Making It to a College Team

Below is a recent correspondence with a friend. I think you will find it informative.


Hi Mike, I hope all is well. I’m writing because I have a friend who’s son is an up and coming hockey player. He is going into his sophomore year of high school. He played as a freshman on the varsity team. He’s a great young man and is very skilled player. His mom asked me to help them out with what he needs to do to attract colleges. Based on your experience with BU hockey team do you have any suggestions on what colleges are/would be looking for and what if any information we can send to schools on his behalf. If you have any contacts that we could speak with that would be great.

Thanks for your help!


Thanks, a question like yours actually merits a thoughtful answer.  The process of being “noticed” by schools is simple. Get better, continue to improve. Many parents are under the impression that exposure to coaches and scouts is the problem. In reality, there are millions of dollars a year being spent on finding the best players. Parents want to believe that if they can simply get the right person to see their son or daughter that the process can in some way be expedited.  They take an adult view. Things like connections and introductions come into play. Highlight flims are made, it’s almost like a marketing campaign. However the problem is it is a marketing campaign for an often unfinished and unproven product. The key is to make sure the product ( the player) is solid, not that the marketing is in place.

The point that your friend’s son is at is also the point that the wheels usually fall off. Right now your friends  son is a good player on an average team. The question is “what’s the next step”? For many parents the next step is the fatal mistake of the “summer exposure tour”. This usually involves getting sucked into every invitation only, super select camp or tournament they can find. In this case a young kid with potential is taken off the fast track and his development is stalled as he searches for exposure. The truth is the summer is the time to get off the ice and train to get better. The only kids who are getting scholarship offers as sophomores are the few exceptions to the rule. If this kid was one he would already know. The key now is to keep the nose to the grindstone and continue to get better both from a hockey perspective and a physical perspective. The vast majority of players going into college are not 18 year old high school graduates but, twenty year olds with 2 years of junior hockey under their belt. The road to a scholarship is a long slow grind. I wrote an article called

Training is Like Farming

This is an excerpt

I think I remember Stephen Covey in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People making reference to what he called “the law of the farm”. The reference was meant to show that most of the truly good things in life take time and can’t be forced. Covey described the process of farming and alluded to how it requires patience and diligence to grow crops properly. In addition farming requires belief in the system. The farmer must believe that all the hard work will yield an eventual long-term result.

The concept has always stuck with me. The process of developing an athlete at any age is much like farming or, like planting a lawn. There are no immediate results  just as there are no immediate results from farming. The process requires even more patience.  First, the seeds must be planted. Then fertilizer (nutrition) and water must be applied consistently. Only the correct amounts cause proper growth. Overfeeding can cause problems, as can under-feeding. If I sit and wait for my lawn to sprout, I feel many of the same frustrations of the parent. When will I see results? How come nothing is happening? All this work and nothing. The key is to not quit. Have faith in the process. Continue to add water and wait. Farming and athlete development are eerily similar. Years may pass with no real notice. Suddenly coaches begin to call.  Your reaction might be “it’s about time someone noticed”. Much like the first blades of grass poking through the ground, you begin to see success. You begin to experience positive feedback.

When my friends or clients talk to me about their frustration with the process I always bring up the farm analogy. We live in a world obsessed with quick fixes and instant results. This is why the farm analogy can be both informative and comforting. Development must be approached over a period of weeks and months, not days. The reality is that there is no quick fix, no easy way, no magic plan, no secret formula. There is only the law of the farm. You will reap what you sow. In reality you will reap what you sow and care for. If you are consistent and diligent you will eventually see results

The law of the farm.

Plant the seeds

Feed and water properly

Wait for results, they will happen, not in days but in weeks and months.

Bottom line. Get him involved in a good strength program. Avoid the “go to another tournament or camp every weekend of the summer to get seen” thing and work on getting better. Slow and steady wins the race. Most parents lose it right at the wrong time and run of in the wrong direction. Tell them not ask anyone for advice who hasn’t developed 100’s of college players. I have. As I said, slow and steady wins the race.


