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Score a Recruitment: Your Ultimate College Hockey Recruiting Guide

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Countless people love hockey.

It’s thrilling, exhilarating, and most of all, it’s tough.

And, for those able to adapt to this fast-paced and physically demanding sport, the thought of continuous challenges is alluring.

Players want to increase their skill, outdo their own records, and take their team to new heights. The love of hockey can be so great a player may wish to play in the NHL.

If you’re a hockey player from the Atlantic Canada area, how can you go about getting recruited by a successful team that competes at a collegiate level?

Today, we’ll touch on the specifics regarding athletic recruitment, particularly for hockey.

You’ll learn how to score a hockey recruitment by understanding what recruiters look for, how to make yourself more marketable, and even some lesser-known secrets about the process.

Hockey Recruiting 101: Understanding the Key Points

When you picture hockey, what comes to mind? Sure there is the thrill of the crowd screaming or the tension of eyes locked on a scoreboard when both teams are tied. But it all comes down to the players, showcasing their talent and control on the ice.

This is the first point –while it may seem obvious, it is important to mention. Recruiters will look at a player’s athletic ability.

Their level of physical fitness, their control on the ice, and their ability to function as a team player are all very crucial parts of the equation.

When it comes to scoring a hockey scholarship or excelling in any type of athletic-based program associated with an academic institution, grades matter too. SAT/ACT scores and even high school grades can all have a major impact.

If you’ve got both the skills and the grades to impress, the next step is to know the etiquette. The old phrase “don’t call us, we’ll call you,” comes to mind. And they will – provided you have what they’re looking for both athletically and academically.

The traditional approach sees NCAA teams and college coaches make the first contact.  However, times are changing and it’s time for hockey players from Atlantic Canada to start promoting themselves to college coaches.

As a region, I truly believe we should have many more hockey players playing in the NCAA.

Most communications start out on the recruiter’s side, not the recruit’s. Here are a few factors to keep in mind about recruitment, especially at the NCAA level:

  • Localization: Call it geographic bias or a move for simplicity’s sake, but schools tend to focus on recruiting players who are closer to them. Local athletes may not always get the nod, but the less the school and its coaches must invest in travel expenses to go see the prospects, the better.  If you can’t be seen by a coach or coaches, how can you expect to get recruited?  This is where self-promotion should happen.  Really if you think about it, as a hockey player from Atlantic Canada you might play in front of an NCAA scout a handful of times a year and thay is being generous.
  • Fitting Choices: Schools focus on finding people who are the right fit for their programs. If you’re looking to get recruited by an NCAA coach/team, be sure to point your efforts toward schools that seem to match your academic and career aspirations. It may not greatly increase your chances, but every little bit helps.
  • Consistency: The NCAA recruitment process is constantly in motion. Don’t wait until the time for recruiters to actually pay a visit is upon you. Continue honing your skills and grades for prospective recruiters and more importantly find a way to start the conversation.

How should you prepare for the arrival of recruiters? Most of these trips are planned weeks, if not months, ahead of time. So you should be able to get a heads up about when they will arrive.

Keep in contact with your coaches – these relationships are integral to progressing through your athletic career. If you play on a junior team, your chances of getting recruited may be increased.

Recruiters also tend to have good memories. Let’s say you come from a school with a team and/or a coach that has a history of providing great players. Keep that connection going strong.

Common Questions About Athletic Recruiting Practices

NCAA Women's Hockey Recruiting Guide

We touched on having good grades, but that isn’t enough. Some people ask the question – just how far ahead should their education be planned out?

Understanding what courses to take in high school is very important and this shouldn’t start in Grade 12.  If you have a goal of playing hockey in the NCAA, you should be planning this out in Grade 9.

Make sure you have all the necessary prerequisite core courses completed before applying for colleges. Click To TweetMake sure you have all the necessary prerequisite core courses completed before applying for colleges.

For incoming freshman, college planning can be an intimidating and confusing prospect. To get some help with this, ask for a copy of the college’s course catalog, and speak with your high school advisor to make sure you’re on the right track.

Some people wonder how long the process takes. Understanding that every college’s timetable for recruitment varies, player skill also plays a role. A stunning prospect may get quicker responses, while lesser-known prospects may have to wait a little longer.

Does every student-athlete receive a 100% or “full” scholarship?

NCAA DI hockey teams are permitted to grant eighteen “full” scholarships – meaning that the university can provide 18 scholarships each of which covers the full amount of the eligible expenses of the athlete. However, university hockey teams typically carry 22-26 players. Therefore, it is most often the case that the eighteen “full” scholarships are distributed among the 34 22-26 players on the roster. As a result, it is typical for the eighteen full scholarships to be divided into a mix of partial athletic scholarships (covering less than 100% of the athlete’s expenses ) and full athletic scholarships.

In other words, most NCAA hockey teams have players who receive a portion of their expenses in athletic scholarship and some players who receive all their expenses in scholarship.

So the answer is no – in fact, more players receive partial scholarships rather than full scholarships.

What about women’s hockey?

Some people may want to know about the difference between men’s and women’s hockey. The women’s recruiting process can start as far back as middle school, and the internet can be the best tool for research.

And just like men’s hockey, the responsibility lies on the player to keep their grades up and market themselves.

NCAA men’s and women’s hockey is an “equivalency” sport, which simply means scholarship money can be spread among players, unlike “headcount” sports (e.g. football, basketball, volleyball) where a certain number of players only may receive money.

