Great high school coaches take a multifaceted approach to helping their players. Not only do great coaches help their players maximize their ability through instruction and motivation on the field, they also serve as an off-the-field resource to help their players find a good fit at the next level.
Some high school coaches have formed relationships with college coaches over the years, either stemming from their own playing days, from meeting them at local recruiting events and tournaments, or through other means. If that’s not the case for you, don't worry. College coaches can't attend all of the games, showcases and recruiting events that they'd like to throughout the course of the year (this is particularly true for smaller programs, where resources are limited). Therefore, whenever you have the chance, introduce yourself to a college coach and tell them about your program – and ask them about theirs. Creating that link can help you, the high school coach, maximize the support you can later provide to your players.
Once the relationship exists, it needs to be cultivated. Remaining objective when evaluating (your own) players is the key to developing credibility and establishing trust. As coaches, we all have the tendency to see the best in our players – which of course comes from a healthy desire to see them succeed. Nevertheless, sharing an even-handed assessment will give that particular player (and the dozens who will follow in future years) the best chance of finding a good fit. Moreover, it will give college coaches a reason to continue coming to you for insights – a win-win.
When college coaches do reach out asking about how a player might project to their level, it's important to have points of reference from across the spectrum, from Division I powerhouses to small Division III colleges and everywhere in between. It's equally important to be familiar with what each of your players is looking for in a school (academics, size, setting, culture, etc.) and generally what the college coach’s institution has to offer. For example, if you recommend one of your players to a coach from a top-tier academic school on the basis of athletic ability, but later learn that he or she doesn't have the standardized test scores to be competitive for admission to that school, you may have wasted the coach’s time - and that coach will be less likely to come to you down the road.
Finally, one of the most important and under-appreciated factors in building working relationships with college coaches is to produce players that fit within a coach’s program. For high school coaches, a reputation as one that produces players with good habits, both on and off the field, is priceless currency. When a college coach finds one of your former players to be a high-character player who works hard, cares about his or her teammates and makes the program better – others may come looking for similar players in the future. If you develop a reputation for instilling these qualities in your players from an early age, college recruiters may reach out to you before you even have the chance to pick up the phone.
We wish you and your players the best of luck this spring both on and off the field.