College Recruiting

COLLEGE RECRUITING: Parents, Athletes Need to Do Their Homework

If there is one topic that sports parents (and their athletes) are desperate to always find out more information, it’s the increasingly complex world of college recruiting.

Now, the irony is that even though you would assume that the recruiting process would become easier over the last 20 years, it seems to me that – if anything – it’s only become more complex. For parents and athletes, it’s become even more pressing to do your homework, map out a real plan, and to ask the right questions.

Why? Because you’re going to have to put together your own self-marketing plan to potential college coaches.

Now, over the years, when it comes to recruiting shows, I always call upon Wayne Mazzoni to get his insights and perspective.

Wayne Mazzoni is the long-time pitching coach at Sacred Heart University, and he’s also one of the nation’s leading experts on the college recruitment process. Be sure to check out his website at And on today’s WFAN show, Wayne surprised me a bit when he said that today’s athletes have to start mapping out a college plan as early as 9th or 10th grade.

It all starts with the youngster’s academic profile, and then you go through the process of winnowing down basic college considerations, e.g. large university or smaller college, urban or rural, what kind of major (engineering, liberal arts), and so on. Those are the basics and then you start thinking about college sports.

Of course, if your son or daughter is a top-flight, five-star athlete and has been a star for several years in HS, chances are that he or she has already been receiving calls and letters from college coaches for some time.

But if your kid is really, really good — but is NOT a five-star All-American player – the recruiting process is going to be time consuming. That is, you or your youngster will have to do much of the heavy lifting to get the word out to college coaches.

So, does your kid write directly to the college coach? How do you know whether your kid is good enough to play Division I, II, or III?

Should your son or daughter send a highlight video reel? Should you try and visit the coach in person? Or enroll at the coach’s summer camp?

These are the first questions, and in truth this is just the beginning of the process.

Now, over the years, when it comes to recruiting shows, I always call upon Wayne Mazzoni to get his insights and perspective.


I first met Coach Mazzoni more than two decades ago when we were both speaking at a local community college about sports and recruiting. Over the years, he has been in constant demand to speak to HS sports teams because the NCAA rules and regs have become even more daunting.

Bear in mind that every sport in the NCAA has its own set of rules regarding college recruiting, scholarship offers, dark periods, and so on. And the last time I looked at the NCAA recruiting rule book, it was as thick and comprehensive as an old Manhattan telephone book (remember the days of phone books?)

First and foremost, your youngster will have to determine whether they want to try and play at the D-I level, or perhaps at the D-II or D-III level. Of course, that’s very hard to know when your kid is only a soph or junior in HS. You should get objective opinions from people who know college sports and who have seen your kid play.

By the way, don’t be angry if your youngster is projected as D-III. Those programs are highly competitive, and even though they don’t offer scholarships, all those D-III coaches are active in recruiting top talent. And besides, ask your child this tough question: would you want to merely sit on the bench endlessly at a D-I program, or be a starter at a D-III school? Think about it. Remember, the fun is always in the playing.

Also bear in mind that college athletes are transferring schools at an epidemic number. That suggests to me that a lot of recruited athletes are jumping ship to another college. Why? Most likely it’s because they weren’t getting the kind of playing time they had hoped for at their first school.

But transferring often means sitting out for an entire year (and not on scholarship). Yes, a lot of kids do it, but trust me, it’s a real hassle.


These days, HS athletes are recruited primarily through travel team tournaments, showcase events, summer camps, and summer travel leagues.

They all have one thing in common: they are all expensive, and you have to make decisions usually based on very little information.

Of course they will all say that there’s is the best venue for your kid to be seen by college coaches.

How do you know? The best ways to do your homework is to ask the parents of other athletes in your town who have recently gone through the same process. Ask them which showcases were well run. Find out which travel teams were worthwhile.

Secondly, email the college coaches as what showcases or travel leagues they think are worthwhile. And be sure to ask when the coach is having his own summer camp.

In other words, go about this process like a true consumer who is not afraid to ask the costs, what can your youngster expect, what are his or her daughter’s prospects at the college (e.g. solid recruit, walk-on, or no chance at all). Remember, lots of HS athletes feel that they will simply walk on at a major university and become a kind of “Rudy” Notre Dame folk hero, someone who outworks all the other athletes.

Rudy took place close to 50 years ago, and most major D-I programs don’t even have tryouts for walk-ons anymore. Besides, the college coaches are going to be much more focused on the kids they activel recruited, and will not be paying much attention to the kids who showed up unannounced.

In other words, if your son or daughter is determined to play sports in college, make sure you go at this with a real plan in place. Speak up, be sincere, and be honest about your kid and just how talented they really are.




  • Roger Mischel

    Hello Coach Wolff. My name is Roger Mischel and I am a head baseball Coach at a local DIII Juco. I listen to your final segment on your show Sunday. You made some great points. I was not able to call in to get in touch with you but I wanted to share some thoughts.
    Over recruiting is definitely an issue that impacts athletes but I want to play the other side for a minute. For example I was recruited under some false hopes or at least I thought false hopes but now that I am a head coach and I look back at my actions it was my actions that got me lost in the shuffle not my talent. I used to think talent deserves to be on the field but it is character then talent that gets you on the field. It is hard work when no one is looking that gets you on the field. Further, I was talking to a co-worker recently and she said that she tried playing soccer in college but her first year was filled with sitting on the side lines and eating skittles during games. She said she did not get mad she just took up dancing, something she loves and still does to this day. So I thought are we doing an injustice to young athletes by conforming the sport to them instead of encouraging them to find their passion.
    In regards to the issue at hand, I have started a company called PEGS Baseball Training ( and I have after a long fought battle got my program picked up by my school. In my program we go over Goal Setting/Self-talk, transfer requirements, FASA applications, letters to head coaches, resume building, guest speakers and more for all the collegiate teams in the school. I would love if you could be one of our guest speakers. I have more thought just to much to write. My email is I look forward to speaking to you soon.

    • Rick Wolff

      Hi Roger – no question that the key to success in competitive sports is both talent AND a determined attitude. Talent alone takes one only so far in sports and life. Sounds like your PEGS program embraces those key values. And that’s a good thing! all best, Coach Wolff