By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches managing editor
Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo offers four pieces of advice as to how to guide your player into a scholarship opportunity at the next level.
- Educate on Eligibility
- Initiating Contact
- The Red Flags
- Make It Easy
Ken Niumatalolo, the winningest head coach in Navy football history, has established himself as the master of recruiting among the military academies. His team, which set a single-season record for wins (11) and finished the season ranked 18th in the nation, has defeated Army in each of the eight seasons as head coach. In terms of recruiting, Niumatalolo said that much of his efforts are directed toward players that have coaches advocating for them. “High school coaches have to help them get noticed,” Niumatalolo said. “They have to call through their contacts and help get info to coaches. If a player has a coach hustling for him, it definitely helps.”
EDUCATE ON ELIGIBILITY
Niumatalolo believes the process of a high school coach helping a player get recruited should start during the first team meeting of the player’s freshman year. “A player can have all the talent in the world, but if he’s not taking the right courses, he’s not going to be able to play in college,” Niumatalolo said. “A coach should educate every incoming freshman on the NCAA’s eligibility standards.”
An incoming college freshman must have completed 16 core high school courses and passed 10 in English, Math or Natural/Physical Sciences. The NCAA also requires a minimum of a 2.3 GPA and satisfactory SAT/ACT scores, which are determined on a sliding scale along with GPA.
The first contact between a high school coach advocating for a player and a college coach should take place via email, according to Niumatalolo. The coach should include a brief description of the player – with height, weight, position and graduating class – and a link to a highlight video. The majority of the videos Niumatalolo receives are hosted by Hudl.
“The days of waiting for a video to arrive in the mail are obsolete, so every high school coach should have someone on his staff with an expertise in making highlight reels,” Niumatalolo said. “Send it to more than one coach on the college team’s staff – position coaches, recruiting coordinators. Be persistent.”
THE RED FLAGS
The Naval Academy has higher standards than most top-25 Division 1 schools, but if a high school prospect wants to keep all doors open in terms of potential landing spots, he must meet the highest standard of acceptance.
Niumatalolo and his staff place red flags on prospects with criminal records, low GPAs and second-hand descriptions of poor character. Niumatalolo said the vetting process for a player’s character includes calls to the player’s coaches, school administrators and possibly even members of the custodial staff.
“If a player has a pattern of bad behavior, we’re going to rule him out,” Niumatalolo said. “Bad grades will be a red flag. We can’t recruit those guys. I’m talking to coaches, counselors, assistant coaches and professors. I want to know everything.”
MAKE IT EASY
Once the recruiting process gets to the point when a scholarship offer is imminent, a high school coach must take steps to facilitate that offer. That comes in the form of an invitation to the high school campus to meet with the player. A high school coach should also try to set up informal visits to college campuses and steer his player toward attending a camp at the college of his choice.
“Every college team has a camp,” Niumatalolo said. “If the college coaches are interested in the player, attending their camp is a great way for a player to gain interest. Unofficial visits are the big thing now. Go on your own dime and see as many schools as you can.”
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Dan Guttenplan is FNF Coaches senior managing editor. Do you have a thought about this article you would like to share? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us @fnfcoaches or share it on the Coaches Chat Board.