USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
In today’s world of skills coaches, professional highlight videos and elite showcase tournaments, well-meaning parents can spend a small fortune helping their athlete pursue a college roster spot. It seems as though the college recruiting process is synonymous with “pull out your wallet”. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that the life lessons learned and overall experience of athletics is invaluable. That being said, I also think parents should spend what they can comfortably afford and the only way to do that is to spend your recruiting dollars wisely. If you don’t have unlimited funds then perhaps you should create a recruiting budget.
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There are many costs to consider when an athlete is serious about playing in college. Some are necessary, but many are not. If you establish a recruiting budget and you are strategic in how you spend your money, the college recruiting process won’t cost and arm and a leg. There is no reason to break into the college fund to play on the best summer team or to hire a speed coach. In my opinion, there are only two categories of expenses that serious athletes have to consider – necessary costs and optional costs.
The necessary costs
Listen, if you are serious about being a college athlete you need to play on a summer team. Summer is the time when college coaches can attend games and tournaments. They don’t have the time during their season. Playing on a summer team also shows your desire and dedication to the sport. Whether it’s 7 on 7 football or club volleyball, summer is the time when you have the best chance to be seen and evaluated.
You don’t have to play on the very best (or most expensive) summer team. The right team for you isn’t necessarily the best team in your sport. The right team is the one with a good schedule, a good coaching staff and one where you will have an opportunity to play a significant role. While off-season play should be about exposure, it should also be about getting better. You have to play to be seen and you have to play to get better. You will accomplish neither if you are sitting on the bench even if you play for the best team in the country.
When evaluating which summer team to select, keep in mind that a coach willing to help in the recruiting process is invaluable. A coach vouching for a player’s abilities and character goes a long way in that player’s recruiting journey.
Believe it or not, paying for and playing on a summer team is the only major cost I feel you HAVE to incur. Obviously, having the right equipment for your sport is required, but that just goes with the territory. Depending on the sport, the cost of summer teams can range from $1,500 to $3,000, not counting the travel costs to out of town tournaments. Luckily, the rest of the major costs are optional.
The optional costs
The major optional costs include (but are not limited to) private lessons, showcase events, highlight videos and personal recruiters. All of these can help an athlete find a scholarship, but each one can either be managed or eliminated.
Over that last 15 years private lessons have become increasingly popular. Most instructors will charge $50 to $70 for a 30 minute session. These lessons give the athlete one-on-one time with the instructor and can help develop their skills, but $50 once or twice a week, 6 months a year can get expensive ($50 x 2 days/week x 24 weeks = $2,400).
Most showcase events cost $350 to $500 (before travel costs) and for that reason attending multiple camps can get expensive in a hurry. You really need to research each showcase you are considering and every tournament you are playing in. Make sure that colleges you are interested in will be attending. Finally, don’t pick a showcase solely for exposure. Be strategic with your selections and factor in playing opportunities, coaching and the potential to improve.
A highlight video can connect an athlete in Philadelphia with a coach in southern California without using up your airline miles. Most college coaches can tell if they are interested in an athlete after watching 45 seconds of video. For those two reasons, highlight videos can really be an effective recruiting tool. Just understand that the video doesn’t have to be professionally produced and set to music. You can create an effective highlight video using your own equipment or your team’s Hudl videos. Professional videos can cost from $500 to $1,500, so if you commit to creating your own video you can put that money in the college fund.
Finally, recruiting services that contact colleges on behalf of athletes might be helpful, but they are very expensive. The fees can range from $1,500 to $5,000 or more. This is one cost that can be managed by using technology and committing to a recruiting strategy for just a few hours a month.
Here’s the deal
Every family with an aspiring high school athlete should consider an annual recruiting budget. Be sure to include team fees, lessons, camps, video, travel costs, etc. It will help you make wise decisions on how to most effectively spend your recruiting dollars. As you can see from the above estimated costs the recruiting process can become expensive in a hurry. I am all for pursuing your college dream with everything you have, I just think your spending decisions should be made with both eyes wide open.