USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Kyle Winters was a standout high school pitcher who tossed seven scoreless innings in a major tournament during his senior year. That performance against some heavy-hitting future MLB draft picks helped Kyle earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of New Mexico. However, Kyle opted to play professional baseball and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fifth round and played seven seasons for various minor league teams. Kyle is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Prepping for a talk with a college coach feels very much like getting ready for a job interview. Now imagine doing it as a teenager. Yikes.
Here’s the thing: If college coaches are talking to your student-athlete and asking questions–that’s a great news. They’re interested. They probably already saw your child’s highlight video or even evaluated them in person. So, the conversation isn’t going to be about whether your athlete can compete at the college level—the coach knows they can. Really, they just want to learn more about your student-athlete. But what exactly do they need to know?
We asked JC Fields, Head Recruiting Coach at NCSA and former Division I college coach, to better understand which questions college coaches ask—and why they ask them.
Here’s his unique, insider perspective:
“How’s your season going?”
This is a great conversation starter that gives coaches a glimpse of a recruit’s personality. They don’t expect high schoolers to be extremely outgoing, but when they’ve only seen video, this kind of question allows them to get to know the recruit better. And it’s noticeable when a someone’s personality shines through the phone—they’re confident, but not cocky, and respectful. Things like “no sir” reflect that they’re coachable. So, your student-athlete should show respect for the coach’s time and feel comfortable when talking about what’s going well, what improvements they’ve made, and areas where they still want to get better. They should never exaggerate their grades or athletic ability.
“What are you looking for in a school?”
Coaches ask this question so they can tailor their pitch to a recruit. For example, if academics were really important to an athlete, they’ll concentrate on their school’s academic qualities throughout the recruiting process. On the other hand, it also helps coaches understand when a recruit wouldn’t be open to playing at their school and when they should move on to another prospect. The bottom line? Your athlete should be honest, but know what could get them taken off a coach’s list. If your student-athlete tells someone at Florida State they’re only looking to play in the Big 10, that coach will more than likely move on and interview other recruits.
“Where are you at in your recruiting process?”
There’s really no other way to say it—coaches don’t want to waste their time. They ask this question because they’re looking for recruits who are open to new opportunities and haven’t made their final decision. If a coach finds out a prospect has a final list of schools and their school isn’t on it, they will move on. Knowing where they’re at in the process simply helps level-set expectations and saves time.
Follow up: Ask about family
Coaches know that this is a family decision and they want everyone to be involved in the recruiting process. Coaches also know that athletes that show respect when speaking about their parents and family will show the proper respect for a coach and their teammates. Plus, the more they know about the parents, the more they’ll learn about the recruit. Typically, coaches save these questions for an unofficial or official visit when they meet the family in person.
“What other colleges are recruiting you?”
Coaches want to know what they’re up against. If your family is down to a few schools, this is a chance for your child to really sell themselves and negotiate offers. But it’s also okay for them to tell the coach they’re keeping their options open, too. Either way, just be up front.
“What questions do you have for me?”
Think of this question as an opportunity to learn more about the program. Your student-athlete should do their research ahead of time so they can ask meaningful questions that will help them determine whether the school and athletic program is the right fit.
Read more: Coaches are reaching out. Now what?
Don’t forget that when your family has completed the recruiting journey and decided on a school, your child needs to call every coach they talked with and let them know they’ve made the final decision. Throughout the process they always want to be respectful and courteous so they leave a good impression among the coach community.