#149: How To Get Noticed By College Coaches w/ Recruiting Expert Tonya Sims

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Are you a young athlete with big dreams of playing at the next level? Or, maybe you’re a parent who wants to support your child’s collegiate sports aspirations? This episode is for you!

In today’s episode, we have Tonya, a recruiting expert, who shares her expert tips on how to catch the attention of college coaches. We’ll cover all the burning questions you might have about recruiting, such as when to start, how to get noticed, and the steps you should be taking right now to set yourself up for success.

Whether your athlete is eager to take their game to the next level or you’re simply curious about the possibilities, this discussion with Tonya is truly packed with invaluable insights. From understanding the recruiting process to taking strategic steps, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know to set yourself up for success. So, join us as we explore the world of college sports recruitment and uncover the strategies that will give you an edge!

How to Get Noticed by College Coaches

Getting noticed by college coaches is a big deal for athletes who want to play at the collegiate level. Whether your child is just starting out or already in high school, there are some smart moves you can make to increase their chances of getting noticed by college coaches. Here are some tips from recruitment expert, Tonya:

Play on the Right Club or AAU Teams.

One way to catch the attention of college coaches is to join clubs or AAU teams that offer great exposure. These teams frequently participate in offseason tournaments and events where college coaches are often scouting for new talent. By joining reputable teams, your child increases their chances of being seen by these coaches and recruiters.

Fill Out Recruiting Questionnaires.

Have you seen those recruitment questionnaires on college athletic websites? Don’t just ignore them! They play a vital role in the recruiting process. These forms allow athletes to share their academic, personal, and athletic information. It’s important to complete and submit these questionnaires promptly to make sure that you’re on the radar of college coaches. And remember, update the information as necessary to keep things current.

Email College Coaches.

Emailing college coaches can be a real game-changer. With only about 2% of high school athletes making it to the top D1 level, it’s important that you go the extra mile to stand out. Prepare a well-written email expressing your interest in the college program and provide relevant information about your child’s achievements and aspirations. This personal touch can help your child standout among their competition.

Consider the Right Team Balance for Playing Time.

When it comes to playing time, finding the right balance is very important. It’s worth considering whether your child is better off on a lower-tier team with more opportunities or a higher-level team with less playing time. For athletes who are still developing their confidence and skills, starting on a lower-tier team can be beneficial. Once they feel ready, they can then make the switch to a higher-level team to gain more exposure to college coaches.

Consider Video Content.

In today’s digital age, video content plays a crucial role in the recruiting process. Actual game footage and highlight reels provide college coaches with a visual representation of your child’s abilities and skills. Putting together an impressive video compilation can serve as the perfect introduction for your child and potentially open doors for recruitment opportunities.

Attend Showcases and ID Camps.

Showcases and ID camps are great opportunities for your child to show off their talent in front of college coaches. However, it’s important to consider the level of colleges attending these events. By matching your child’s skill level to that of the colleges present, you maximize their chances of catching the attention of the right recruiters. Before attending, try to get a list of participating college coaches and reach out to them via email – this proactive approach demonstrates initiative and leadership qualities.

Start Early in the Recruiting Process.

To give your child a head start, start the recruiting process early. Building relationships with college coaches takes time, and starting in seventh or eighth grade can provide your child with a better advantage. Although recruiting rules limit direct contact from coaches until later years, answering recruiting questionnaires and having coaches vouch for your child can help establish valuable connections.

Leverage Social Media.

Building a dedicated social media presence centered around your child’s sport can be a game-changer. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram are popular among college coaches for recruiting purposes. By posting achievements, academic successes, game highlights, and motivational content, your child can gain visibility and attract the attention of coaches.

Bonus Tip: Advice for Older Athletes.

For older athletes who are juniors or seniors and are still aiming to be college-bound in their sport, Tonya recommends a more aggressive strategy. This includes leveraging relationships with high school, club, and AAU coaches to make phone calls and emails on your behalf. Also, implementing an assertive email strategy with regular follow-ups is important, as well as utilizing social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to engage with coaches directly. Attending college camps can also provide an opportunity to showcase your skills in front of coaches. While it’s late in the game, starting early is emphasized as college coaches have been known to monitor athletes’ progress from an early age. Dedication. persistence, and a positive mindset are key throughout the recruiting process.

Tips on How to Narrow Down Your College List

So, how do you narrow down your college list? Here are some valuable tips on how to narrow down your college list effectively.

The Dream-Target-Safety Framework.

