Welcome to Interview #101
Today I am excited to be speaking with Lisa Strasman, the President of NCSA, Next College Student Athlete. NCSA is the largest college recruiting network, working with student athletes in 34 different sports. Lisa not only shares information about NCSA but tons of valuable advice for every future college athlete.
The Recruiting Code does not endorse or have an affiliation with any recruiting network or service. My readers consistently ask me about recruiting services, and beginning with this interview I hope to help you find the answers. There are reputable services and disreputable services. I want you to be able to tell the difference. Before you sign on with a service, take time to educate yourself, talk to several different ones, and ask a lot of questions. So let’s start now and learn what NCSA has to offer…
I would like to start by going straight for practical advice for athletes and their families and then move on to what recruiting services or networks can do for families and why they should consider them.
What is your top advice for prospective college athletes to get on the radar screen of college coaches?
Athletes should know they must take charge and be proactive in their recruiting process. That means:
- Create an online profile
- Research and reach out to college coaches
- Attend camps, combines, showcases where coaches are actively evaluating prospects
One of the first steps we recommend is creating an online profile that can be used as your recruiting resume. It should have your current contact information, transcript, GPA, test scores, and highlight/skills video. Some sports, like swimming and track, don’t rely on video as much. Instead, you can supplement your profile with verified stats or race results.
The next step is to begin your research to find colleges you might be interested in. Once you’ve found a school you like, and you think you qualify athletically and academically, you want to contact that coach via email, phone calls and complete the recruit questionnaire for their program.
It is also a good idea to have your high school or club coaches involved as they can help establish contact with colleges.
For some schools, it can be hard to break through and establish a connection with a program through phone and email. All programs rely on in-person evaluations in recruiting and they expect serious recruits to attend the camps, showcases or tournaments where they are evaluating prospects. You need to have a plan with your coach and family on what events you think you can attend.
What are a few of the most common mistakes that prospective-student athletes make in the college recruiting process?
There are basically three common mistakes athletes make in the recruiting process. They are:
- Assuming someone else is handling their recruiting
- Not putting enough emphasis on academics
- Selling themselves short by not exploring all opportunities
For athletes, your coaches can play a big role in your recruiting, but it is up to you to know where you want to go to school and your coaches can help you from there. Below average academics will seriously limit your options. Period. Finally, it pays to really explore your options. Many of our athletes start with a few target schools in mind only to find a college they love is one that wasn’t even on their radar.
What should a recruit look to accomplish on a campus visit?
Campus visits are a great way to get a feel for a college and learn more about the athletic program. On unofficial visits (meaning the school has not paid for your trip), recruits should definitely try to take a guided tour. They should ask questions about all elements of the college experience that are important to them. Prior to visiting, student-athletes should contact the coach to inform them of their visit. If the visit takes place during a period when contact is permissible, they should try to arrange a meeting with the coach. Often the coach will show student-athletes around their athletic facilities and talk about their program. It would also be great to talk with current athletes to get their opinions. Unofficial visits are also great times to meet with an admissions officer.
After a visit, student-athletes should record their notes so they remember key learnings, and capture their feelings and attitudes about the school.
College coaches are focusing on different graduating classes, depending on what level they coach and what their needs are for the coming years. What is a typical timeline players need to be contacting college coaches at D1, D2, D3, NAIA, and NJCAA levels? When is it too late for D1?
The recruiting timeline is really dependent on your sport and in some cases the school you are targeting. The general rule is that DI signs first and other division levels follow. Name-brand DI schools are evaluating prospects often before high school, so athletes interested in those schools would need to be involved in the recruiting process before high school. That said, the NCAA is currently proposing new legislation on early recruiting and, like many things in recruiting, it is likely to change in the near future.
Technically, it isn’t too late until the school you are targeting has closed their recruiting class and signed all of their athletes. Of course, from the outside you will never know where a particular school stands with their recruiting class, so the best advice is to assume a DI school is securing commitments 3+ years in advance.
If you are late in the process and still looking DI, you will most likely need to find schools that have missed on their recruiting class or had coaching changes. These types of fluctuations mean that a DI program could be recruiting well into the signing period or even the summer before school starts.
High school athletes are being asked for verbal commitments from college coaches earlier and earlier. It is difficult enough for a 17 or 18 year old to know what they want to do. What is your advice to 14, 15 and 16 year olds who are being asked to make a verbal commitment?
When young athletes are faced with committing to a school several years before they graduate high school, it is most important they are evaluating the school based on how they like the campus, the environment, and the relationship they have with the coach. We typically advise students to also strongly consider what they want to study, but for young athletes, they are likely to change their minds on that topic and is doesn’t need to be a big of a focus for early commitments.
We also remind families that a verbal commitment is not a binding agreement or guaranteed scholarship. The odds are good the coach may leave the program before your athlete finishes high school.
NCSA says, “A well-crafted highlight video is essential, and getting an idea of exactly how your video should look is one of the most valuable resources we have.” What are the most important factors in making a highlight video? How does NCSA help create a high light video? Is this part of the package families pay for or is it an extra expense?
The most important factors when making a highlight video are, make it available online, keep it short (three to five minutes), put your best clips first, show the play not the player, and don’t make it a big production.
In other words, avoid fancy graphics or music which can just distract from the coach seeing the clips they need to see.
We offer video as a part of our Champion, Elite and MVP packages, and video editing can also be purchased separately for non-members.
What is your advice to parents throughout the recruiting process? What is their role?
