How do college coaches find football recruits, basketball recruits, or even recruits for other sports? Trying to answer this question really depends on each situation, as well as the sport. Basketball and football are among the biggest sports at the college level, but their process of finding prospective athletes differs greatly.
Regardless of how they hear about you, it is important for you as an athlete to get your name in front of the college coach so that they are at the least aware of you.
I know for a fact that most Division I college football programs start with a database of athletes that is over 5,000 prospective players. Like I have said before, if you get a form letter from the big school in your state, keep that in perspective that you may be one of thousands of athletes receiving the exact same thing.
From there, the college coaches work to eventually break that down to a much more manageable list. The sooner that you get on that list and they are aware of you, the better.
So how does one get on that list in the first place?
Here are a variety of different things that you can do to help get your name out there and into the scope of college coaches.
Have a helpful high school coach
College coaches know that they can use high school coaches as a very helpful resource in the recruiting process. If your coach is established and has made a lot of contacts with college coaches, he will likely be giving those coaches the name of juniors that are serious prospects and possibly younger players to keep an eye on in the future.
(In football, this normally happens in the spring when college coaches are making the rounds at high school).
Again, this does depend situation to situation, but most good high school coaches are active in the recruiting process and want to help their athletes get to the next level.
Be an All-Stater
There is no other way to put this out there than make sure that you are named All-State as a sophomore or a junior (in most cases, earning the honor as a senior may be too late to really help recruiting).
College coaches may have their graduate assistants scouring the Internet to find All-State lists for other areas outside of their own state. Once they get the lists, they may pull the juniors, sophomores, and even freshmen off and put them into a recruiting database.
This may sometimes work for All-Conference lists, but unless you play in a very competitive and respected conference, most big schools won’t take the time to do this. Smaller schools may, but it is unlikely that Division I programs will be looking for second team All-Conference selections in small conferences.
Make them aware of your ability
I have written on this a great deal and spent time saying how important it is to make college coaches aware of what you have accomplished in your sport of choice. Follow the steps used in The Five Steps to a Scholarship Offer, and that will give you a better feel for exactly what you need to do to get your name out to college coaches.
Obviously this site does focus on basketball and football, but this also applies to baseball (Showcases), volleyball (Club teams), and soccer (Travel teams).
Anyways, for hoops, playing on an AAU team is a very important time for you to get your name out there. I really have not touched on this much, but this time (even for volleyball and soccer on the travel teams) is essential to have college coaches see you in action in front of other top-notch players.
If you play at a small school, this is your chance to prove that you can play against a higher level of competition than you play at during the regular season.
I have seen basketball players have a great weekend and end up with a scholarship because he played well on the right weekend. I have also seen outstanding basketball players not get a chance to earn a scholarship because they were unable to afford the price tag to play.
Trust me in saying that it is easier for Division III coaches to recruit a player who has not traveled the country playing AAU basketball. The more times you play in front of college coaches, the more opportunity it is to impress them.
Because I went so in depth on basketball and the travel teams, I thought I would make a special point regarding football players. The camps and combines are a very good way to get your name out.
The Nike Combine that travels across the country does a fantastic job of getting you in front of college coaches, as well as publishing your results once finished. More important than anything, it is free and anyone can attend. Some of the other combines that charge over $50 in just about every case are something I would not recommend.
As far as camps go, getting to college camps is a good way to get your name out there. More than anything, it may be that you need to get there before your final summer of high school football. That way, the colleges have your name and should have already established a relationship if you have the ability to play at that level.
Another note to make about the college camps is that at most Division I-A football camps, there are Division I-AA, II, and even III coaches there, so even if you may not have what it takes to play at State University, it might be a good time to speak with the coaches at smaller schools. This is when it is important to be realistic about your abilities, which is not an easy thing to do.
(Note: This article was originally written in 2007 but has been updated and additions have been made so that a larger audience can see it and read it.)