What College Coaches are REALLY Looking For

It’s More Than Just Scores

When I was competing in the junior ranks throughout high school, I figured the only thing that mattered to be recruited were the scores I was posting. After all, golf is a numbers game and the lowest score wins. In my mind, if I shot the lowest score I could at every tournament, I would have college coaches flocking to me after the round. What I didn’t take into consideration was literally everything else that goes into being recruited: the way I handled myself on and off the course, what I was doing after school and off the course, my communication skills, the way I treated social media, etc. I learned pretty quickly that a lot more goes into being recruited that just having the lowest scoring average. Here are a few things I learned coaches look for in their recruits:

ON-COURSE DEMEANOR: This one is huge; and will be a recurring theme throughout the blog. If you’re a junior golfer, you need to learn how to handle yourself properly on the golf course. It may be difficult since you’re probably are a growing teenager that hasn’t fully matured yet. However, the earlier you can learn how to control your emotions, the better. I have heard first-hand horror story accounts from coaches who decided not to continue recruiting a player just because of the temper-tantrums they were throwing on the golf course. It actually happened to me once in a junior tournament. I had just made bogey on a par 5 and was running hot, slapping my thigh and slamming the flagstick into the cup as if I was trying to dig a hole to China. As I walked off the green, my dad (who wasn’t very happy with the way I was acting) pointed behind a tree, where to my immediate horror were two college coaches that had just watched me unravel. It is safe to say that I didn’t hear back from either of them again after that incident. Moral of the story: learn how to control yourself on the course. It could (and more than likely will) cost you in the long run.

Don’t pull a Rory.

COMMUNICATION SKILLS: This is an attribute that is surprisingly overlooked by many junior players. Golf is an individual, quiet game. Just because you’re quiet on the course doesn’t mean you should be the same way when talking to college coaches. I know first-hand that college coaches would much rather have the junior player leading the conversation than the parent(s). It is nice of most parents to try and guide the conversation and do all the talking for their child; after all they are your child, and you want to see them succeed. However in this situation, it is more beneficial for the parents to take a backseat and for the player to do most of the talking. The player should be the one sending the emails, making the phone calls (when you’re allowed to according to NCAA rules), asking the questions, and taking charge of the conversation. I know it can be scary to pipe up in front of a potential coach that you don’t know, but believe me it will make all the difference in the world and help make you stand out!

“…college coaches would much rather have the junior player leading the conversation”

EXTRACURRICULAR/VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES: College coaches are looking for players that are well rounded on the course, in the classroom, and out in the community. This is admittedly an area of my junior career that I did not focus on enough. I never really volunteered my time for anything, and the only extracurricular I did after school was golf. Looking back, I wish I had done more. It is not necessarily something you need to do, but it offers a way to make you stand out from the pack and become a better-rounded young adult. It will also prepare you for the college golf life, where team volunteering opportunities will be presented to you (and sometimes expected/mandatory of you). Also, it’s a good way to stay out of trouble outside of school and off the course.

TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS: This one is also a big deal, not only to college coaches, but just for life in general. You need to be able to manage your time, and a lot will be expected of you. If you tell a coach that you will be calling them at 2:30, don’t be surprised when they don’t pick up at 2:45.  Coaches are very busy and they may not be able to get back to you ASAP. You have to understand that time management just may be the single most important aspect of life in general, let alone college golf. The college golf lifestyle is very fast paced and there will be a lot of things stacked up on your plate. Here is an example of a normal day for me last Spring semester:

6:00 am Wake up
7:00 am Team Lifting
9:00-1:45 pm Class
2:30-5:30ish Golf Practice
6:00-7:45 pm Do Homework
8:00-11:00 pm Work in the school rec center
12:00 am Go to bed

If this looks intimidating to you, don’t stress! As you mature, time management will become much more natural for you. But the earlier you can nail it down, the more you will be able to use your time management skills to stand out to potential coaches.

And last but not least…

SOCIAL MEDIA (!!!) – This one is probably the most important and relevant topic on this list. It is such an important topic that I would not be able to fit everything into this small of a post. I will leave you with this for now: DON’T BE A DUMMY ON SOCIAL MEDIA. I could go on and on about this (and I will in future posts). I have witnessed high-school and college athletes go from hero to zero before they even got the chance to hit the delete button. Be smart about what you post. You don’t want a careless tweet or snap to cost you the opportunity of a lifetime.

social media
Social media can be a great asset for recruiting if you use it correctly.

There are a ton of attributes that coaches look for in their recruits, but these were just a few that I realized after the recruiting process was over and I was already in college. I may have been a little late to the party when it came to these things, but my hope is that you’ll be able to walk away with a new perspective on what you should really focus on during the recruiting process. And, obviously, it doesn’t hurt to shoot a few good scores and win some tournaments along the way!

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