A simple way to think of this principle is to consider scholarships in total monetary terms vs. individual scholarship numbers. For example, if a hockey team has $1800 in scholarships and 18 players, it can provide every player $100, or some other combination of their choosing. The money equating to one scholarship can be spread to multiple players.

Conversely, in a headcount sport, scholarships to players fit in a one-to-one ratio. The money equating to one “scholarship” can be awarded to only one player only.

Here are some stats on hockey scholarships opportunities from ScholarshipStats.com

NCAA Hockey Scholarship Opportunities

Lastly, what about prep school?

Is it worth it for Atlantic Canadian parents to send their children there before college?

Preparatory schools are university preparatory schools for students from grades 9 – 12. These schools are usually co-ed and have a low student-teacher ratio. Some schools provide room and board, while others are only day schools. Preparatory school sizes can range from 150 – 1000 students.

Canada offers hockey preparatory schools in provinces such as Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island and Quebec. There are also various preparatory schools throughout the United States, with one of the highest concentration in the New England area, which consists of Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

Prep schools with programs dedicated to hockey in North America attracts international talent. A hockey player’s competitive edge is cultivated in these environments. Unlike regular schools, prep schools tend to have their own ice rinks. This allows for extended practice times and the chance to be on the ice honing your skills on a daily basis.

Despite such appeal, attending a prep school doesn’t mean a student will be a part of the school team’s roster. All schools have tryouts and although the player may have a strong skill set, schools also want to ensure that players that will be a right fit for their team.

Elite prep schools can cost $40,000, or more, per year. While it could offer some benefits and I do agree it is the right decision for some hockey players from Atlantic Canada, you can save money with sports recruiting services that don’t cost nearly as much and promote yourself to NCAA schools. Plus you can stay home and work on your game, which makes it a win-win.

If you are an athlete looking to attend a prep school for hockey, I would highly recommend RNS in New Brunswick and The Mount Academy on Prince Edward Island

How to Promote Yourself to Prospective Teams

How To Promote To NCAA Coaches

If you’re proactive about improving yourself as an athlete and a student, you may wish to do the same as a prospective recruit.

Here are some tips on promoting yourself and getting yourself as ready as you can be – meaning you make things easier on your coach and your recruiter.

1.  Create an Online Presence and Manage It

It’s never too early to start marketing yourself online as a professional.

Even if you’re in high school, you may have plenty in the way of AP coursework, athletic stats, accolades,leadership skills, coaches testimonials and volunteer work to put on an online profile. Think of your online profile like a LinkedIn profile for business professionals.  

Think about sports-specific platforms or sports groups on regular social media platforms. They can help you stay connected to other players, coaches, and recruiters, making it easy for you to network and get your name out there.

Also, share game footage, highlight reels, and more to make yourself more promotable as an athlete.

2.  Know How Recruiters Think

With your profile complete, you’re ready to promote yourself as a prospective recruit.

The next step you can take to prepare yourself is to know how recruiters think.

Put yourself in their shoes – what do they look for when they sign an athlete? They want someone who will fit in well at the school, excel academically, and function as a solid addition to the hockey team.

The StateofHockey.com shared some great data to give you an idea of what grades coaches are looking to recruit hockey players.

Division 1 NCAA Hockey Recruits

As you can see there is a big difference in when men hockey players are recruited compared to women hockey players. Almost 55% of the recruits occur in Grade 11. Click To TweetAs you can see there is a big difference in when men hockey players are recruited compared to women hockey players.  Almost 55% of the recruits occur in Grade 11. 

This explains why it is super important to introduce yourself to college coaches, instead of waiting until you are in Grade 12 or playing Tier II junior in Ontario or the US.

Depending on what position you play, this will give you an idea of the percentage of recruits by age.

What sticks out to me here is how many hockey players have already been recruited and they are graduating in 2020-21.  Do you think you should start reaching out to coaches and programs?

If you do choose to reach out to coaches, do so by stating your purpose in contacting them.

You can provide links to your online profile or even attach highlight videos, while also announcing any visits you’re making to the school and requesting a bit of the recruiters’ time.

3.  Tighten Up Any Academic Weaknesses

We aren’t saying you have to become a genius in a subject that was never your strong point, but if you have a low grade on your transcript, focus on raising it before you reach out to recruiters.

If you want to be more marketable athletically, develop a good relationship with academic advisors and study for any major tests like the ACT or SAT.

If you have a good transcript, in addition to a good online presence, your chances of getting recruited will go up.

Hockey Recruiting is a Science That Varies Per Player

Hockey Recruiting is a Science

Every player may hope to reach a higher league in their sport, and if your passion is hockey, you have plenty of great teams to aspire to.  Between men and women there almost 100 DI teams.

If you’re better equipped for say, Division III, it is wise to consider going for that level. This will allow you more time and attention and it will help you to develop your skills.

You should also know the more money a school invests in a player, the more time they will be willing to spend coaching them.

Some schools can even be negotiated with. If you do get recruited and don’t like the offer, you can potentially ask for more, and possibly get it – should the school think the deal is worth it.  Or maybe you should look at seeing what a level down can offer.

If you’re looking to succeed in college as a hockey player, starting off early is key. Preparedness works just as well in life as it does during a hockey game.

Take these steps, and you could be on your way to the next step in your hockey career.

So, what’s your hockey recruiting game plan now?

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