USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.

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(Photo: Playced)

Not every gifted high school athlete is a candidate for a college scholarship. In fact, most high school athletes have to search for scholarship opportunities if they want to play at the next level.  Unless you have college coaches knocking down your door, your job is to identify the right schools and distinguish yourself from all the other potential recruits with similar abilities.

If you really want to play in college, ask yourself the following three questions.  Your answers will be an indication of whether or not you are a legitimate candidate for a college scholarship.

Are you a good student?

A good athlete with good grades and high standardized test scores is much more attractive to a college coach than a good athlete with marginal grades and a below average ACT or SAT score. That sounds like common sense, but most high school students and their parents don’t understand the importance of academics in college recruiting and the emphasis that college athletic programs place on grades.

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College coaches want athletes in their program that will represent themselves and their university in a positive light and good grades are a good start.  When a college coach is trying to decide between two players of similar abilities, they will go with the better student every time.  So, unless you are the next Cam Newton, you better get your grades in order.

Are you a good teammate?

College coaches want respectful, coachable, hard-working athletes they don’t have to babysit. In short, they want players that will make good teammates. It doesn’t take long for a coach to spot a player who is not a good teammate and very rarely can a coach change a player in that regard.

First of all, being a respectful player is critical in being a good teammate.  If you want to be a player that a college coach will be interested in, you have to respect your teammates, your parents, your coach and the game.  You may not agree with the punishment your parents deem necessary or the playing time decisions made by your coach, but you have to respect their authority.

To me, respecting the game means maintaining your values as you play to win.  If you don’t respect all of these, then don’t expect a scholarship.  At the end of the day, showing respect to all of the above shows that you respect yourself.

Second, to be a good teammate, you have to be coachable.  Uncoachable players disrupt team chemistry. Almost every athlete is coachable when they start their career. That changes over time for some players.  So, what does it take to be coachable?

  • Be thankful someone will take the time to help you improve
  • Be open to honest feedback
  • Be willing to work hard
  • Be willing to change bad habits
  • Be humble

Finally, setting an example and being a good sport is also important in being a good teammate.  This may seem like an archaic concept, but sportsmanship is an important part of college sports. If you are the type of player that enjoys taunting or mouthing off, you will most likely not be the type of player that a college coach would want on his or her team. While helping a player from the other team off of the ground may not be as noticeable as your touchdown celebration, college coaches will appreciate your sportsmanship much more than they will your unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

(Photo: Playced)

Are you committed?

This is the most important of our three questions.  If you have aspirations of playing in college, you really need to make three commitments to have a successful recruiting journey:

  • Commit to being realistic about your abilities
  • Commit to the process
  • Commit to being persistent

Committing to being realistic means you need to be honest about which level athletic programs to pursue and which ones you qualify for academically.  To accomplish this you really need an objective assessment of your abilities.  Go to your current coach and ask him or her for an honest evaluation of your athletic abilities.  Then talk with your high school guidance counselor for an academic evaluation.  Keep in mind that the evaluations might not be exactly what you want to hear, but they are perhaps the most important pieces of information you need if you want to play at the next level.

Committing to the process means taking ownership of your college search.  You have to be involved and proactive.  Being proactive can be accomplished in several ways.  You can send emails, use social media (Twitter, for example), attend camps or even write a letter.  College coaches actually want to hear from qualified athletes who are interested in their program.  Don’t try to hand the process off to someone else and hope that your National Letter of Intent is delivered to your front door.  That won’t happen.

Committing to being persistent means contacting the coaches at numerous schools, numerous times until you find the right fit.  To some extent your recruiting process is a numbers game. The more appropriate colleges you reach out to, the better your chances are to find a scholarship. You might find that perfect fit with your first email, or it might not happen until you contact your twentieth college.

Hopefully you answered “yes” to all of the above questions.  If you didn’t, make an adjustment…