Just as no two athletes are the same, your recruiting process will be a unique experience for you and your family. However, along with the excitement, recruiting can also be confounding and full of uncertainty. Add in that, every coach and every program has a different approach, as well as recruiting rules governing when and how coaches can communicate with you, and it’s even more difficult to know who’s interested in you and what to expect. Fortunately, there are five fairly common steps and guideposts that will help indicate a school’s interest in you. Listed in order of significance, here are the 5 sports recruiting signs and what they mean for you:

The Questionnaire

While questionnaires are generally mass-mailed to freshmen and sophomores, they’re not a significant indicator of a coach’s desire to recruit you. Instead, a questionnaire often serves as an initial step in the recruiting process to determine your interest in a school and it’s athletic program. Responding to it simply provides your basic information to a coach along with expressing your interest in that school. Make sure you respond promptly and, as things change, follow up by emailing the coach with your highlight video link, stats, and physical data. 

If you’re a junior or senior and questionnaires are the only contacts you’ve received from schools, broaden your search. Add schools to your target list, raise your profile, and get yourself in front of more coaches.

The Camp Invitation

Many schools treat camps as profit centers and open them to anyone who signs up, which makes them less-than-ideal opportunities for you to be evaluated by the coaches. More important are those that use them to scout and evaluate potential recruits. If you receive a camp invite with a personal note from a coach or one that makes mention of your highlight video, that’s a good indicator of a school’s interest in you. 

If you receive a generic camp invitation, don’t get discouraged. Use the invite as an opportunity to get your foot in the door with those coaches. If you choose to attend that camp, reach out to a coach beforehand with your highlight video and profile information. And regardless of the type of invitation you receive, if you attend a camp, always follow up with a thank you email to the coach.

Calls, Texts, Letters, or Direct Messages

Now, things are getting more interesting. Receiving a questionnaire and getting a camp invite with a little note from a coach is one thing, but a coach taking the time to send you a letter, text, or DM clearly shows that you’re being given serious consideration as a recruit. If a coach wants you to keep in touch via calling his or her cell phone or email, take advantage of the opportunity. Share updates to your highlight video or test scores. Ask thoughtful questions about the school and the program (that you can’t find answers to elsewhere). If you’re receptive to a coach’s interest in you, don’t play hard to get. Make sure you reciprocate.

The Unofficial Visit Invitation

A step above calls, letters, and messages in importance, an unofficial visit invitation is basically a coach saying, “Since there’s mutual interest, let’s get to know each other better.” While it’s up to you and your family to pay your expenses for an unofficial visit, you can often determine a coach’s interest in you by his or her behavior while you’re visiting, and afterwards as well. The coach that’s truly interested in recruiting you will make the time for a real conversation during your visit, and will check back with you soon after you go home. And, while you can take unofficial visits as early and as often as you wish, remember that in some divisions and some sports, coaches are prohibited from meeting with you before September 1 of your junior year.

The Official Visit Invitation

As each school is limited in how many official visit invitations they can offer, getting such an invitation is the strongest indication there is of a coach’s interest in you. In fact, many coaches will use the excitement and pomp of an official visit to make a scholarship offer.

While you’re under no obligation to accept a coach’s offer made during an official visit, make sure that you’re prepared with an answer if it happens. Beyond that, use an official visit to find out everything you can about a school, its athletic program and facilities, and even your potential future teammates. While the school is paying for the official visit weekend, you should still be polite and gracious, give thoughtful answers if you’re asked questions, and have questions of your own.

As you can see, the level of attention from a coach at each step in the process is a good indicator of their interest in you as a recruit. If you feel like your recruiting is stalling at one of the steps, step back and reach out to a school or a coach, show them your interest in their program, and remind them why you’d be a good addition to the team. And, if you’re still not seeing interest from a given school, add to your target list and reach out to more schools. Don’t give up and keep watching for the signs of a school’s interest in you until you’re ready to sign on the dotted line for a scholarship. 

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