Friday, 28 May 2010 19:28

Working the "Gray Areas" in the College Search

Written by Tom Kovic
The college search for athletes is a very “individual” quest. A winning strategy for one prospect could be a losing strategy for another. I think we can all agree that when it comes to recruiting, the “blue chip” kids are going to be found…It’s just a matter of when.  

That being said, the majority of the prospects looking for a home on a college campus and as part of a varsity team are NOT the blue chip kids. Firstly, this needs to be understood and realized. Secondly, these prospects need to develop and execute a separate plan of attack and begin to tackle what I call the “grey areas” of recruiting.  When I speak of grey areas, I am alluding to alternative tactics that could strongly assist families and their children reach a little higher and with a better chance of success in the college search.


Self Realization

A great way to start the process is to do an objective evaluation as a prospective student-athlete. Based on your current core courses, GPA and standardized testing, take the time to realistically define yourself “in the moment” from an academic standpoint

Use the same exercise and do a critical athletic ability evaluation. Are you that star on the horizon? That hard working, dedicated athlete who contributes on occasion to the team? Or are you somewhere in between?

Target Your Schools

Based on this evaluation, it’s time to develop your “rough list” of potential college institutions that match. I suggest sitting down with your guidance counselor, who most likely has access to the Naviance network that allows you to plug specific information (potential major, geographic location, size of undergraduate population, sport information) into the system. In a matter of seconds, up comes a listing of schools that potentially meets your criteria.

Next, begin to develop a listing of college websites (list both the academic and athletic websites) in an effort to “take a look under the hood” and explore a variety of colleges and universities that potentially match.

Gather Specific Information

OK. You have poked around on a number of college websites and have gotten a “feel” for each institution. Now it’s time to divide and conquer! I suggest creating two lists for the schools that have peaked your interest (A file) and for the schools that are still “in the running” (B file) and develop a specific contact list (Coach’s name, e-mail, phone number) for each school.


If there is one area of college recruiting that, in my mind, stands above the rest in importance, its effective communication with college coaches. This is a critical “grey area” component that you need to practice and develop over time. Whether it is initiating phone contact with the recruiting coordinator, grammar checks on written or electronic correspondence, or face to face meetings, the prospect that makes a sincere commitment to be at the top of her game will have a better chance in remaining on Coach’s radar.


A knowledgeable consumer will have a clear edge in the pursuit and the attainment of important goals. I believe that the same holds true in the college search and I encourage families to make every effort and commitment to organize information regarding this process and execute well-designed plans.

Develop timelines that will target general events in the beginning of the college search (making unofficial visits, maintaining your data base, and attending tournaments) and continue to move forward with more specific events (compiling a video and athlete profile, communicating with coaches, and making official visits, etc.) as your search progresses. This will increase the chances of “hitting targets” throughout the process.


The one common thread that helps weave my college quest plans for the families I work with is the necessity to embrace persistence as a critical tool in the recruiting arsenal from start to finish. Some believe a persistent approach in college recruiting will be viewed by college coaches as a "pushy" attempt to get on the radar and it could come across this way if your approach is not well planned and carefully executed.

The rule of thumb here is simple: Coaches want to hear from prospects and considering the tight latitude they have in communicating with our kids, coaches’ welcome and encourage them to drop an e-mail or pick up the phone and call. That said, it is equally important for prospects to have a realistic view of their potential athletic contribution to a particular program.

You have the drive and the desire to take your athletic talent to the next level. You are confident and dedicated to participate as part of a college program and making your athletic pursuit an important compliment to your overall college experience. You are half way there!

Remember, your college search is a personal quest, where maintaining “momentum” will make the difference between a fair and great college recruiting experience. Don’t be afraid to work the “grey areas” of the recruiting process and leave nothing to chance. Make the commitment to treat the college search as you would treat your goal to experience a championship season and you will give yourself the best chance in grabbing the brass ring.

About the Author:

Tom Kovic is a former Division I college gymnastics coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence”, an educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit: Copyright Victory Collegiate Consulting 2010.  Used by permission.

Editor's Note:  Publication of this article is not an endorsement of any recruiting service.  Always check with the NCAA or your school's compliance officer for any questions regarding recruiting rules, the latest timelines, or other issues.

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