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College 101

Everything You Need to Know About Marketing Yourself
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

"Who wouldn’t want to be this guy?"


The biggest part of being recruited to a college athletic program is marketing. You may say, “Wait, does that mean I get to be David Beckham and model in underwear and for Pepsi and be married to Posh Spice and be invited to the royal wedding and have generally just have everyone adore me?”

To which we would reply, “Sure, all of the above.”

You are David Beckham, and you are trying to market your athletic abilities, the underwear, to a college program, all the adoring fans. There is no difference between the two, besides the fact that you can’t have commercials and massive billboards with your face on them, but that’s a plus! Don’t you hate it when you have to wait 10 seconds before you can click “Skip Ad” to watch a Youtube Video?

Although the process of recruitment is different for every sport, there are some things to keep in mind for whatever sport you play.

How to market yourself:

Know your strengths

This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people are good at one thing but think they are better at something else. Correctly prioritizing your strengths is a very important part of marketing yourself to colleges.

"This guy’s strength would be strength, scary strength, scary, scary, scary strength."


It is important to also consider relative strengths. You're a basketball player, and you would say that your scoring percentage is a bigger strength than your block percentage. There are 5 other kids who have a slightly better scoring percentage than you. These 5 kids have contacted the school you are interested in. When you are on the phone with the coach, should you say that your scoring is your biggest strength, or your blocking? You should probably say blocking, then mention that your scoring percentage is also pretty high. This strategy will give you an edge on those other players who only mentioned that they had high scoring percentages. Think of it this way: If you were competing against a bodybuilder, would you market strength as your top asset? Probably not.

Creating lists of stats and other strengths can be very helpful to college coaches. It lets them know how you have developed over the span of your athletic career. Think about your stats as an SAT score or a GPA. You need the minimum score to qualify for admission, but you also need strong extracurricular activities to get you into the school. Extracurricular activities can be thought of as the things you can’t put on an athletic stat sheet, whether that be mental toughness, technical ability, perseverance, or any of the other, often indescribable, qualities that make you a great athlete.

If you talk the talk, you have to be ready to walk the walk. If you tell a college coach or scout that you are a premier blocker, then you better get some blocks when that coach or scout comes to watch you play. There is nothing more damaging to your chances than mentioning a strength over the phone and then not being able to display it in real time. The opposite is just as true. There is nothing more powerful than hyping up your skills and then performing those strengths in front of a coach or scout.

Know what coaches want

Athletes often overlook the whole coach aspect of recruiting. What is that specific coach looking for in a player? What is their coaching style? Is it a good fit for you? Perhaps most importantly, what positions are they trying to fill? Maybe the school is perfect, the weather is just how you like it, it is academically in your range, and the social scene is just rowdy enough for you. Oh, and what's that? The coach totally rocks? Cool, you should be golden then, right?

Be careful, because you may get stuck in a trap. You're a high school star wide receiver going into a program that recently graduated its entire offensive line. However, they did not lose a single  receiver. Or tight end. Looks like you probably won't be seeing too much playing time. You may find yourself sitting at the far end of one of these:

"That looks pretty cold, not exactly the place you want to be."


But, if you do your research, you might notice that a tight end on the team is graduating, with no one to replace him. As a result, you can modify your approach and tell the coach that you also rock at tight end. This strategy man increase your chances of playing in the future.

In general, do not be afraid to ask coaches what they are looking for in their recruiting class. They may say that they want a high scorer, in which case you will want to send them a video of you scoring touchdowns. Maybe they say that they want a tight end, in which case you show them video of you running the appropriate routes, blocking, and running the football. Perhaps they tell you that they need some aggressive linebackers. You've never played that position in your life. Maybe it's time to look elsewhere.

For many coaches, being able to travel the country to see high school and club athletics is extremely difficult. Unless you can get into a tournament where there are many college scouts, the best alternative is to put together a video of your highlights to send out. Remember that the same guidelines regarding your strengths should be used in these videos. Think about what highlights fill the coach's criteria. Don't put in excess footage that makes you look cool but doesn’t really increase your worth. Remember that coaches get hundreds of these videos and are looking for short, specific clips that show them what they want to see. They are not going to sit through a 30-minute highlight reel, the first 15 minutes of which are you flexing or celebrating touchdowns.

Alright Shmoop, so what is the real take-away here?" Always remember that knowing what a coach wants is critical to you being recruited by a school. It can also help you decide if the school will be the right fit or not.

Play like you are always being watched, because you are

Even if you are not being watched by the scout from your dream school, or any scout for that matter, it is still important to play as if you are being watched by the head coach of your top school, for several reasons.

First, coaches talk to each other. High school and club coaches may have been assistants for college coaches. College coaches may have been assistants together under another college coach. Coaches in the same division usually talk to each other about players. Coaches like to gossip as much as anybody else, and you have no way of knowing who is talking to whom.

You may be playing a Sunday league game with the championship already clinched and think you can slack, but the opposing coach is your target school’s coach’s brother-in-law. He tells the coach that you are a slacker. Whoops. Instantly marked off the list of potential recruits. You are always being watched and evaluated, but at least there’s no chance of coaches swooping in Big Brother style and taking you to Cuba.

"Those aren’t cameras. Really, they are just…bird feeders…with no bird seeds to feed on…or birds…"


It is important to hold yourself to the highest standard possible at all times. Think of that as a positive, not a negative. Playing your best will ensure that you can be confident in your play, and you never have to worry about a time when you slacked off or took a break. Not only that, but imagine that moment when the heavens open and the coach from your top school strolls up to your court.  You will be better prepared to handle the pressure of playing in front of them if you have already played every game with that same mentality.

Finally, why would you ever not want to play to the best of your ability? You are an athlete after all.


Similarly to the concept previously explained, you never know who knows whom. Maybe you blew off the assistant coach of a school you didn’t want to attend, but then they were hired as the head coach of your top school. You would be in some serious trouble. Approach every interaction as though your future depended on it because, hey, it just might.

"No, not those kinds of bridges. Although, that doesn’t mean we think you should burn those either. Typically, just don’t burn things and you’ll end up all right."


In recruiting, as in life, it is extremely important to network and to never burn a bridge unnecessarily.

Who knows, maybe the coach who you don’t like very well will one day become the coach for the US National Team. If you were rude and didn’t keep in touch with that coach, then you have no chance of making the National Team. If you were smart, you kept in touch and kept those feelings of resentment underneath the surface. What is more important, having an argument with a coach or being on the US National Team? Yeah, we would choose the national team too.

Networking can help you just like in any other aspect in life. A lot of the time, the difference between getting a job and not getting a job, making the team or watching them play on TV, is who you know. While this may sound jaded and political, it is a reality of life. It is also something that you can use to your advantage. Be charming, keep in touch with coaches, and develop relationships with people who can give you strong recommendations. A coach will take a player with a strong resume and a recommendation from someone they trust over a player with just a strong resume quicker than you can say, "There's no crying in baseball!"

Be accommodating and patient, but also determined

"Imagine trumpets heralding your arrival"


Chances are, you are not going to be recruited the first time you step on a field, go to a camp, or call a coach. Chances are they won't even talk to you the first time. But be patient— just because you are not recruited immediately does not mean that it's never ever going to happen.

The college recruitment game is exhausting, much more exhausting than the actual sport you are playing. Yes, even you cross country runners out there. It will require long hours, incredible focus, resilience, and strong emotional investment. Sometimes your emotions will be shattered and those hours will feel wasted. Do not be discouraged. The end product is being able to attend your perfect school and play a sport that you love at a high level.

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