bet is to make a highlight film, get a list of schools you have interest in, then reach out to those schools personally. If you do not hear back from the SEC, they are not interested. Start with schools that you feel as if you can definitely play there, then move on to schools that will be more of a reach or a dream of yours. No one started at the top. But everyone started somewhere. Be proactive. Don’t pay someone to decide your future.
Oh, by the way, your highlight film’s music gets muted and the slow-mo gets skipped. Every time.
4. Grow up and be professional.
When it comes to communicating with college coaches, be as professional as possible. Proofread your emails and text messages. If you do not know how to shake a hand properly, learn. Look someone in the eye when they are speaking with you and speak up when you talk. If a coach sends you an email or leaves you a message, do everything you can to respond back to that coach within 24 hours. Even if you have zero interest in their institution. Let them know.
If a coach does not think you are mature enough for college athletics or you display poor communication skills, you can be sure that the coach will stop the recruiting process all together. Keep your family in the loop. Do your best not to let your parents send and receive emails for you. While this is a process that requires professionalism and effective communication, it would be a shame that you miss out on the opportunity to grow because your parents handle the process for you.
5. Work hard for your high school team. Be a leader.
As much as prospect camps and club teams allow for more exposure and opportunities to visit schools, the way you play for your high school team can make or break your college recruitment. If a coach sees you light it up at a camps, the first thing they will do is watch your highlight film. If they see similarities in how you play in high school versus how you played at the camp or showcase, the next step they will take is to reach out to your high school coach. If you have been doing everything right in high school, your coach will have great things to say about you. If you are a selfish player, unreliable, and have poor/inconsistent work ethic, your high school coach will spill those beans. Be a positive influence on your peers. Put an arm around your teammates and challenge them to be as driven and focused as you are.
6. Make the decision that you want to be a great student AND a great athlete.
There is a reason your family, teachers, and coaches told you to do well in school. When it comes to the college recruiting process, the GPA and test scores of a student-athlete will directly correlate with how many schools are permitted to recruit you. The higher the GPA, the more schools you can choose from. Turning it on in the classroom your Senior year is way too late. It has to take place from your Freshman year on. There are schools that put a great deal of emphasis on their athletic success and storied winning traditions. Beware of the coaches who only spew athletic statistics and brush over the academic side of things. If you truly want to be a great student-athlete, you cannot skip the student part. Go to a school that allows you to be a great athlete as well as a great student.