He shoots, he scores, he films

When athletes leave the playing field, the competition doesn’t end. For those high school prospects who wish to pursue their sport at the next level, they first need to attract the attention of a college coach.

And that’s where the work begins. College programs have limited space, funds and time to allocate to recruits. Whichever athlete grabs the eye of a university recruiter first, or best, might be granted the last available partial scholarship.

The high-stakes world of athletics recruitment continues to transform. It was not long ago that college coaches had to heavily rely on the word of scouts and coaches they trusted to help put the best prep talent in front of them.

However, as advanced video technology has become easier to use and as the platforms for communication continue to expand, it has become increasingly possible for prep athletes to play a much larger role in their own recruitment.

Their primary method: highlight videos.

Prep athletes now have the capability to put themselves directly in front of college coaches via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Companies such as HUDL and other do-it-yourself video services have made it simple for an athlete to piece together a highlight video (with game film usually recorded and supplied by a player’s high school team or parent) and send it to an unlimited amount of coaches with just a few clicks.

Unfortunately, many prep athletes are unfamiliar with the intricacies of highlight-video construction, and mistakes often are made.

According to college coaches, not all highlight videos are created equal.

The do’s and don’ts of highlight videos, coaches say, are not being grasped by a large number of athletes. Ball State women’s basketball coach Brady Sallee and Marian University football coach Mark Henninger, who recently signed New Palestine stars Sterling Curran, Noah Grable and Gabe Estes, shared some valuable tips for making an eye-catching highlight video. Here’s their advice to today’s high school athlete:

Make it personal

College coaches want to know you believe in what they’re doing. They want to know you have researched their school and have sent them a video because you believe your pairing is a match made in heaven. Put another way, they will put in dozens of hours making sure you are the right fit for their team. They expect you to reciprocate to some degree.

Sallee: “Those recruiting services send out videos to everyone and their grandmother. When I get those in my inbox, I discount them greatly. I won’t throw them out, but I will pass them down to an assistant. … I pay more attention to the ones that come from a kid, coach or parent because that way I know that they have an interest in playing at Ball State, not just that they paid $1,500 to a recruiting service. I believe those services are one of the biggest rackets around. They take advantage of kids. … They make promises they really can’t deliver on.”

For Henninger, a personal touch also means having a relationship with a coach. If he knows and trusts a prep coach, he is more likely to watch that athlete’s video with a keen eye. In other words, encourage your coaches to be active in the recruiting community.

Henninger: “It doesn’t take very long to figure who to talk to in this state. (New Palestine coach Kyle) Ralph is an unbelievable guy. You know he knows what he’s talking about. … (Columbus East coach Bob) Gaddis is another great guy. He is another coach who has been around a long time and someone we trust.”

Know your audience

Do not send your video to a coach who cannot afford to come watch you play. This varies by school. For Sallee and the Cardinals, they are a Division I program that can travel all over the country or even the world — their leading scorer this season, Nathalie Fontaine, is from Sweden — to recruit the best possible athletes for their program. Henninger’s Division III Knights, meanwhile, have a tighter budget and cannot afford to do as much traveling. Their recruiting hones in heavily on Indiana, with little variance. Nearly three-quarters of their 139-man roster are Hoosiers. Most of the rest come from Illinois, Ohio and other Midwestern states.

Henninger: “An Indiana kid is so much easier for us to recruit. I’ll watch most everything I get from an Indiana guy. If I get something from someone out of state, he better be an outstanding player or play a position we need, or I’m probably deleting him.”

Sallee: “Being a Division I program, we’re fortunate we can recruit from Europe and all over, but we still want to own Indiana. We want to be an expert of our own state. This is Indiana, not Idaho, you know what I mean? Basketball is a lifestyle here, so we know there are lots of in-state kids who can help us. We don’t want to miss on them.”

Make a good first impression

Your best plays should be the first plays on a highlight video. Coaches receive hundreds if not thousands of highlight videos per year. Make yours stand out by putting that spectacular one-handed grab or that buzzer-beating 3 in the first 10 seconds of your video. Make them say, “Holy cow, what else can this kid do?” Then show them.

Henninger: “You have to catch my eye. … If I’m watching a guy I’ve never heard anything about, I’m watching about seven plays max. … If I don’t see what I need to see in those first five, six, seven plays, I’m moving on to the next guy.”

Sallee: “Highlight films should showcase their strengths. … Whatever your strengths are, put those on there and put them up front.”

Cut the music

No coach is watching your highlight video for the soundtrack. Get rid of it. At best, a soundtrack won’t distract a coach from focusing on your video. At worst, well, let’s allow Henninger to talk about the worst-case scenario.

Henninger: “I watch a lot of tape with my kids around. … If a guy puts in a song I don’t want my 12-year old son or 8-year-old daughter to hear, that throws up red flags. You have to make good decisions about what’s representing you. You’re putting yourself out there. If I open up a film, and there’s music I don’t feel comfortable listening to with my kids, to me that shows questionable judgment.”

Sallee: “As soon as I hear music, I mute it. Unless its country music, and let’s face it, that’s not likely.”

Get in and get out:

If you think kids’ attention spans are short, wait until you hear from these coaches.

Salle: “Don’t make it too long. None of us will sit there and watch 10 minutes of highlights. … Keep it brief and to the point, two to five minutes max. That is plenty for us to say, ‘OK, this kid can really shoot it. We want to see more.’ Two to five minutes, that’s enough for us to see what we need to know.”

Henninger: “You can tell pretty early in a film if a kid can play. Like I said before, you don’t need much more than six or seven plays to know if a guy has the skills you’re looking for.”

Bonus tips

Ball State girls basketball coach Brady Sallee and Marian University football coach Mike Henninger provide five small bonus tips for crafting a high-quality highlight video and getting yourself recruited.

  1. Sallee: “Don’t be afraid to follow up the highlight video with full-game footage. We want to see the warts on the dog as well as all of the good stuff.”
  2. Henninger: “What we see on film only gets your foot in the door. Whether we allow you to stay in the room or not depends (on a lot of other variables).” Henniger said he and his scouts talk to teachers, guidance counselors and coaches about a player, scour the Internet — including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest — and go through countless other measures to ensure a player is a good fit for their team.
  3. Sallee: “As simple as it sounds, the quality of the video makes a huge difference. And so does where it’s shot from. We get a lot of stuff at floor level or the baseline. It’s one camera 84 feet away. It’s almost impossible to tell anything from that.”
  4. Henninger: “I like when a guy says he can bench press 340 pounds, you can actually see it on video. I wouldn’t put a bunch of that type of stuff on there. Mostly we want to see you play, but one clip of it or so isn’t bad.”
  5. Sallee: “If we see a kid grandstanding, you know popping their jersey after hitting a shot, that’s a red flag for us.”