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What To Do If You Can’t Play for a Travel Team

In recent years, the NCAA recruiting model has changed in a way that dramatically increases the importance of recruits participating in travel and competitive leagues.  Arguably, the sport that relies the heaviest upon travel and competitive leagues for recruiting is men’s basketball.  The July evaluation period for men’s basketball is centered on numerous tournaments in which competitive and AAU teams are showcased.  Participation in these teams is often costly.  From warm-ups to travel expenses, the price to be seen by a coach can seem extreme for some families.  What are a recruit’s options if his or her family cannot afford for the recruit to participate on a travel or competitive team?

A Division I men’s basketball head coach provided several ideas for recruits who will not participate on travel or competitive teams.  First, the most important thing for the recruit to do is forge a strong bond with his or her high school coach.  Unlike recruits who participate in travel or competitive teams, this recruit will likely only have one coach vouching about his abilities to college coaches.  As such, it’s important that the recruit’s relationship with their high school coach is strong enough that the coach is willing to be proactive in assisting the recruit during the recruiting process.  “If a kid cannot afford to play, I would say that the role of the high school coach becomes more important.  They need their high school coach to be more of an advocate and reach out to coaches to explain why the recruit is not playing on the circuit,” the Division I head coach said.

A high school coach’s advocacy on behalf of a player can in fact turn a lack of playing on a competitive circuit into a positive trait for the recruit.  “In some cases while not playing on a competitive circuit could be a hindrance, it may be appealing to some college coaches,” the coach said.  The reason for the appeal boils down to the ultra-competitive world of recruiting.  “Some coaches may feel like they have an upper-hand chance to recruit the kid if they find out about the kid through a coach who sends out some good game reels.  If I got a call from a high school coach who seems to be a pretty stand-up person, my antennas would go up, because I would think there’s a chance for us to get in on a good player who less people have seen,” this coach noted.

Additionally, in advocating for the player, the Division I head coach noted that it is better for a high school coach to pick up the phone to call a coaching staff as opposed to sending an email.  “The fact of the matter is, there is such an inundation of email that we get so many that we are never able to respond to all of them.  A high school coach calling on behalf of a player would separate him out of the big pile of responses I owe potential recruits,” the coach explained.

Finally, it is also on the recruit to use proactive methods to sell himself to programs if he is unable to play on a competitive or traveling team.  While he may not be able to play in a tournament circuit, he should attempt to set aside money to participate in one-day showcase events, like shootouts.  The recruit will have to use strategy to determine which coaches are attending various programs.  The easiest way to figure this out is to either look at the program or coach’s website or contact the program directly.  The recruit should build a database of which events coaches of programs he is interested in are attending.  Then, the recruit should work to attend at least one showcase where the greatest number of coaches of programs he is interested in will be attending.  Additionally, it would be beneficial for the recruit’s high school coach to call coaches of programs the recruit is interested in and inform them of which showcase the recruit will be participating in.  Participating in these events will allow the recruit at least one opportunity to showcase his talents in front of coaches.

Ultimately, not participating on a traveling or competitive team is not detrimental to a recruit’s ability to be signed by a team.  However, these recruits must know that the hill they climb towards being recruited is much steeper than those recruits who participate on these teams.  As such, it is important for the recruit, his family and high school coaches to use proactive measures to gain coaches’ attention.

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