When creating your college list, consider the Dream-Target-Safety framework. This framework, popularized by MIT, helps students categorize their potential choices into three distinct groups:

  • Dream Schools: These are the colleges you’ve always dreamt of attending, even if you may not meet all the academic or athletic criteria. Dream schools represent your aspirations and goals.
  • Target Schools: Target schools are the ones where you meet the required academic and athletic standards. These colleges are a realistic match for your goals and abilities.
  • Safety Schools: Safety schools are colleges where you exceed the expectations academically and athletically. These schools provide a solid fallback option if your other choices don’t work out.
  • Building an Initial College List. Start by compiling a list of 25 to 30 colleges that match your academic and athletic interests. This may seem like a lot, but the goal is to have a variety of options and gradually narrow them down.
  •  Prioritize Target and Safety Schools. Once you have your list, focus on researching and targeting your safety and target schools first. Dream schools are also worth considering, but you should know that they can be very competitive.
  • Crafting an Effective Email to College Coaches. When reaching out to college coaches, it’s important to make a strong first impression through your initial email. Below, Tonya shares her “perfect email guide” where she includes a breakdown of the key sections to include:
    • Introduction and Interest: Start with a short introduction, expressing your interest in their college and athletic program.
    • Academics: Highlight your academic achievements, such as GPA, test scores, membership in the National Honor Society, or any other relevant awards.
    • Athletics: Include your athletic accomplishments, such as rankings, stats, times, and physical attributes if applicable.
    • Highlight Reel: Share a brief highlight reel that showcases your skills. Keep it within five to seven minutes.
    • Unique Value Proposition: What sets you apart from other recruits? Why would you be a valuable addition to their program? This section allows you to humble brag about your unique qualities.
    • Call to Action: Clearly state your intention and request a response or action from the coach. Often, this step is overlooked but it’s actually important to progress the conversation.
    • Sign-off and Contact Information: Professionally conclude the email and provide your contact information for easy communication.
  • Recruiting Platforms. Recruiting platforms can be beneficial, but be careful when considering paid services. These platforms may not always be necessary, especially if you’re proactively reaching out to coaches and engaging in the process yourself. For instance, NCAA Division I coaches are less likely to rely on recruiting platforms as they have a high influx of recruits that approach them directly.
  • The Role of Parents. Parents play an important role in supporting their student-athletes throughout the recruiting journey. Here are some ways parents can contribute:
    •   Organization: Help your child organize their recruiting materials, including emails, spreadsheets, and social media presence.
    • Emotional Support: The recruiting process can have a lot of ups and downs, so provide your child with a strong support system.
    • Avoid Helicopter Parenting: College coaches value independence and want student-athletes to be able to make their own decisions and advocate for themselves. Don’t get too involved or send emails on your child’s behalf.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you’re targeting the right schools and maximizing your chances of finding the perfect fit.

 What Coaches Are Looking for In Recruits

Most coaches look for a combination of tangible and intangible qualities in recruits. Tangible qualities include academic performance, athletic ability, and competitiveness. However, intangible qualities such as leadership skills, good character, and being a team player are also important. Coaches pay attention to how recruits handle pressure, treat others, and display resilience. Demonstrating positive body language and maintaining a strong work ethic are also crucial. Coaches understand that intangibles contribute to team dynamics and success, so it’s important for recruits to showcase their leadership, character, and sportsmanship throughout the recruiting process.

Final Thoughts

Narrowing down the list of colleges requires careful consideration and active effort. Following the Dream-Target-Safety framework, sending effective emails to coaches, being cautious with recruitment platforms, and maintaining a supportive and balanced parenting role can help navigate the college selection process. Remember, finding the right college is about finding a place where you can grow both academically and athletically while pursuing your dreams. Good luck!

Episode Highlights: 

[02:38] An introduction to Tonya Sims. Who is she? What does she do?

[04:07] How to get noticed by college coaches. From where to start in the recruitment process to actionable tips to get noticed by college coaches, Tonya shares her valuable insights and tips.

[08:06] How important is video in the recruiting process?

[10:41] How early should you start the recruiting process?

[13:56] Building a social media presence.

[15:41] Advice for older athletes. Recommendations for older athletes, especially junior and senior athletes.

[18:02] Tips on how to narrow down your college list. Tonya also shares her “perfect email guide” where she includes a breakdown of the key sections to include.

[22:07] All about recruiting platforms. What should parents not pay for? What’s the role of parents in the recruiting process?

[25:39] What are coaches looking for in recruits? The college recruiting secrets for parents of athletes.


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