First and foremost, the recruiting process is a great opportunity for your athlete to learn and to grow. Being organized, having challenging conversations on the phone, sending and receiving emails with coaches, are all opportunities for athletes to learn behaviors that will serve them well as an adult. College coaches are okay with athletes who are nervous or uncomfortable as long as they are respectful and it’s clear it is the athlete who is driving the recruiting process and not the parent.
As a parent, you need to decide how much independence your athlete can handle. Proof reading emails, helping stay organized and researching colleges are great activities for parents. We all want to do as much as we can for our children. While it’s really tempting, parents need to avoid being the point of contact with coaches or dominating the communication.
What are the most important factors prospective college athletes and their families should consider when trying to figure out which schools might be a good fit?
Every family will have their own list of wants, needs, and deal breakers when they consider their college options. At NCSA, we put a lot of emphasis on finding the best college fit. That means, finding a school that can offer the education you need, the sports opportunity you want, in an environment you like. While cost is a very important factor too, we encourage families not to limit by school costs too much in the beginning, because the true cost can change depending on the financial aid available.
For athletes, there are a few more important factors to consider including division level, the team’s record, and importance of playing early (i.e., would you be okay sitting on the bench early on, or is starting right away and for all four years.)
You call NCSA a recruiting network, not a recruiting service. You also mention you have 700 former college players and coaches employed by NCSA. Can you talk about what you mean by being a recruiting network and how that differentiates NCSA from a recruiting service?
NCSA is here to provide recruiting solutions for athletes and parents as well as club, high school, and college coaches. We use our expertise in the recruiting process to build digital products that make it easier for our constituents to connect and be more efficient and successful. Whether that means families using our tools to research schools, college coaches identifying prospects in our database or a club/high school coach using Team Edition to more effectively manage recruiting for their teams, we want NCSA to be the best resource and platform for college recruiting.
What is the role of NCSA in matching players to coaches?
At NCSA, our job is to understand what college coaches need and match that with student-athletes based on the college experience those athletes are looking for. For college coaches, our job is to facilitate the discovery of new athletes and make it easier for them to make initial evaluations through things like verified academic information and film. For athletes and families, we want to make the process of identifying schools that are the right fit easier. We do this by leveraging the historical data we have as well as the input we get from college coaches on what type of athletes they recruit.
What is the responsibility of the athlete when working with NCSA? Can they just sit back and wait for the right coaches to contact them?
You will get coach activity on your NCSA profile once you have it setup and have completed the required information. Of course, that isn’t only one way in which you should utilize NCSA. Athletes and families should also take advantage of the vast amount of recruiting information and tools we have to identify more schools. Not every college coach is going to be on the platform soliciting prospective student-athletes and it is up to the family to use the tools and recommendations to take action and reach out to schools as well.
What are the specific or unique benefits for an athlete to use NCSA?
NCSA is the world’s largest and most successful collegiate athletic recruiting network because our focus has always been on finding the best college options for our student-athletes. That means a school that can launch a lifetime of success by being a good athletic and academic fit.
What sets NCSA apart is our comprehensive approach that addresses every phase of the recruiting process. We understand that while each recruiting journey is unique, they all benefit from a systematic approach or process to hit key milestones and reach the ultimate goal of becoming the next college student-athlete.
Every NCSA member can expect to play a very active role in their recruiting process. And, like every sport, recruiting demands the same level of commitment, patient, persistence and competitive spirit.
I see you have different levels of support, Champion, Elite, and MVP. For families who utilize NCSA what kind of cost should they expect? In what ways do you see NCSA being worth the expense?
Our premium packages range from $500-$3000 with several opportunities for discounts for families with financial need. We also have our All-In-Award that makes NCSA’s premium service available for free to qualified families and athletes with an inability to pay.
Having the support and guidance of someone who is an expert in the recruiting process will be very helpful as you no doubt are faced with tricky situations that leave you unsure of what to do. NCSA’s technology and digital tools will save you hundreds of hours you would need to spend researching and organizing your recruiting.
Lastly, NCSA will help with getting exposure to more colleges. You will get coach views and will also receive recommendations on schools you might not know of otherwise.
NCSA is designed to save families time in the recruiting process and ensure that, when they look back, they will feel comfortable knowing they knew all of their options. Our tools make the process of identifying potential colleges, researching schools and establishing relationships with coaches much easier. For our premium members, you get the added benefit of expert guidance from our staff, who can walk through the more difficult to answers questions that come up.
What is the role of NCSA with a family, once they have signed up with you?
We work very hard to qualify the athletes and families who are utilizing the NCSA platform and ensure they are committed to the goal of becoming a college athlete. That commitment isn’t just important because college coaches need to know a prospect really wants to play at the next level, but also because there are important responsibilities that come with the recruiting process. We ask all families to review the recommended colleges, do their own research on what is important to them and ultimately, help us refine their list of potential schools. Once they begin to receive coach interest, it is important families follow up with all coaches, even if it is to politely decline the interest. The last thing we ask is to keep the lines of communication open. The more we know about what you are looking for and how the process is going, the more we can help in directing you to the right next steps.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes as they navigate the recruiting process?
Take your academics seriously, your grades and test scores are going to open more doors and offer more opportunities for financial aid than your athletic ability. It is normal to feel stressed and to feel pressure during the recruiting process. Having a plan with your parents, coaches and being organized early will help. Keep an open mind about what schools are right for you. Take the opportunity to learn about the experience of being a student-athlete at the different division levels.
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