How many of you know a super talented high school student-athlete with a ton of potential? Someone, you were almost certain would pick up a scholarship offer to play in college due to their athletic and academic achievements? An individual with great character, who always does right by his family, the program, his school, coaches, teammates, and of course himself? A person who’s extremely accountable, and is always where he needs to be, when he needs to be there Now take that same kid, and imagine him getting ready to graduate high school with no set place to continue playing the game he loves? There’s actually no need to imagine because as coaches, we have all seen this happen to at least one kid along the way. I’m sure I can speak for the masses when I say that it’s a terrible feeling to see one of your player’s discouraged because of this. While I can’t guarantee 100% successful, I feel the tactics I use along with my approach in the recruiting process will certainly increase your player’s chances of continuing on at the next level.
As the recruiting coordinator for my current high school football program, I feel I’m responsible to do 4 things:
- Build relationships
- Create exposure
- Bridge the gap between the high school student-athlete and the collegiate coach
There are over a million kids playing high school football, which makes the recruiting process extremely competitive. It is my job to get our kids in front of these college coaches to get them noticed. I constantly need to think of new and innovative ways to increase our student-athletes’ chances of signing. Before I get into the specifics of what I do to cover those 4 aspects, let me explain what it takes.
First, you must BE PROACTIVE. Promote your guys to the fullest! If it isn’t you pushing your players then it’s another coach pushing his. Sitting back and waiting for a college coach to reach out to you is not the best idea in my opinion. Talented players can often miss a potential opportunity for the simple fact that they weren’t seen before the others. Stay proactive to ensure this doesn’t happen!
You must also BE PERSISTENT. “STAY AT THE TOP OF THE INBOX!” I can’t express enough how important this is. This goes for both players too! These college coaches get 100’s of emails/calls/DM’s a day, so if they don’t get back to you, it may have been because your message got buried along the way. You can’t knock the coach for not replying back if he didn’t see it, or not replying back in a “timely” manner. BE sure to BE seen. Finally, you must BE PROFICIENT. Know the recruiting process like the back of your hand. Be able to answer questions you’re faced with, confidently.
Now that you understand what it takes, let’s get into more detail about what I actually do for our players. I won’t list off everything, but this should give you a good base for each topic. Hopefully, there’s something along the way that can help you and your team.
The recruiting process can be extremely tricky and confusing. With rules and dates constantly changing, it may seem difficult to keep up at times. It also takes a good amount of work on all sides to get the athlete to ultimately sign somewhere to further his academic and athletic career. Time, energy, and money are all going to be spent to get these athletes into school, so you need to know how to handle things properly.
The first thing we will do as a staff to help educate our players and parents is holding a “recruiting meeting.” I created a PowerPoint presentation that I’ll navigate through as I’m speaking to the audience.
We will cover a bunch of different topics to ensure we answer as many questions as possible. Making sure both player and parent understand the process is vital. We even have a couple of our guidance counselors come down and discuss topics they’re closely related to. The more it is understood, the better approach we collectively can have.
Campus Visit Etiquette
As coaches, there is nothing worse than seeing one of the recruits misbehaving on a campus visit. It’s an absolute privilege to be on campus visiting with the program, and you should act as such. The last thing you should do is display rude behavior like not paying attention while someone is talking, or acting immaturely around coaches or program/university staff. I will share a few things I tell our guys when they’re preparing to take a visit:
- Dress properly. Don’t show up looking like you just rolled out of bed.
- Introduce yourself to the coaches. Of course, the one recruiting you is probably someone you’ve met face to face before, but the others haven’t gotten a chance to meet you yet. Smile, make good eye contact and give a firm handshake.
- Give the speaker your undivided attention. Whether it’s the head coach, assistant coach, athletic trainer, or compliance director; give that person your eyes and ears.
