You hear mixed messages: Some say to start your athlete’s recruiting process in 8th grade. Others say to wait until September 1 of Junior year, when NCAA regulations allow coaches in most D1 sports to start calling high school athletes.
So what’s the right move? When should you begin marketing your athlete to college coaches?
According to a study released by the NCAA in October 2017, the timing really depends on your sport.
Overall, team sports start recruiting earlier than individual sports. And women’s sports generally recruit earlier than men’s.
In softball, for example, almost half of the coaches’ first contacts happen in 9th grade or earlier. By contrast, over half of men’s wrestling first contacts happen during the athlete’s Junior year of high school.
Even within individual sports, you’ll see athletes being recruited early. So don’t fall for the myth that your athlete’s recruiting starts with that first phone call on September 1 of Junior year. By the time that date rolls around, you should be in consistent communication with college coaches already.
Regardless of your sport, start researching college programs early.
Get a sense of the type of school your athlete wants to attend, and look at their rosters to see what type of skill level they recruit. Visit campuses to get a sense of big schools vs small schools, urban setting vs college town. As your athlete continues to develop in their freshman and sophomore year of high school, you’ll get a better sense of what type of school feels like the right fit.
Don’t wait for coaches to call you.
The athlete can initiate contact with the coach long before that September 1 benchmark rolls around. Fill out questionnaires, email coaches directly, or have your high school coach set up a time for you to call the college coach. All of these forms of communication fall within the limits of the NCAA rules.
Create a gameplan and stick to it.
College recruiting is all about building relationships. Don’t just call a coach once and expect it to turn into a scholarship offer. This is called a process for a reason - it takes time and consistent effort.
The big takeaway is this: Every athlete’s recruiting timeline is unique, but it’s never too early to start building relationships and exploring options!
Erin was a Division I rower at Stanford University. She won the Team NCAA DI Championship in 2009, and an event NCAA DI Championship in 2011. She now lives and works in Colorado as a member of the SAS team, helping to educate the next generation of college athletes about the recruiting process.