6 Responses to “Making It to a College Team”

  1. mboyle1959 Says:

    I agree. We keep telling parents that the key to early development is multiple sports and then they run into some frustrated high school player turned coach who wants to win the U-10 worlds.

  2. As a former coach, I think specialization in sports are ruining athletes at an early age. I see so many attributes that one can pick up from one sport and carry to another. But parents keep hearing the specialization is the key and there are coaches out there that if you want to play for them, you only concentrate on their sport.

  3. A little about myself: I was recruited by a number of schools for soccer during my high school career. Some were D3 schools, which can’t give scholarships, and others were large D1 and mid size D1 schools. All schools I was serious about, I did an official recruiting trip and listened to each schools’ sales pitch. I chose a school D1 school that offered a full tuition athletic scholarship. Since graduating, I’ve played professional soccer for the past 5 years on 4 professional teams. During my professional career, I’ve never had an agent (although I’ve spoken numerous times to some in an effort to weigh options) and have still managed to gain interest from various other professional teams making good offers. I speak from a bit of recruiting experience during college, and in higher levels. I’ve also helped other young players get recognized using my extended network to give them the exposure that they deserve, and yet don’t know how to get.

    I agree somewhat. Just like in real life, the finished product doesn’t sell itself, this is an easy way that talent slips through the cracks. 100% correct, the kid or ‘product’ needs to possess something that coaches and athletic programs are looking for. In general it’s: skill in the sport, grades, and a coachable personality. Within different schools and universities, you come across more specific skill sets and assets on the field, rink, etc to fill the gaps and improve the team. ie in soccer, not every coach and team needs to recruit a goalkeeper for this coming season. What happens if the coach just brought in two freshman last year and has a junior gk who is a starter? That’s a position he’s not looking to fill. Mainly what I’m trying to say here is that timing (luck), exposure (selling yourself), and hard work (practice) are the three components to getting recruited. These three components need to line up in order for a coach or school to pursue. Coach’s sit in their office at the end of a season and pencil it in who is leaving and what positions they need to fill during the recruiting period. If a position that your son or daughter plays isn’t listed, most likely that school will pass over them unless they are world class. Once the coaches know what they’re looking for, they will start recruiting a number of ways: players that contact them, tournaments, and their network of HS coaches.

    During the stage of contacting coaches, from my experiences game films are better than a highlight reels. HR are always going to be the best moments of a player, how can you tell how good they really are? Speaking on tournaments, If your son or daughter aren’t at that tournament it could be a lost opportunity for something mutually beneficial. The only other way to get the coach to see your son or daughter after that is inviting them to a game or games, sending videos, or like mentioned “combines” or “camps” that the coach will be working or attending.

    Here is the main bit of advice, if a coach declines that the athlete will improve their program you can’t change their mind very often. It’s often wasted energy that could be used elsewhere and other schools. Who would want their kid to play somewhere that the coach didn’t see value in the kid to begin with?

  4. Roy Pumphrey Says:

    I’m dealing with this right now actually. I’m training a goalie (19 years old with 2 years of Juniors) who is in many ways physically broken, for lack of a better term. Constant games, tournaments, camps and practices all year round for the last 10 years. It took a reoccurring injury (adductor) for him and (mostly) his parents to realize that a summer of training may be more productive than a summer of doing the same old thing on the ice. Everyone is convinced (usually by the guys running the camps) more is better never actually taking that hard look at their athlete and asking “What are their weaknesses, are those weaknesses holding the athlete back” and “How great could they be?”. In my experience parents don’t want to take a hard look at the situation, they just want to “show off” their kid.

  5. mboyle1959 Says:

    This is exactly the problem ( or at least a symptom of the problem)

  6. I totally agree Mike! As the parents always ask me about what combines to send their kids to. I trained a kid that went to a combine 4 weekends in a row…..on the 4th, he tore his hamstring running a 40 for the 12th time in 4 weeks. Crazy

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