- STAY OFF THE CELL PHONE! This ties into #1, but I still felt it was necessary to discuss separately. If someone is speaking to you, don’t have your face buried in your smartphone screen. Outside of grabbing some pictures of the visit, the phone should stay in the pocket.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make sure to do some research on the school beforehand so you have questions to ask while you’re there. Not only is it good to gather these answers, but it shows a level of maturity to the coaches.
Core GPA Calculator
The statement, “student-athlete; the student part comes first” has become so cliché, but it’s something we truly believe in at Jack Britt. Academics take precedence over playing time. Our players know that playing football here isn’t a right, but a privilege. The work must be handled inside the classroom before you can step out on that field. We are very fortunate to be one of the top academic schools in the state, so the students here understand the hard work it’s going to take to excel.
Monitoring your players’ grades is an absolute must. It holds them accountable, which will equate to them being more conscious about work due, tests coming up, etc. Something else that we do that not only keeps them accountable but aware is keep each players’ core GPA on an individual spreadsheet. I was actually given this by Coach Jon Leible at Chowan University (DII – NC), who was using it himself to help track recruits academic progress. He was kind enough to share this with me and I’ve been using it ever since. Please see the picture below (please note that these are 2 screenshots and it doesn’t show the entire spreadsheet):
Our staff absolutely loves this spreadsheet. Since there are schools who only take into account the core GPA, it allows us to have that information accessible. We also like having this information handy as well. Showing the significance of the core classes can tend to put things into perspective for our players. A rising senior can see firsthand how much those 2 “D’s” he got his first semester of freshman year can affect his current core GPA. This can be completely eye-opening! I will meet with our players a few times during the semester (more if the situation calls for it) to discuss their present academic status. The calculator also allows me to let the student-athlete exactly what he needs to achieve a specific GPA. It has been extremely useful!
I believe the single most important attribute a coach must possess, is the ability to build relationships with others. You build relationships with your player, they’ll run through a wall for you. You build relationships with your parents, they’ll emphatically support you. Building relationships with college coaches is equally as beneficial. The football coaching fraternity is one of eagerness to grow and generosity. Someone is always willing to help out their fellow coach in just about any aspect. There is a multitude of ways to build rapport with guys at the next level. Whether it’s interacting at a clinic, or taking a trip to a school to learn more about what they do schematically. The opportunity to converse and build is right there for you. When you start making great connections, new doors open for not just you, but your players as well.
Thank you letters/Well wishes
At Jack Britt, we are very fortunate to always have a good amount of coaches come visit us during the recruiting season. Over 30 schools have paid us a visit this spring to discuss our players, which we are incredibly grateful for. To help show our gratitude, I send each coach a handwritten letter thanking them for taking the time out of their busy schedules to come see us. It certainly isn’t anything extravagant, but it is genuine, and building relationships requires you to be completely genuine. Come August, when our season is ready to kick off, I plan on sending out another batch of handwritten letters. This time around, I will send well wishes from our program for that coach and his team’s upcoming season. I will also include a copy of our schedule and encourage any member of their program to come check us out live.
To build a strong and meaningful relationship, you have to do things that come from the heart. When you do that, your actions come from a place of meaningfulness and authenticity. People respect this and tend to respond positively which will only work in your favor.
With social media being as big as it is, it certainly makes it a lot easier for players to gain exposure. The click of a button can literally get your stud QB or freak DE in front of hundreds of thousands of people. I firmly believe every coach should use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube to promote their guys in one way or another. Should you just stop after you send a few tweets, or post a couple new videos to YouTube? I personally don’t believe you should. There are still other ways you can offer exposure to your kids and the program.
