Surface Recruiting: The #1 Trap for Student Athletes

Surface Recruiting is a trap for athletes. It’s a primary reason athletes miss out on their college
opportunity, and they do so by the thousands, year after year, for many of the same reasons, over and over again. You think the learning curve would set in, but it doesn’t, human nature, I guess. 

In a world in which we like attention, and for athletes that means attention of a college coach, the hardest thing to do is transform initial attention into real recruiting interest. When the athlete awakens to an email from a college coach, to the delight of the family, interest begins but only at the surface.

The Trap is defined as believing that preliminary interest of a college coach equates to real recruiting interest; a false belief often leading to a predictable, unhappy and disenchanted, outcome.

How It Begins

Surface recruiting begins with an accomplished student-athlete, one who excels in high school sports, playing on travel teams, attending tournaments, showcases, camps, or combines. A college coach, upon attending these events, sends out a mass email to the athlete’s. The email says they saw you and would like to invite you to a camp or have you fill out a questionnaire. That’s exciting, and it feels good too. But, what does it really mean to you and just what are the coach’s intentions?

For college prospects by the thousands, this initial exchange between coach and family does not materialize into any substantive, live, in-depth, recruiting activity. It only exists on the “surface” never delving any deeper. The problem is that families can’t seem to get away from it as they become enamored by receiving a few coach’s emails. “We’re being recruited by…” I hear it all the time. It’s fun for the family, that is, until it turns to utter frustration and disappointment.

Driving Prospect Lists and Events

“Surface Recruiting” reflects in the coach’s interest to build a list of prospects.

Most often, the emails come from assistant coaches whose job it is to add prospects to their list and send out camp invites; not recruit players and make offers, rather, that’s the job of the head coach. In today’s times, it’s typically the assistant coaches who attend tournaments, showcases, and camp events. But regardless of whether coaches are assistants or head coaches, the protocol is the same.

Upon arrival, the coaches are provided with a list of teams and players, along with the event schedule. They are joined by their coaching colleagues where they congregate, watch some games, some kids, while talking amongst themselves regarding their season and their team. Then they leave, go back to their office, and proceed to send out form-emails to the players.

Surface Level Recruiting

The email comes in and as such, families/ athletes think they are being actively recruited. Why?
Because that’s what the email seems to indicate, and by the way, it came from a college coach. It’s natural to think they must be interested. While in most cases, coaches are sending memos to potential prospects of whom they know little about. They wouldn’t likely know your name if you called them the next day. The athlete and family proceed to think they have garnered interest of a college coach. The coach proceeds to the next event and the next 100 prospects.

That’s surface recruiting and it’s a trap, a big trap leading to unwanted outcomes, though predictable. Families typically sit back waiting for the coach to send their next memo or possibly call the home. While the only thing for certain is receiving another camp invitation, that is until the athlete no longer hears from the coach at all. Families hope, wait, and wish for more. They sign up for more events, going deeper down the same path.

I call it Surface Recruiting, and it’s the # 1 trap families fall into and struggle to get out of. They are trapped by their misunderstanding of coach’s intentions and how athletic recruiting really works.

What can you do about this?

Learn how to transform initial interest of a coach into real interest of the head coach. It’s very hard to do, but when you do it right, you can shift from being one of hundreds of prospects to becoming one of a few recruits.

Looking for more on this topic? Sign up for free training on getting recruited.

Hans Hanson has worked as a College Advisor for 15 years and has published articles in such places as US News and Forbes.