Capitalizing on the Character Component in the College Search for Athletes

Capitalizing on the Character Component in the College Search for Athletes

By Tom Kovic

The college search for athletes is an “individual” quest. A winning strategy for one prospect could be a losing strategy for another. I think we can all agree that when it comes to recruiting, the “blue chip” kids are going to be found…It’s just a matter of when.

That being said, the majority of the prospects looking for a home on a college campus and as part of a varsity sports team are NOT blue chip kids and they should execute a personal plan of attack and begin to tackle the “grey areas” of recruiting.

Contributing Factors

Coaches are looking at 3 key characteristics in prospects when determining their level of support for prospects. 1) Strong students, 2) Impact athletes and 3) Kids who bring a strong integrity component to the table.

Coaches can easily evaluate academic talent by combing through high school transcripts and standardized test scores. Athletic assessment can be identified through statistical and video analysis, on site tournament evaluations and conversations with a prospect’s coach. The integrity factor could be a tie breaker in the final analysis.

The Character Component

College coaches are looking for the best and the brightest prospects to help drive their program to higher levels, and these days, they are putting a greater premium on the inner make-up of the prospect. They are looking for boys and girls who display loyalty, dedication, perseverance and a diligent approach to their everyday lives. Coaches want impact kids on the team, but they desperately want kids who will become strong links in the team chain.


College coaches will take a systematic approach in doing a thorough academic and athletic evaluation of a prospect to determine where they fit in their recruit priority chart. Moving forward, especially if the prospect is grouped into the top tier of the recruiting file, a diligent college recruiter will reach out to the high school and/or club coach to determine the inner make-up of the prospect.

Given the choice between a blue chip prospect who may be a potential “loose cannon” on the inside of the team and a solidly skilled prospect who brings a strong character component to the table, college coaches will likely lean toward the latter. And a strong testimonial from the prospects current coach can go a long way in closing the loop in the college evaluation.

Leadership Roles

College coaches are grounded, common-sense individuals who mainly rely on their gut when making a majority of their program decisions, including recruiting. Whether you are the captain of your sports team or a member of student government, it’s important to genuinely embrace these leadership roles in a further effort in building your character foundation.

College coaches have an uncanny ability to size up prospects quickly, efficiently and they can pinpoint a true leadership character as opposed to “resume leadership” in a heartbeat. The self-aware and self-confident prospect is, in most cases, going to shine more brightly in the eyes of the college coaches.

Volunteer Work

Student-athletes can develop character strength in many ways and volunteer work is not only good for the community, it is good for the soul. Reach within yourself and identify areas where you feel you can be impactful. Whether it is working with a local food bank, or coaching a local youth sports group, embrace it with passion and remain committed to your service and believe you can make a difference.

Prospects are considered “special interest” in the eyes of college admissions advisors, especially if college coaches identify them as impact athletes. Coaches use 2 simple and clear cut criteria in determining their support level for athletes: Academic strength and athletic talent. The third criteria is strength of character and in many cases, this can be a key factor that may help prospects separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and President of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he advises prospects and families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence” An educational guide for college athletics recruiting.” For further information visit:

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