Our defensive coordinator and I were talking one day about the upcoming spring ball season, and different things we could do. We also wanted to get numbers and times on all of our players, so appropriately enough, we decided to approach our head coach about having a combine for all of the players in the program. By no means are we claiming to be the first high school to ever do this. Hundreds and hundreds of schools across the country probably do this, and I’m sure they all do a phenomenal job. Ironically enough, a couple months after we decided to do this, we heard Brad Bowles, Head Coach of Providence High School (4AA) in Charlotte, NC speak about his team’s yearlong calendar. Included in this, was their combine that they also conduct in the spring. Providence is one of the top programs in the state of North Carolina, and Coach Bowles does a tremendous job with the kids. Not only does he help get them to the next level, but makes sure they’re prepared for it once they arrive. Hearing him speak on their combine only reaffirmed what we wanted to do with ours.
We kicked off the first day of spring ball with our combine. Leading up to the event, I had a digital flier made up so we could promote on social media and via email. Every email sent out to college coaches had the list to our 2019 class, as well as the flier to the combine. I wanted every coach I messaged to know about it and hopefully be in attendance. We ended up having 5 schools represented that day (1 FBS, 2 FCS, 1 DII, and 1 NAIA); which we were extremely grateful for. I supplied each college coach with 2 lists (varsity and JV). Both lists had information on each kid including the updated measurements, what position they were, their core GPA and Twitter handle just to name a few. The more information you can supply on each kid, the better. It makes the college coaches lives a little easier when they have the information they’re going to need at some point already in front of them.
Before we got into anything, we gave each kid a jersey so they could be pointed out on the field. All rising upperclassmen were in one color jersey, and the remaining rising sophomores were in another. We then get accurate measurements on their height, weight, and wingspan at 3 separate stations in the gym. Once completed, the guys made their way to the game field to be warmed up before they tested. However, you want to split the groups up is fine. We ended splitting them up by position and combing 2 of the groups. Just like you see in other football combines, we offered a few different events (40-yard dash, pro agility, broad jump, vertical jump, and we threw in a medicine ball toss). Two coaches manned each station, while we had 4 at the 40-yard dash (2 per lane) to ensure accuracy. Every player received 2 attempts on each test, which is standard. Our current seniors came down and recorded information, which allowed us to get through each group a lot faster. After all, tests were concluded, we finished off the combine with individual drills, 1 on 1’s and 7 on 7. We had everything filmed for our own personal use, as well as have it available to any college coaches who wanted to watch a few guys specifically.
Being organized is critical, especially when you’re supplying information to college coaches. A list that offers a ton of useful information and is easy to decipher, can prove to be very beneficial for both high school and college coach. Make sure to include the information that is important in the recruiting process. Below you will find the one I use:
With this list I am able to get our kids information directly to college coaches all across the country. It allows them to see exactly what kind of talent we have, so they can evaluate for themselves. So as you can see, not only does this list provide useful data, but it helps get our kids the exposure needed to aid them in the recruiting process.
Don’t limit your kids by limiting their exposure. Last time I checked, strength is in numbers. Therefore your football player’s chances increase when the number of schools who see him increase.
BRIDGING THE GAP
Nowadays, with football coaches utilizing social media, especially Twitter; they are able to find out so much about the athletes through what they post. That being said, the high school coach is still very heavily relied upon when it comes to finding out who the recruit really is. College coaches want to know everything from what their home life is like, to how they behave on the sideline during a game. They understand that getting to know the recruit on a personal level helps for building stronger relationships and could aid in bringing that student-athlete in. We as high school coaches need to be as helpful as possible to both sides. Communicate, share information, and offer guidance.
I’ve covered a handful of tactics we use so you can get an idea of what it takes and hopefully find something that will be of use to you and your program. You certainly get what you put into the recruiting process. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to sit back and have the offers come piling in. The ones who aren’t, require more work to be done. We need to do right by our athletes and put the same time and energy into their future as we go into Friday nights.
Justin Grandenetti is the Passing Game/Recruiting Coordinator & Wide Receivers Coach at Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he has been on staff since 2014. He has also coached at Pace University (Wide Receivers, Running Backs), Bay Shore High School (Offensive Assistant), and Eastport South Manor High School (Offensive Assistant). He attended St. John’s University and Pace University.