How early is too early to start the recruiting process?
This is a question asked by student-athletes and parents across the country as things begin to take shape within their certain sport or passion and questions surrounding a future in athletics and academics begin swirling.
The specific answer, as is the case for so many questions, is that unfortunately there is no one specific answer.
What will be right for your family’s recruiting can vary based on the student-athlete, their sport, and their skill level. For example, in early 2015 we covered the news that two sixth-grader football profiles were included in Rivals.com’s football recruiting database — news that caused many pundits and commentators to remark that college recruiting is getting out of control.
However, an overwhelming piece of advice from parents and student-athletes at every age, stage, and range of collegiate athletics looking back on their recruiting process?
“I wish I would have started sooner.”
If a student-athlete is serious about playing their sport at the next level, it’s never too early to begin educating yourselves as a family or to even take a proactive approach to contacting college coaches and adding your name to their radar.
While it may sound very early, some coaches are absolutely getting serious about recruits their sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade years, and at the very least, familiarizing themselves with names and faces so they can keep up with them their first year or two of high school.
Here are some ways the families of junior high student-athletes can begin their search for colleges.
Start researching schools.
As simple as it sounds, this is one of the most beneficial steps to getting serious about your recruiting process in middle school.
There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. That’s not to say your child will explore them all as an aspiring student-athlete, but it is to say the earlier the research process starts, the more your family will be able to learn about the many campuses that exist and the athletic programs they offer.
You never know which is going to be the best fit for you, and as a young recruit, your child has time on their side. Don’t put off this information that’s at your fingertips from simply beginning on the Internet.
Get your information all in one place.
Your course list and GPA, extra curricular activities, position on the field, stats you’ve acquired thus far, and film of you playing; we refer to this as your resume as a student-athlete. The earlier you start compiling this information – and really paying close attention to how things are going in the classroom and on your team – the easier it will be to update down the road and have handy when college coaches come asking.
Getting all of this information in one place as a middle school student-athlete will make for far less headaches once high school hits — freshmen and sophomores should already get their information into a digital recruiting profile, and continue proactively researching colleges and contacting coaches.
Familiarize yourself with NCAA athletic and academic requirements and deadlines.
Both the NCAA and the NAIA have rules and regulations in place about college coaches contacting, communicating with and ultimately recruiting your child. Resources like the NCAA’s website or our college recruiting tools are great libraries of information about your specific sport.
Beginning to tackle and map who can contact whom when (which changes based on sport, division and other variables) as a student-athlete in the seventh or eighth grade will not only put you above your peers in the months and years to come, it will take a traditionally stressful part of the recruiting process out of the equation.
We have many expert resources at NCSA Athletic Recruiting when it comes to not only the most overlooked NCAA regulations, but also the newest changes in the rules. Your middle school and high school guidance counselor is also a great person to start with when it comes to gaining support in this area.
It might not be too early to reach out to coaches.
As a middle school student-athlete, it is more than okay to be reaching out to college coaches.
Now, depending on your sport, GPA, and playing level as a seventh or eighth grader it is not exactly cut-and-dry how and when a coach will respond to your initial interest. However, there is a very good chance he or she will make note of how serious you were about their program early on.
(But remember the various rules mentioned above that can keep a coach from being able to return a phone call, text, or email.)
If only there were a cut-and-dry answer we could give you to help you. But part of the beauty of your child’s individuality is that their individual gifts will help them forge their own path — often at a different pace than their peers. Staying as educated as you can be about the changing world of recruiting will only benefit for your student-athlete.
However, if you’re the parent of a high school athlete, your child is absolutely not too young for recruiting, and our scouts and digital platform can help you connect with coaches. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.