Prepared by former Michigan and Dartmouth assistant coach Ryan Danehy.
Updated May 2017: Given the new recruiting contact rules, it is suggested that players wait until the conclusion of sophomore year to send film to college coaches. Players do not want to share a bad film and be written off by the staff before they can actually communicate with coaches.
I get asked all the time from parents and players; ‘what makes a great highlight film?” Hopefully, the following article helps answer that question!
Highlight videos are crucial to a prospects recruiting process. College coaches receive thousands of emails each year from prospects at various age levels. They all say relatively the same thing; that they are a great player, they are interested in your school and that they are a hard worker. Highlight films are the only differentiator from one person to the next. Emails with highlight links will get read first and responded to quicker. Films that are good will be passed along to the rest of the staff to be viewed for further discussion.
A highlight video should…
Make an OKAY player look GOOD
Make a GOOD player look GREAT
Make a GREAT player look AMAZING
Highlight films are equivalent to movie trailers. It’s not intended to be put together for you to get an offer from a college coach or for you to keep for family get-togethers (although you could create a separate one for that). This film is designed for the recruiting process; to entice a college coach to come see you play. Let’s face it, we’ve all been to bad movies, but it was the trailer that got us all to buy a ticket to the theater. In the end, exposure is the goal!
The best highlight films have a few screens at the beginning giving some basic information. It’s important that you include this information as many times highlight films are passed via direct links and not forwarded through emails (make sure that all links can be viewed on mobile devices!).
Information to include:
School (include HS coaches contact information)
Clubs (include contact information for all coaches)
Showcases attended/All Star Games made
Any accolades earned
This is a hotly debated topic. After viewing a few thousand films, I don’t think they should be longer than 3 minutes. Mikey Powell’s highlight film on YouTube is 2:38 long. While we all know he had more highlights in his career than just over two minutes worth, but it’s a great snapshot of him, his career and his abilities. The same works for prospects. If Mikey Powell doesn’t have more than 3 minutes worth of footage, then I know a prospect certainly doesn’t. Plus, college coaches typically are only going to watch less than a minute of it before making an evaluation on your play. Anything more than 3 minutes, you may run into the risk of a coach continuing to watch, not liking the clips at the end and changing a positive evaluation to a negative one.
When should I start compiling film?
It’s never too early to start filming games. You never know when a coach will ask for film. Try to keep adding and deleting the best footage over time and it will make it much easier for you to compile a great film whenever the time is right.
How important are the first few seconds?
LEAD WITH YOUR BEST STUFF AND ONLY PUT YOUR BEST STUFF. I can’t overstate this enough. It’s incredible how many films I’ve suffered through to get to their best stuff. There’s a misconception of players wanting to show “what coaches want to see…” The problem with this is you never know what a coach is looking for. So, as a general rule, just make sure that you front end all your best stuff and let the coach decide whether or not that’s what he needs!
What should I show?
You should show your strengths. Show what you’re great at! A college coach is always looking for something very specific in a player. Don’t show average plays doing things that you’re just okay at. If you can, show a diverse amount of material. This doesn’t apply to everyone. If showing too much diversity of your skill sets makes you look average, do not include those clips. College coaches aren’t looking for average; they’re looking for exceptional. If you have the skills they are looking for, then they will find you!
What about goalies?
You definitely don’t want to show goals scored on you! Keep it to great saves that show your strengths in cage. A lot of evaluations for goalies are made before you even make a save (hand speed, first step, stance, size in cage, arc, angles you take up, communication, etc.). Make sure you don’t cut off the outlet after the save. That’s a red flag for coaches! They want goalies that can clear the ball!
What about face offs?
This is probably the toughest position to evaluate through film. The major question a college coach has is whom the player is facing off against. Hand speed and technique are critical in an evaluation. Two major turn offs for coaches are face off guys who still use NCAA illegal sticks and who use the back of the stick to get away from pressure. Coaches need to see you track down loose balls under pressure and win face offs with hand speed and technique, not because of an illegal stick.
I’ve also seen players send in highlight films of an entire game of facing off (all the face offs until possession). These are great especially if you’re going against a known prospect (win or lose, you can learn a lot about a face off guy over the course of a game). Otherwise, keeping a highlight film of just wins is the way to go!
What about defenders?
I see some interesting “highlights” on occasion from defenders. One common “highlight” is an over the head check after they get beat. Big mistake. One of the most valued skill sets a coach can determine from a film is a defenders footwork. You don’t want to show yourself getting beat by inferior players, even if the result is a great play that you made in recovery. If you’re a positional player, then you want to show that you can stay on hips and turn players back consistently. If you’re a takeaway defender, then show great footwork, timing on checks and athleticism. If you’re a ground ball guy, then show that you can handle your stick under pressure and pick up “first time” ground balls. Be careful! What you sometimes think is “cool” is often a bad play in the eyes of decision makers!
What about offensive players?
As stated above, you want to show your strengths. If you’re a shooter, then make sure you’re accurate. If you’re a dodger, then make sure you consistently show that you can beat your defenders. If you’re a finisher, then make sure you catch everything and put the ball in the back of the net! If you can show various skill sets within your strengths, then you’re ahead of the game!
Is the competition I play against important?
If you have the ability to show film against great competition, then I would suggest putting that film in. For some recruits, this is unavoidable based on where you live. However, keep in mind that you want to look incredible against bad competition, not just “good” against bad competition.
I’m young and I’m not sure what my strengths are?
When players are young, then first noticeable characteristic is your size and athleticism. Here are some things you can focus on if you haven’t dialed in to a specific strength yet:
-If you’re big for your age, make sure you show that you’re an athlete.
-If you’re small for your age, make sure you show that you’re quick and fast.
-If you’re average size for your age, then show that you have a motor.
-If you’re none of the above, show that you’re incredibly skilled.
This is an often, humorous, debate. Older coaches will argue for classic rock, younger coaches will argue for EDM/techno. The reality is most coaches have their computers/phones on mute while they watch. Full disclosure, I can’t count how many times I’ve downloaded a song after I heard it on a highlight film (don’t let others fool you, they do it too). While there’s no right choice in music, do not put in any music that has swears or inappropriate lyrics. It’s just not a smart decision.
Once you’ve created your highlight film, it needs three last looks before being sent to college coaches. You should always have the approval of yourself, your parents, and your high school/club coaches. They see you play on a daily basis and they can determine if your film is a great representation of your abilities. If they all love it, then you’re all set to send it out! If any one of them doesn’t love your film, then it’s not ready to be sent out. If one person doesn’t love it, a college coach is guaranteed not to love it.
Hopefully all this helps when making your next film. Good luck!