• DJ Burns

Virtual Reality: 3 Steps To Crush The Digital Recruiting Game!


As I write this we are still in the NCAA recruiting dead period which means college coaches cannot see you in person and there is no telling how much longer this will last. We are also seeing conferences and universities cancel fall sports altogether.

What does this mean for you, the student-athlete (and you the parents), whose season is in jeopardy?

There are two ways to look at it: in despair or as an opportunity. Just like you can make money in the stock market whether it goes up or down, you can set yourself up for recruiting success when the status quo has changed. You know the age-old saying, "adapt or die." Sorry so serious but I have to get the point across! So, what do you do when you can't go on an official visit and the recruiting coordinator can't come see you play? "We on to Cincinnati!" Allow me to officially welcome you to the new way of doing it - DIGITAL RECRUITMENT.

I want you to live out every single goal you have for your life. The fact that you're reading this tells me you want to play sports in college. This means you have to play the recruiting game. And coaches want you to play because this pandemic is seriously limiting their ability to recruit like before. I spoke with Associate Head Football Coach at Georgia Southern, Chris Foster and he help solidify three aspects that are our new virtual reality when it comes to recruiting.

There are three important aspects that go into digital recruiting and they are 1) having high-level digital content that shows who you are as an athlete, a student, and as a human; 2) being able to network and build relationships; and 3) a grasp of how to communicate digitally.


What does your Instagram account say about you? What are you currently using Twitter for? Are you even on Twitter? If I could only judge you by watching your snaps, what would they tell me? I ask all of these questions for you to take a deep look into how you are portraying yourself online.

It's time to start leveraging your social media profiles to help you accomplish what you want in life. It's time to start posting on purpose. I know what some of you are thinking, "but DJ, I'm just keeping it real." My guy, Bishop TD Jakes put it like this, " sometimes keeping it real can keep you real broke!" How about that? Do you want to maximize your scholarship money? Then let's get to work.

What to delete:

  1. Profanity! It does not automatically make you a bad person but if you wouldn't talk to your mother or grandmother in a certain way then it shouldn't make it on your social media posts or profile.

  2. All pictures that have or reference anything illegal (i.e drugs, alcohol, tobacco, guns, etc.

  3. All pictures that are provocative in nature. I'll just leave it as that.

  4. All negative political posts. If you want to express who you are politically focus on the positive. Don't get mad at me here. I know everyone has the right to their own opinions but you never know if your hurtful opinions might interfere with going to your dream school. Politics are dividing our country right now and are a touchy subject so I would steer clear of using your social media for anything that promotes hatred or exclusion.

  5. Hatred, negativity, and/or bullying of any kind! That should go without saying.

REMEMBER you control everything that makes up your social media space. Why not use it as a highlight reel and to put your best foot forward. It will 1000% help you maximize the next aspect of digital recruiting. So, what should you include?

What to include:

  1. Highlights! Does your high school team use a program like Hudl or Pixellot? Ask the coach for help putting together a highlight reel.

  2. Training scripts! Make sure to include clips of you doing your thing in the weight room, on the track, or maybe doing some change-of-direction drills if that pertains to your sport.

  3. Your human side! Is family important to you? Make sure that shows. Do you get into other quality things besides sports? Make sure that shows. Do you have values and standards that you live by? Make sure that shows.

  4. Academics!!! Celebrate your GPA and test scores if they are a strength of yours (Hint - you should make academics a strength of yours). Thank the people who helped you achieve those grades. If they aren't a strong suite then work to make them strong because they can spoil your chance of getting into school or getting a full ride. Oh, you didn't hear? The NCAA Division I Council passed legislation that allows partial scholarship sports to use need-based and merit-based awards and scholarships for student athletes without counting against a team's scholarship limit.


Whether we like it or not, who we know opens up doors that others might not be able to walk through. Don't get me wrong, you need the talent, and the more talent you have the more doors will open, but you will get the opportunity over another equally talented recruit if you took the time to build a relationship with the team. What goes into building a successful professional relationship? Some of the same values it takes in building a relationship with your significant other:





Everyone wants to and should be respected. Not everyone has the same interests or beliefs but if we chose to show respect then the world would get along much better. Always show respect for coaches, teammates, opponents, parents, and everyone else! It's important now in the recruiting stage but you never know when your path may cross again in the future. Honesty, acceptance, and gratitude are all forms of showing respect. I could say that respect is the holy grail of relationship-building! Please show respect.

How do you start building your network in the digital age? If your social media profiles are on point, start tagging coaches with clips you've made relative to him or her wanting to sign you. That means all the sports-related content on the list above of "what to include" on your social media profile. If they're intrigued then they will take the time to view most of your other posts as well.

Next, start reaching out to those who may be connected to college coaches by tagging them with highlight clips and asking for advice on how to reach your goal of getting recruited. Most people love giving advice and it's not an inconvenience to them. I'm talking about AAU coaches (yours and your opponents), high school coaches, local professional scouts, and former athletes (alumni at your school...or not). How do you find them? You find them on social media, a Google search, or on LinkedIn (if you don't know you better ask somebody). So, they agreed to connect with me. How do I build that relationship?


Video is what's hot now! I'm talking Zoom, YouTube, and video clips posted on your profiles. Emails are still a great tool but video is King and Queen. Then there are online and tech-related strategies that can get your seen and set you apart (you didn't think communication is all verbal, did you?). Let's start here.

First, you need to get and stay organized. Athlete Foundry (athletefoundry.com) is a platform that gives you a road map of everything you need to do from 6tth through 12th grade in order to be as athletically, academically, and humanely prepared as you can be for the next step of playing college sports. It also gives you an cool platform to store your progress and eventually share it with college coaches as an eye-catching resume. It has the contact info of every coach across the country as well as the ability to see all of the public data a university must submit to the Department of Education. You can see data regarding crime on campus, boy/girl ration, majors, among other examples. I highly recommend using this platform.

Next, you have to get seen. Take the time to fill out all the FREE recruiting profiles out there like National Preps (nationalpreps.com) if you play football or RecruitSpot (recruitspot.com) if you play any other collegiate sport. I've talked to and heard from many college coaches and they all say to stay away from the paid recruiting sites. Many of the coaches don't even open emails if they know it's from them. There are too many free resources out there for you (#studentathletetalk being one of them) for you to spend all that money for an ineffective platform.

How about questionnaires? Every athletic department's website has them. Fill them out for every college on your list AND ones who are recruiting you (it shows respect and gratitude). This is another way to initiate contact with a coach along side social media.

Lastly, Zoom calls and FaceTime are picking up steam in this digital recruiting era. Use lighting to your advantage by scheduling calls during the day to capitalize on free lighting (first impressions are huge!). Make sure your background is aesthetic and not revealing the mess - or what I like to call "the situation" - you've got going on in your room. Set up and stage a spot in your house (or outside your house while social distancing) for these calls where you won't be disturbed and the person on the other end will be impressed (or at least not distracted). Groom yourself in a way that highlights your best self. That's different for everybody. But I know that I don't feel myself without a fade. If my hair gets long on the sides then I'm feeling a certain type of way about it! I know these calls can be nerve-wracking so keep going back to the holy grail. Just be respectful when answering questions and asking questions. I don't care how good you are, having a lack of character will catch up with you at some point.

There you have it! That was a high-level break down of digital recruiting. What did I miss? What do you want me to elaborate more on? What questions do you have? Drop me a comment below! And share this with your teammates, coaches, and parents.

Follow me on social media for student-athlete news, advice, highlights, and a behind-the-scenes look at Athletic State of Mind.

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