Sometimes in life, you can’t choose the cards dealt to you. What do you do, if you find yourself on a high school team that isn’t any good? Or, what should you do when your travel team losses most of their games? The process of being recruited to play sports in college can be a stressful one in and of itself. Add into that process the hurdle of playing for an noncompetitive team, and a potential student-athlete can be faced with an enormous hurdle.
The good news is that playing for a weak team will not completely ruin a recruit’s chances of being scouted and ultimately recruited by college teams. However, just like the recruit likely has to while playing on his team, he or she will have to work harder to get noticed.
There are two places where a recruit can play for a struggling team: At the high school level and at the traveling or club level. How a recruit addresses the issue of being recruited differs depending upon which team of his or hers is struggling.
At the high school level, there are several options for the recruit. The first is to consider transferring high schools. This is a very big decision for a high schooler and their parents to make ad should not be taken lightly. It likely will involve extended travel times, making all new friends and even facing criticism from peers, coaches and teachers at the former school. Thus, this decision is not for the faint of heart. In transferring schools, the recruit should look to find opportunities that present him what his current sports program is lacking. Does he have access to better coaches? Does the school present better training opportunities? Is the team at the new school not only better, but lacking the component that the player excels at? At the end of the day, a high school transfer should only be made under extreme circumstances. Furthermore, parents and students must be completely assured that the transfer is in the student’s best interests and will present opportunities better than those available at the student’s present high school.
What, if like many players, a student doesn’t want to transfer? This in and of itself will not prevent a student from being recruited. In fact, it can be a positive for his or her chances of being recruited. A current Division I basketball coach whose career has also seen a significant number of years at the Division II and III levels said, “It’s really a wildcard. In some cases, playing on a poor team ends up benefiting the kid, if he is a good player. That is because he can become such a standout on the lesser team. Statistically, his production can be really impressive.”
One thing that this coach stressed was the need for the student to become a leader of his team. Coaches know talent when they see it, and will not necessarily judge a kid negatively if his team is under performing However, if coaches do not see the potential recruit stepping up to lead his team to exceed their abilities or stepping up to use his talents to help the team win, then the student can see his chances of being recruited diminish.
Another place where an athlete can find him or herself on an under performing team is at the club or travel level. With this, athletes have more flexibility to step away from a program and find one better suited to their abilities. However, don’t go looking for the best team you can find. Our DI basketball coach reminds recruits that, “A big mistake that a lot of kids make is they want to get with a high profile AAU team. On the men’s basketball side, I see so many kids who go and get on a team and they are the 12th man and don’t play. As a result it hurts them recruiting wise, because there were too many good players there and they didn’t play in front of coaches.”
One thing this coach suggests, is for players to seek out more moderately talented competitive or travel teams. Coaches are not looking for the number of championships a travel team has won when they recruit potential student-athletes. Rather, they are looking for players’ skills, leadership abilities and coachability. The best way for a recruit to showcase this, is by playing time. “If they played on a more moderate team where they had a higher impact, they would be better off. They would be better off, because they would receive more exposure and a volume of playing time allowing them to improve,” he noted.
However, this coach cautioned against one thing when it comes to playing on an under performing team. Players and parents need to be sure that their child’s team is playing against competitive teams. If a team routinely loses to tough competition, but a recruit still has a good performance, that will likely not hurt him or her in recruitment. However, if a team routinely loses to other under performing teams, a recruit’s performance will likely not be weighed as highly by college coaches. “One thing that factors in is if the recruit is on a bad team and they only play against mediocre competition. That has a negative impact. If he’s on a mediocre team that plays against good competition and plays well, that can work in a positive light,” the coach noted.
Overall, parents and players need to be aware of the strength of the teams they are playing on. A team’s strengths and weaknesses can affect an athlete’s ability to be recruited both positively and negatively. As such, it’s important for parents and recruits to make adjustments to the teams they are on and their playing abilities as necessary to garner the greatest recruitment exposure.