ANN ARBOR – If you want to be a college athlete, it’s important to know: Oftentimes, what you do outside of the competitive arena is just as important as how you perform in it.
Take it from a few individuals whose job it is to recruit future student-athletes like you. These Concordia University Ann Arbor coaches have seen it all and are weighing in with helpful tips to take the mystery out of the recruitment process.
But first, a little about Concordia. CUAA offers a total of 25 varsity-level athletic programs. That’s an impressive number for a school our size, which means we provide the best of both worlds—a team for every talent paired with personalized, Christian care shown to each player. The result is a win in every sense of the word.
When it comes to growing Cardinal programs, CUAA’s Athletic Director Lonnie Pries says nothing is more important than finding the right fit.
“We’re all about high performance, but we also want to see our student-athletes grow as champions of character during their time as a Cardinal,” said Pries. “It’s about helping them find purpose and pursue growth, not only as competitors, but with their schoolwork, their faith, and within their personal lives.”
STRAIGHT FROM THE SCOUTS’ MOUTHS
So, you want to be a college athlete? Hear from the pros, the do’s and don’ts of getting noticed.
DO: Have a candid conversation with your current coach about what level of play is right for you.
Your current coach could become your greatest ally on your journey to the college court, so it’s important to make sure the two of you are on the same page.
Head Women’s Basketball Coach Kiefer Haffey goes so far as to say that a coach’s endorsement could be just the thing that’s needed to help you stand out.
“In any given week, we’re receiving 15-plus emails from athletes, and I’m guessing at bigger schools they’re fielding through hundreds,” Kiefer said. “If a player sends an email and then I get a follow-up message from a coach, that instantly adds a foundation of credibility.”
DON’T: Rely on your high school coach to do everything though.
The best person to ensure your own future? You. So make sure you’re still in the driver’s seat.
“High school coaches are not always going to be your cruise director into the college circuit,” said Kate Edge, Spirit Director and Head Cheer Coach. “You can’t always count on them to do that. They have their own program to worry about, much less hand-holding you through the recruitment process. You need to take charge and your coach can play an important supporting role.”
DO: Get active on social.
Football recruits mainly off of Twitter. For cheer and dance, it’s Instagram. No matter the social platform, however, the advice is the same: Create a profile that’s easy to find. Stay active (and professional). And reciprocate the love by tagging us and liking our content.
It’s also wise to familiarize yourself with the university as a whole before you reach out. Make sure you like our campus vibe, check out our academic programs, and, in general, scout us:
DON’T: Waste precious dollars on expensive, third-party marketing companies.
All coaches agree on this point: Be wary of pricey recruiting services.
“Not everyone needs to hire a recruiting service,” says Football’s Co-Defensive Coordinator Matt Strzalkowski. “If you’re outgoing and can reach out to coaches on your own, you’re not going to need that third party to get recognized. There are a ton of kids that we find that haven’t gone that route.”
Haffey agrees: “Anything they can do, you probably can do just as well. The amount of times I’ll get an email from these recruiting services and my name is spelled wrong…and I’m thinking, ‘Someone is paying you?!’”
DO: Be yourself in interviews.
At CUAA, coaches place a high priority on fit. They want players who will be contributors to the team—not just in terms of their athleticism, but their personalities.
For that reason, Strzalkowski advises players to do their best to be open and be themselves during interviews.
“Some guys get uptight about the recruiting process and you can tell they try really hard to give you the ‘right’ answers. Really, we’re just trying to get to know you. I think it’s very easy for coaches to find guys that are talented. What separates someone is if you get to know a guy and he has a good heart. Those are the guys we’ll go to bat for.”
And Edge recommends you ask for the same candor from your coaches and teammates.
“I would like a prospective to ask themselves: Does my coach seem connected to the university? For 99% of my athletes, I am the first stop for things like billing, dorm issues, printing questions…things like that. You want a coach that’s embedded into the community, especially when you’re at a smaller school.”
Edge continues: “It’s good to talk to a fellow athlete about these things. Ask on your visits to talk to a peer, preferably one who is in your major. They’ll give you the honest truth and it’s important for you to hear it straight from someone who has experienced it.”
DON’T: Wait until your senior year of high school—or until a coach comes to you.
In general, coaches will start looking at you your sophomore year. If you wait until senior year to start the process, chances are it’s too late.
Coaches recommend you take any opportunity to attend camps or events on campus. Instead of waiting for us to come to you, show your investment by checking out what’s happening at CUAA!
“We want students who want to be here,” Haffey says. “If there are a number of scholarships, the ones who reach out and take us up on opportunities are the players that jump up a bit on our list.”
DO: Be sure you’re prepared for the rigor of college athletics.
Many like the idea of being called a college athlete, but not all are ready for the reality of it.
Says Edge: “Be prepared to go six days a week while balancing college academics and eating right and all those things. And don’t expect it to be a breeze just because we’re not a DI school. The intensity is no different just because we’re a small school.”
The same goes for academics. It doesn’t matter how good you are as an athlete if you aren’t willing to put in the work on the academic front, says Edge.
“A lot of high schoolers have that DI vision, but that’s not always the best fit for other reasons. It has to be a good academic fit for you. At the end of the day, that’s why you’re here. No matter how great the team is, if the academics don’t make sense, it’s not going to work.”
DON’T: Rush the process.
Patience pays off in the recruiting game. It can be stressful to wait or pass on an offer, but in the end, it can be worth it.
“I get frustrated when schools talk to a kid once and give them an offer,” says Strzalkowski. “For us, we want to get to know you and know that you’re serious before we’ll give an offer. If I was a high schooler in today’s game, I’d have a hard time being patient with offers coming in, but you risk missing out on something better if you rush it. It should be a long process, and it can be a fun process, if you go about it the right way.”
If you have questions about athletic scholarships Coach can answer those. Visit the CUAA Recruit Me page to find your athletic program.