Editor’s note: Jack Renkens is the founder and president of Recruiting Realities, an organization that helps student-athletes and their parents navigate the complicated process of college recruiting. Renkens is the former captain of his college basketball team, high school coach and teacher, and college coach and athletic director. He is on Twitter.
HLN: At what age do you think it’s appropriate for a kid to get recruited?
Jack Renkens : The appropriate time to get a commitment is the sophomore year of high school. Not any earlier. There are three reasons for this:
No. 1: If you commit to a college too early, like in eighth-grade, two years later the coach could get fired. New coach comes in and it’s over — you’re starting from scratch.
No. 2: It’s a verbal commitment, not a contractual deal. Even if the coach stays there, due to your development, things could change. You might be tremendous as an eighth-grader — bigger and faster than the others in your class — but in high school, you may not be the kid you thought you’d develop into.
No. 3: Academically, the motivation isn’t there. You think you’re going to get in and slack off once you’re in college. All of a sudden, the student-athlete isn’t coachable.
HLN: What are your top three rules for parents when their kids are getting recruited?
JR : You don’t get to pick the school — the school picks you if you’re looking for these three rules:
No. 1: It’s all about education — it’s the No. 1 thing. This is not a four-year decision — it’s a 40-year decision. The impact the coach will have on your son or daughter is an impact for the rest of their life.
No. 2: Go some place where you’re going to play, not sit on the bench. Parents will fall for anything: They read the nice article in the paper that describes a walk-on who now has a nice scholarship, but the chances of that happening are less than 1%.
No. 3: You’ve got to get this financially funded in some way. Academic money, grant money, merit money, achievement award, etc. And if indeed it ends up being athletic-related aid, all the better. Parents are never in a position to negotiate, but if you’re a coach, you’re going to do what you need to get the kid you really want, so give the coach options and leverage.
HLN: How do you put yourself in that position where you can negotiate?
JR : You have to market your kid. Pick your six or seven top schools, but then pick another 400 where you'll have a chance to play! Just because you live in Georgia doesn’t mean you can’t play in South Dakota or Montana — those schools would kill to get one of the kids from Georgia or Florida! It’s also the name game: If a kid gets a letter and a questionnaire from a not-so-well-known school, what do they do? They throw it away. Well, they just threw away $250,000 because it’s $50,000 a year to go there. It’s all about education, so do your research and don’t dismiss a school if it’s not on your list of top schools.
HLN: Does sending your student’s portfolios to the coaches of your top schools work?
JR : Parents do that — they put together this portfolio with social media, YouTube clips and music and send it to their top choices. But as a college coach, you’ve got 20 of those in your inbox every morning, so you throw them to your assistant. When they get a letter back, they think they’re getting recruited! You think you’re getting recruited? You’re getting used. You fall for the walk-on and when football is about to start, parents are calling me, asking why their kid got cut.
HLN: What are your biggest pet peeves as a recruiter?
JR : When I used to recruit (about 15 years ago), I’d go into homes and get asked, “How many of your games are on TV? How many games do you fly to?” We don’t: We’ll go to a couple of tournaments a year and we take the bus. Now they ask you what type of gear you wear — not what they’d like to major in. You’re sitting there as an educator and coach, thinking, “I don’t really want to coach you.” It’s not about being a cool player — it’s about education and enjoying this experience!
HLN: What’s the secret to successfully recruiting an incoming college athlete?
JR : I always feel that if I get a young man on campus, my odds of signing him are good. They see the campus, meet the professors and coaches and think, “Wow, this is perfect!” But you have to get them to visit the campus first, which is difficult because they want to see themselves on ESPN.