Scouting the Talent: An Explanation of the College Recruitment Process

Jasmine Judge, Design Editor

With the 2021-2022 school year nearing an end and seniors deciding the next steps in their lives, student-athletes must think about the future of their athletic careers. During college recruiting, coaches observe and identify possible recruits and determine their eligibility based on their performance throughout their sport’s season. Ultimately, there are five steps to this process:

Step 1: Compiling a List of Prospective Athletes

College coaches first gather a list of student-athletes who meet basic criteria for metrics such as height, weight, position, academics, graduation year, location, rank and more. To find and observe these players, coaches use recruiting media sites, third-party recruiting services, recommendations from high school or club coaches, camps,  showcases and emails and messages from the recruits themselves.

Step 2: Sending Out Letters, Questionnaires and Camp Invites

This next step begins when coaches message athletes with recruitment letters, questionnaires and invitations to camps to generate interest and determine who is most eager for their programming. While some students believe these mass communications to be impersonal and unimportant, coaches determine who moves on to the next step of recruitment based on who responds with genuine interest. Following up quickly and giving personalized responses gives student-athletes the best chance of moving through to the next phase.

Step 3: Conducting Evaluations

Conducting evaluations marks the third step in this process. Coaches conduct thorough athletic, academic and character evaluations of recruits and rank their top prospects. At this point, coaches often contact high school and club coaches for their insight and recommendation, as well as travel to tournaments where their top recruits compete. Additionally, athletes may be sent personalized invites to visit camps or programs and scouts may make both official and unofficial visits.

Step 4: Extending Verbal Offers and Scholarships

This phase is critical, as colleges secure commitments with their top prospects and make scholarship offers. Coaches begin by making offers to those ranked highest on their recruits list and work their way down until all open roster spots are filled. Coaches may extend verbal — non-binding agreements — offers at any point and time. Similarly, early offers give coaches and recruits the freedom to back out of the arrangement should circumstances change. 

Step 5: Signing New Athletes

The fifth and final step of the recruitment process is for recruits to sign a contract with their selected program, otherwise known as the National Letter of Intent, typically given in their senior year of high school. Students must also meet the eligibility requirements, which tends to be an issue, as some athletes sign with a college but end up not maintaining the required GPA.

While recruitment may vary based on the sport and division, the process generally corresponds with these steps. Recruitment is a long and tedious process that stretches across the entirety of an athlete’s high school career but if one is truly passionate about their sport, it is more often than not worth it in the end.