Beyond your athletic abilities and academic record, college coaches consider several other factors when evaluating recruits. Primary among those are the personality traits that coaches look for to see how you might fit with their team. And if you’re looking to stand out as a recruit, see where you stack up with the traits coaches look for.

Athletic IQ

It’s no secret that better grades and higher test scores make you a more attractive recruit. But college coaches also look for athletes with a high level of athletic intelligence. That means not just excelling athletically in your sport, but also having the ability to think through the nuances of your game during the action. It’s also the ability to recognize when and where you need improvement and the ability to do what needs to be done to achieve those improvements. 


College athletics requires a lot more effort. The competition is tougher and the commitment required of athletes is greater. And that’s why coaches look for athletes with a passion for their game. Passion for the game means a willingness to make sacrifices, a desire to continue improving, and dedication to your sport. Just showing up doesn’t cut it at the college level. To succeed in college athletics, you have to commit to your game, on the field and off. And you have to balance that commitment with academics. The hunger to do that is the passion that college coaches are looking for. 

Work Ethic

While there’s some overlap with passion, a strong work ethic is another quality that can help you stand out to college coaches. A strong work ethic at the college level means balancing athletics, academics, and fulfilling any other responsibilities you may have. Whether it’s staying late after practice, getting to workouts early, or spending extra time in study hall, a willingness to work hard to succeed is something every coach wants in a recruit. 


In college, you’ll be on your own. You won’t have parents who get you out of bed on time and you won’t have coaches to push you to work harder. In college, showing up on time consistently, taking care of yourself, and performing to the best of your ability is not encouraged, it’s expected. If a coach is going to invest time in recruiting you and adding you to their team, they need to know you can be relied upon. A coach’s worst recruiting nightmare is the athlete who isn’t responsible enough to handle the demands of college life. So whether it’s athletics, academics, or simply balancing school, sports and college life, being responsible will show a coach you’ve got what it takes to handle the demands of the next level.


For an athlete, coaching may come in the form of instruction, encouragement, or criticism. But applying that input, in whatever form it takes, is what defines your coachability level. Further, coachability means investing yourself in the team and committing to its overall success. An athlete who puts his or her success ahead of the team can very easily get labeled as uncoachable. In short, the concept of “coachability” is responsibility, work ethic, passion, and sports IQ all rolled into one. Every coach has their own definition of coachability, but for most, demonstrating those four qualities will also show that you’re coachable. 

Finally, remember that how you’re judged on these five characteristics will vary between coaches. Some may look for one or two traits more than others. And different coaches may have varying expectations of each quality based on your sport. But regardless of the sport, demonstrating to college coaches that you’re coachable, responsible, hard-working, passionate, and intelligent will always help you stand out in sports. And in life.

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