Athletic Recruiting for US Universities

Due to an increase in interest among BFIS student-athletes, known as recruits, to compete at US colleges and universities, our College Counselor, Rhonda Leshman, has compiled this tip sheet to help you understand the process and to share resources.

Advice below is from a knowledgeable source about US college soccer with deep ties to Stanford University (this advice would relate to other sports and Division I teams as well).

General things to know:

It is a time consuming process

Recruiting for the elite programs is a long and time consuming process.  Since girls mature faster than boys, coaches usually know who they want by Grade 11 year, and have been tracking the elite players for years.  The really good players have been good for a long time!


Looking for the right fit

The coaches are looking for fits into their program:  fit the system, culture, style, etc.  They don’t just get the best available player.  Team chemistry is hugely important in sports. And arguably even more for women’s sports.  Women seem to strongly want to like the people they play with.  Men, not as necessary. 

Photo from Kampus Production
For Stanford, the coach has to be very judicious in who he recruits.  The coach has only limited spots, lots of players want to play there. He has to make sure any application to the admissions dept is very solid.  The coach loses credibility if he submits weak candidates to admissions. So he would at this point in his stellar career NEVER do that.

At Stanford, there are plenty of examples of athletes where the coach says, hey, ‘go get admitted on your own merits.  Once you get in, I can put you on the team’ (this is called being a ‘walk-on’).  But the coach can’t use a team spot to help sway admissions.  So then that forces the academics to be very strong, as that is the only way the person can get admitted.

The information above is for highly competitive universities like Stanford.

Step One: Seek advice from your College Counselor

If you are serious about being recruited to play sports at a university in the US, have a conversation with your college counselor. If your coach in Spain is knowledgeable about US university athletics, the coach should also be able to suggest particular summer camps and showcases worth attending to get noticed by college coaches.

The best advice about a summer camp to attend is to ask the coach(es) at the universities you are considering what summer camps they will be attending.  See more detailed information below about summer recruiting camps. 

Step Two: Decide your appropriate division

Decide which Division (D1, D2, D3) is appropriate for your talent level. You should research the particulars of each level on the NCAA website:  Note: not all divisions give athletic scholarships.  Even if a student earns a scholarship, it is unlikely to cover the full costs of attendance which are substantial in the US. 

Photo Patrick Case

NCAA: Is the National Collegiate Athletics Association is a nonprofit organization in the US that regulates student athletics at over 1,100 colleges and universities.

NCAA Eligibility Guide

Here is a helpful website from the NCAA specifically for international students:

Webinar on preparing as a student-athlete (not specifically for international students).

Step Three: Create an account with NCCA

Step Three

Create an account with the NCAA Eligibility Clearinghouse and request your transcript through NCAA portal:

Information about Eligibility for International students 

Step Four: Record a video

Record and catalogue video of you playing in competitive games. Edit these clips together into a 2-minute (or shorter) highlight reel to post on YouTube (a link you will share with coaches).  

Step 5: Research college athletic programs

Research college athletic programs. Note their NCAA Division, team record, conference, team roster (who plays your position and when does that person graduate), coaching staff. Research each college’s academic programs to see if the college will serve you well. College is school, after all.

Photo Andrea Piacquadio

Step Six: Send email to college coaches

Send introductory emails to college coaches. Coaches receive hundreds—if not thousands—of emails from recruits. Simply sending an email isn’t enough to get a coach’s attention. You need to create clear, concise emails with attention-grabbing subject lines to give yourself a chance at the coach opening your email, reading it, and responding.

  • Subject line: grad year, position, unique athletic information (re: a good number or stat)
  • Be professional. Some good opening lines to consider:
    • I wanted to connect with you after speaking with…
    • I’ve been following your program for a while, and…
    • In researching your program, I noticed…
  • Body of the email should include:
    • General info: Name, graduation year, high school/club team
    • Academics: GPA, test scores
    • Athletics: sports specific stats, relevant measurables, your position
    • Major: what academic programs/majors interest you
    • Contact info:  phone number, email, address, contact of current coaches 
  • Attachment/links:
    • Attach a pre-read unofficial transcript (talk to your counselor to get this)
    • Include YouTube link to your highlight reel

Step Seven: Follow up

Follow up with interested coaches. It is your responsibility to maintain a line of communication. If a coach goes dark, it signals he/she is not interested. If a coach is non-committal when the application deadline nears, it signals the coach is not interested. 

If a D1 or D2 coach wishes to recruit you, he/she will invite you to sign a National Letter of Intent.

If a D3 coach wishes to endorse your application, he/she will often ask you to apply binding Early Decision in the fall of Grade 12. 

Here are some local sports agencies in Barcelona who have some contacts in US university athletics. They charge a fee so be sure to ask questions and make sure they can be of great assistance to you before committing to the agency. The listing of these agencies is not an endorsement of them from BFIS:

i-Con Sports Agency in Barcelona

AGM Agency in Barcelona


About Summer Athletic Recruiting Camps/Programs

  • We strongly recommend to hopeful recruited athletes to reach out to the college coaches to ask them what camps, tournaments, showcases, and events they will be attending over the summer so the student-athletes can use your time and money and the coaches’ time efficiently.
  • University coaches appreciate it when recruits ask them where they will be
  • ​​Most D1 universities offer both generic “summer camps“ and “ID”  camps for older, more serious athletes. 
  • Definitely check on the credentials of the camp directors and staff. 
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