One college coach summarized it best when he said, “Off the ice,
recruiting is by far the most important part of college hockey.” And yet
recruiting remains a frustrating, time-consuming, and disorganized
process for players and college coaches.
Good players are being missed. Just because you’re good enough doesn’t
mean you’ll succeed. Too much of recruiting is about being in the right
place at the right time.
Finding the right players is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
There are so many players out there; it’s a daunting task for any
There are four main reasons that many qualified players are missed:
- College coaches don’t have enough time to watch each individual for
enough time. An athlete who has one bad game may unfairly be ruled out.
- Youth teams can’t participate in all the “right events.”
- Even players who get to play at the right events, aren’t necessarily going to get seen by the right coach.
- Players don’t promote themselves enough to college coaches. As a result, coaches don’t know which players are serious.
Too much about recruiting is being in the right place at right time.
Coaches watch for such a small amount of time and have to decide based
on that. It's unfair to evaluate a player on just one game. That one
game could be your make or break, but often that’s all some coaches can
Some college teams have as many as 800 players in their databases.
You have to market yourself. To succeed, take control of the process.
The single most important thing for aspiring college players is to
actively market themselves to the college coaches. Players shouldn’t
wait around hoping to be contacted by coaches. Instead, players can
actually take control of the process by introducing themselves to the
team's staff and providing regular updates. When coaches start the
process, the sheer number of potential recruits often overwhelms them.
Those who take it upon themselves to communicate and convince them that
the player is serious, inevitably get more attention from coaches.
At a tournament, coaches are obligated to see the players who have
really reached out to them. That personal touch is what gets coaches to
go see a player. Players need to be the assertive one in the
relationship early on in the process. They need to make sure that school
recruits them. Players never get seen enough at tournaments. It’s all
about persistence in contacting the coaches and convincing them that
you’re serious about the program. Even the best players need to promote
It’s hard to “over-communicate” with coaches. Simply put, they want to hear from qualified players. It makes their job easier.
“Scholarships are few & far between”
Don’t believe the hype about athletic scholarships. Players and parents
should develop a better understanding of the fundamentals of athletic
Know how many scholarships are available and what it means to be fully
funded. Ask informed questions that demonstrate an understanding of the
realities of scholarships -- namely that they are not as common as most
people think and sensitivity to the “political” challenges coaches
encounter in awarding them.
Parents who negotiate hard for every last dollar can actually do
themselves a disservice. College coaches say that parents who are
difficult during the recruiting process are often difficult over the
next four years. Coaches will often evade those relationships, even if
it means focusing on other recruits.
Everyone thinks it’s all about the scholarship, but they don’t realize
how little money schools actually have. Even some of the best players
don’t have full scholarships. Players on some teams get more money from
academic and need-based financial aid than they do from hockey
scholarships. Hockey scholarships have this mystique, which comes from
DI basketball and football. But the scholarship situation in those
sports is completely different from how it is in hockey.
“Find the right fit”
Balance academics and athletics. College hockey should be about college
first and hockey second. College coaches stress that finding the right
fit is the most important part of recruiting.
What constitutes the “right fit?” It’s a combination of academics and
hockey that fits the players’ profile. Coaches get too much
correspondence from players who clearly haven’t done any research on the
college. More often than not, those emails get deleted. Players who
spend time at the outset learning about the college are the ones getting
a serious look.
Don't pick the school just because of the team. It’s easy to tell which
players have actually learned something about the team before they
contact the coaches. Those are the players who are most likely to get a
What are you going to do after your college career is done? What if the
coach leaves after your first season there? What if you get injured and
can’t play anymore? It’s about more than hockey.
Coaches don't want kids to unless they see the campus. The best way to
find out if a college is the right fit is to visit. Stay overnight with a
member of the team, watch practice, sit in on a class, and meet with
the coach. Then answer the question: “Do I want to spend four years
Recruiting is starting progressively earlier in high school. Players are
making commitments as early as the sophomore year. This is a major
concern. Players aren’t able to go on official visits before they
commit. Players often make a commitment before they have even seen the
campus and spent time with the team and coach. Players who can’t afford
to take unofficial visits can’t make well-informed decisions about where
they’re going to go. Some players change dramatically from when they
are recruited to when they enter college. Even if they don’t change as
players, they often change as people. As a result, a school that seemed
right two years ago may no longer be a good fit. A lot of early
commitments are driven by fear. When one player commits early, the
pressure mounts on the other players on the team.
There’s a financial incentive to get players to commit early. College
programs that get early commitments don’t have to pay for official
Players and coaches are being forced into situations that they're not
completely comfortable with. But colleges have to because by not getting
someone early, it may be detrimental to the rest of his recruiting.
There’s a domino effect. Fear spreads among players and parents very
quickly. One player will sign and then within a couple of months
everyone on the team has signed. This is a disservice to the kids.
Asking for verbal commitments out of sophomores is a real concern.
Opportunities for Improvement
Many college coaches drag their feet as they wait for other players to
commit. College coaches should instead suggest that the player look
elsewhere. This is more straightforward and would help players.
It all starts with an honest self-evaluation. Coaches say players should
be honest with themselves so they don’t spend a lot of time promoting
themselves to schools where they’ll never be able to play. Similarly,
players should represent themselves honestly to coaches. Exaggerations
always get found out – usually down the line, after both the athlete and
college coach have invested a lot of time. If a coach contacts an
athlete who isn’t interested, the athlete should tell the coach as much.
This will save the coach time because he has one less player to worry
Players should be forthright with coaches about how serious they are
about a given college. Coaches accept the fact that players need backup
plans. But players shouldn’t lead coaches on when there is no genuine
interest on the athlete’s side.
College coaches spend 50% of their time on recruiting. Recruiting is
incredibly time consuming. The challenge of honing in on 5-6 players out
of as many as 800 is a daunting task for even the most organized
The good news is, on the whole, college coaches enjoy recruiting. More
than anything, coaches enjoy meeting and building relationships with
Coaches also enjoy watching games and trying to identify the right
players. This is all driven by an intense competitive fire. Many coaches
relish the marketing challenge of trying get the message out and
attract the right kids.
There are, however, considerable drawbacks to recruiting. Time spent
recruiting is time away from family. Recruiting requires coaches to
travel constantly and make phone calls during the evening. College
coaches also spend a lot of time organizing recruiting information,
which often consists of tedious data entry.
It's an amazing thing to think how much time spent trying to find 5-6
guys. Players should recognize how much time college coaches invest in
Coaches like it when players take the time to educate themselves about
recruiting and the team. The biggest challenge is finding the best
matches, not just random players, but kids who want what the team has to
Overall, coaches enjoy recruiting because they like meeting motivated
young players. This presents a huge opportunity for players who take an
active role in the recruiting process.