First, what is a coach-centric approach to recruiting?

Coach-centric recruiting is merely an approach where the athlete involves and works harmoniously with his or her coach to be successfully recruited. It seems simple and straightforward, yet thousands of athletes try to “get themselves recruited” or hire a recruiting service, believing that they can buy their way onto a roster spot. If you want to get recruited, your coach is almost always critical to your success.

Ohio State University’s Urban Meyer has been one of the most outspoken figures about how an athlete’s high school coach plays an essential role in the recruiting process. He has been quoted saying, “The high school coach knows.” This includes things about an athlete beyond his skill level, like character, work ethic, and leadership qualities. Coach Meyer has reiterated this message on many occasions, most recently on the video shown here on his team’s official Facebook page (3-minute mark).

Many of the most revered coaches have echoed the same sentiment. Former University of Texas at Austin football coach, Mack Brown, described his team’s recruiting process by saying, “We didn’t trust anyone other than our coaching staff and the player’s high school coach.”

In sports like baseball, basketball, or volleyball where club/travel teams are extremely prevalent, it’s often a combination of the club and high school coaches. Club coaches generally have larger networks of college coaches because it’s their profession and helping with recruiting is part of their value proposition. However, high school coaches tend to know the athletes and their families more intimately than a club coach, so they are able to provide different insights.

Pros of Coach-Centric Recruiting:

Most Trusted Resource

As Coach Meyer says, his staff is only interested in recruits if “that (high school) coach is ready to put his name on him.”

This is why coach-centric recruiting is so effective. An athlete’s coach is the most consistently reliable resource to college coaches in assessing prospects. These coaches are trusted because they must risk their name and reputation when recommending their players to college coaches. Furthermore, your coach is with you almost everyday and knows you very well. Your coach knows how you perform in the weight room and in the class room. Your coach knows your family dynamics, if you’re respectful, and if you’re a leader. Your coach knows if you flourish in the face of adversity or if you tend to crumble.

College coaches want to know what your coach thinks of you. This is how recruiting has always been and always will be. College coaches generally do not want to hear how good of a player your mom thinks you are nor are they interested in the opinion of a recruiting service that you’ve paid to represent you. Like applying for a job, you need to have credible references.

Leverage

One of the most commonly overlooked assets of coach-centric recruiting is the leverage that high school coaches possess, because their teams produce recruits year-after-year. Keep in mind that your coach has likely recommended players to college coaches before you arrived and will continue to do so after you move onto the next level. And the more your coach is a “feeder” to college teams, the more that college coaches need to listen to his or her recommendations. The relationship between college and high school coaches is a two-way street, where there is mutual respect and trust that is developed over time.

Legal Means of Communication

Particularly with the NCAA, there are times when prospects cannot be contacted by college coaches. However, the amount of communication with your coach is almost limitless. This is a permissible workaround that streamlines the recruiting process, as the coach-centric approach is a great way for college coaches to pass information along to you.

Cons of Coach-Centric Recruiting:

Misalignment

One of the challenges with coach-centric recruiting is when a coach and an athlete are misaligned on playing ability and projected level of collegiate play. In short, your coach sees you playing at a different level in college than you do. This is most commonly attributed to an athlete overestimating his or her abilities or a coach unable to recognize the difference between a NCAA DI prospect and a NCAA DIII prospect.

If this is the case, the best way to address this challenge is to have objective dialogue with each other on a regular basis. Athletes must keep in mind that college coaches will inevitably talk to their coaches, so they must be committed to working collaboratively and winning their endorsement.

Athletes shouldn’t just show up and assume that their coach sees them as a surefire DI prospect. They should show up everyday ready to work hard in order to earn playing time and respect. This makes it easier for your coach to rave about you. Similarly, coaches shouldn’t be too quick to rule out an athlete’s potential. Athletics are all about continuous improvement, and athletes can get much, much better over time.

Limited Network

Sometimes it’s a reality that high school coaches don’t know many college coaches. Especially coaches at less notable programs or those who don’t actively network in their profession may have a limited Rolodex. Traditionally, this has posed a major problem because coaches don’t know where to recommend a player, even if they want to help in the recruiting process. However, a range of technology platforms, especially social networks, have dramatically improved the coach-centric approach. Instead of needing to pick up the phone or mail out information like in the past, it’s never been easier for high school coaches to notify college coaches about their athletes. They can even use technology platforms to preload athletic profiles equipped with personal information, highlight videos, and test scores for college coaches to access through their phones.

Laziness

One of the most frustrating cons to coach-centric recruiting is when a coaches doesn’t think it’s his or her job to help with recruiting. Sometimes they fail to appreciate how vital they are in the recruiting process and how much college coaches rely on their input. Sadly, there are even horror stories of high school coaches claiming that they “don’t get paid enough to help athletes with recruiting.”

If this is ever the case, do all that you can to make it easy for your coach to help you. Compile all necessary information that they’d need to send to a college coach and even gather the contact information of the intended college recruiters. If your coach still resists, seek out other coaches that you’ve had in the past or that you’ve even played against. Often times, one of the most valuable assessments of your ability and character comes from a coach whose team has struggled to stop you in the field of play.