#1 Piece of Advice About The Recruiting Process

[ posted by Kim on 30th of August, 2017 ]

I just realized the other day that I graduated from university 15 years ago.

So while I’ve been through the college hockey recruiting process myself,
it’s been a while.

When I talk to players, parents and teams about this topic, I always tell them
how important it is to speak to players who have gone through the process so
that you can hear about the challenges they had and how they navigated the
whole process. Because we all know there isn’t a scholarship fairy who just
shows up in the middle of the night and puts a scholarship under your pillow
when you’re sleeping. Realizing your dream of college hockey takes a lot of
work and it’s not going to be easy.

Since starting Total Female Hockey 9 years ago, I’ve helped over 100 players
navigate the tricky college hockey recruiting process and I’ve learned a lot along
the way. But while my advice and insights are useful from the perspective of a coach,
I think it’s important that you hear from the players who have gone through it in the
past few years.

So I interviewed 8 of my former players about their college hockey process and I’m
sharing the answers to this question:

What’s the #1 piece of advice you’d give players going through the recruiting process?

I also asked those same players to answers these questions:

=> Why did you choose the university you ended up attending?
=> What was the hardest part of the recruiting process for you?
=> What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you knew back when
you were going through the recruiting process?

But let’s circle back to the #1 piece of advice.

As you read their answers, keep in mind that they are all very different
players from very different backgrounds. Three of these players played
on their provincial team before attending university. Two of them played
for their Under 18 national team before going to university. Four of them
are from small towns and 4 are from cities. Three of them went to universities
that were less than 2 hours away from where they grew up. Two of them did
a gap year (sometimes referred to as a ‘victory lap’) before attending university.
And while all of them played at the varsity level, only 3 of the 8 played a lot in
their first year and 5 of them were playing a lot by their 3rd year.

I am sharing all these numbers with you because you will be able to identify
with at least one or two of these players. They’ve been through it and they
didn’t all have a smooth journey along the way. So read their answers closely
and use that information to help you navigate the challenges and opportunities
ahead. Everyone’s process is different and your path will be a unique one too.


Pick up the phone and call! I never would have ended up at my university
if I hadn’t mustered up the courage to call the coaches and ask where I was
on their depth chart and what I needed to do to move up that chart.
In my first phone call, I got honest answers to questions I needed to know;
I was 5th of 5 on their depth chart, they liked my academics, and they were
impressed that I had called to show my interest. Coaches don’t get a sense
of who you are as a person (which is the single most valuable thing for both
parties involved) if you simply send emails and fill out questionnaires.
Call, call, call! It seems scary and intimidating, but the coaches who are
recruiting genuinely love talking to you.

Don’t worry about all the shiny bows and frills that some schools have to offer.
A great relationship with your teammates and coaches will stay with you for
the rest of your life.

Take an active role in the process, don’t wait for coaches to come to you.
Go to them and make yourself known, always ask for feedback and don’t be
afraid to take criticism. Coaches are interested in long term development, they’re looking for players that will get better every time you’re on the ice for 4-5 years.

The best piece of advice I was ever given, and that I like to pass on,
is make sure that when you pick a school, it is one that you would still be
happy at even if you couldn’t play hockey. Because, believe it or not,
hockey isn’t everything.

Believe in yourself. Recruiting may have changed over the last couple of years,
but the one thing that has stayed the same is players promote themselves.
I wrote emails before and after every tournament I went to in my grade 11 year,
I wrote a letter to the teams I was interested include information about myself,
my transcript, and game schedule, and made sure that I exposed myself
(playing in showcases, attended summer tournaments and camp, etc.)
so that teams would not miss me.  I wanted to play in the NCAA, and
I believed that I could. My action spoke for how much I wanted to be there
and the belief in myself.

The best advice I can give to someone in the recruiting process is don’t rush it.
It may seem like you need to make decisions right away, but give yourself enough
time to visit the schools you want to see and get all the information you need before
finalizing anything. It’s better to give yourself extra time to weigh out all your options
than to rush into something and regret it later. You have more time than you think you
do and waiting that little bit longer will not make or break your future.

One piece of advice (as obvious as it seems) is to ask lots of questions!
There are no such thing as dumb questions, especially because you want to
figure out which school will be most beneficial for you with regards to education,
hockey, geographically whether you want to be close to home or far away, etc.
Asking questions will help you receive all the necessary information to make a
well-educated decision. Along with asking questions, it is so important to reach
out to coaches and schools to ask them about their program and get in touch
with them yourself. Don’t wait for them to come to you.

The biggest piece of advice that I could give to players during the recruiting
process is to trust the process itself. Whether it takes you until your grade 12
year to figure out your dream school, or maybe much sooner than that,
there is not a time limit. University coaches will wait for players if they truly and
genuinely want you to become a part of their program. It is not a race, it is a process.
In order to make the most of the four year student athlete experience, it is important
to do your research, reach out to current players and alumni, train, eat healthy,
rest, do your homework, and most importantly listen to your current coaches
who are trying to help you get there.


All great advice. I hope that some of it hits home for you and that it fires you up.
As you read above, it’s going to take some work but it’s going to be worth it.


Work Hard. Dream BIG.

Your friend and coach,




Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS

Director & Founder, Total Female Hockey

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