3 Keys to Climbing the College Recruiting Ladder (& increase your scholarship offers in the process)

There are numerous schools of thought on how to get college coaches to show more interest in you.  After more than 20 years in collegiate athletics, I’ve heard just about everything…

“All you need is a good highlight tape.”

“Showcases are the key to getting exposure.”

"Go to as many college camps as you can afford.”

The truth is, highlight films, showcases, and camps are ingredients in the college recruiting recipe. But by themselves, they can’t be relied upon to produce more than what we refer to as “mailing list” interest. If you want to generate authentic, scholarship-level interest, you have to start building relationships. A good highlight tape and a full camp schedule are fine, but if aren’t doing anything to get to know the person who’s recruiting you, then in many cases, you will remain on their “mailing list” when it’s time for them to make offers.

So how do you get beyond the “junk mail” and get coaches to pay close, more genuine attention?  Getting “looks” and getting on “radars” these days isn’t enough… not if the goal is to obtain offers. You have to do more.

Here are 3 things you can start doing today.

Make it EASY for coaches to evaluate you. 

It’s probably the simplest and most logical of these three ideas, and yet, it’s the one thing college-bound athletes fail to understand. Kids – not to sound like a broken record – but the recruiting process is about evaluations and relationships. If it’s difficult for a coaching staff to evaluate you, they won’t recruit you!  It’s that simple. Coaches don’t have time to search for information. They aren’t sitting at their desks everyday scouring the internet for their next super star! YOU need to initiate the conversation. YOU need to bring yourself to them. Coaches want your information virtually hand-delivered in a complete, concise, user-friendly format. Don’t make them jump from one site to another trying to watch you play, read your scouting reports, view your transcripts and locate your game schedules. I assure you, coaches will be impressed with your organization (and very relieved!) when you make it efficient for them to get to know you and evaluate your skills.

Interact on a regular basis.

To “interact” means to allow a continuous exchange of information between people. It’s about sharing, which is the very foundation of the digital life we live in. The mistake many athletes make is they send an email to a coach, and then sit back and do nothing. And if the coach doesn’t respond, then the athlete assumes the coach is not interested. Remember (in case you forgot), recruiting is about evaluations and relationship-building. Just because a coach doesn’t get back to you doesn’t mean you should stop trying to interact. Stay with it. Show your persistence and your genuine interest in that program. And when coaches do respond, then do everything in your power to continue the dialogue. You might try setting up a follow-up schedule. After introducing yourself, circle back with another email a few weeks later… then again a month or so later… then again a month or so after that! Sure, you’re going to need the athletic & academic credentials to interest a coach at first.  But for the exchange to mature into an actual “offer,” that coach needs to like you! And one way to do that is to fuel a constant sharing of information. Not sure what to send them? Let me know… I’d be happy to show you.

Keep it personal.

This goes hand-in-hand with #1 and #2. As with many important decisions, people “buy” from who they like. If you’re in the market for a new car, it’s pretty easy these days to find the exact sticker price. So who you buy from often comes down to the dealer with whom you’re most comfortable; the one you made the best “connection” with. The college recruiting process is no different. In fact, it works both ways. You are going to ultimately choose the coach and program you feel most comfortable with, and so the coach needs to do a great job establishing that connection with you. On the flip side, coaches will ultimately offer scholarships to the players they “like” as well. So keep it personal from start to finish. When you reach out to a coach, make sure your emails are addressed to the actual person. Want to turn off a coach in a hurry? Send a mass “Dear Coach” letter. Another good idea is to send hand-written letters. That’s one of those “lost arts” that makes a wonderful impression. Even if it’s a 1-sentence “thank you for your time on the phone the other day,” coaches remember the kids who stood out from the pack. Also, call the coach and ask if you can call again next month. Find out the coach’s birthday and send him/her a short email on that day. Become friends on Facebook and follow the coach on Twitter.

It isn’t difficult to personalize this process.  You just need to make the effort, be humble and don’t be afraid to let your guard down a little once you get to know coaches. At the end of the day, this experience is far more about people than it is about stats, awards and how fast you can run.

Rex Grayner
Rex Grayner, SAS President

Rex Grayner


As a published author, public speaker and radio/television guest, Rex is widely considered among the nation’s premier authorities on college athletic recruiting.

Before founding Student-Athlete Showcase LLC in 2003, Rex served as a NCAA Division I Compliance Representative and VP of West Coast Operations for a large college recruiting firm. In 2008, Rex was honored with the prestigious “Forty Under 40” award by the Denver Business Journal.


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