We surveyed college recruiting personnel to find out where a highlight video can go wrong and how athletes can avoid falling into those traps.

We talk plenty about the power of a highlight and how it can raise your recruiting profile. But there are two sides to that coin - a bad highlight video can turn coaches off and have them looking in a different direction.

“A bad highlight can actually hurt recruiting,” Matt Mueller, Michigan State’s Director of Recruiting, said.

We don’t want that, so we reached out to coaching and recruiting personnel from Division I to NAIA to get advice on avoiding the traps that submarine some prospects. Steering clear of these mistakes will make your highlight more effective, more useful and eye-catching to recruiters.

If your highlight hits on any of the following, you should update it ASAP. You never know when your moment to impress a coach could come.

Don't Use Chronological Order

You might think it makes sense to create a highlight early in the season, then simply add more and more plays as the year progresses. But coaches will turn off your video in a matter of seconds if they’re unimpressed with your opening clips. 

Continually update your highlight so your top plays are first, leaving the viewer with a strong first impression. As one FBS Director of Recruiting told us, “If your first five plays are average, nobody is watching the next 15.” 

Your best plays may come late in the season, but if you go in chronological order a coach may never get to see them.

They said it: “Put your best plays first. Coaches want something that grabs their attention.” - FBS Director of Player Personnel

Don't Show the Same Play More Than Once

It can be tempting to show a particularly shifty run or circus-style catch from multiple angles, but recruiters only want to see each play once. Again, their time is limited, so be quick and impactful. 

This plays back into our first tip - if your video is too long or it bores the viewer, he’ll simply turn it off and move to the next one. The more efficient and impactful you can make your video, the better odds you have of keeping a coach entertained and watching longer.

They said it: “(I dislike) multiple angles of same play, 'dead space' in the film.” - Div. III assistant coach

Don't Mess With the Flow

Few things annoy recruiters more than pauses during the play. It interrupts the action and hinders their ability to gauge athleticism. Spotlight yourself before the play so you’re easy to find, then let it run. 

The more fluid your highlight, the better coaches and talent evaluators will be able to accurately judge your ability. 

On a similar note, avoid using slow motion or anything that hinders the flow of the play. And don’t try to speed the video up to make yourself appear faster. Recruiters have seen all the tricks over the years, and they can tell if the video is altered.

They said it: "Highlighting themselves mid play prevents the viewer from seeing fluid motion." - FBS Recruiting Assistant

Don't Show Cheap Shots or Loafing

Recruiters are turned off when they see big hits that don’t impact the play. They view it as violence for the sake of violence, not helping the team. Blowing up a player who’s clearly not a part of the play is not showing you’re a man. Recruiters see that as a lack of character. 

Also, make sure your players are highlighting hustle and aggressiveness. One FBS Manager of Player Personnel said he commonly sees athletes loaf for half the play, then chase down a ball carrier from behind. It may look impressive to the naked eye, but coaches can see the laziness that started the play, and that makes an impact.

They said it: "“It does not impress me that you can peel back on a lazy lineman 30 yards away from the play. That is not a highlight. That just shows that you decided to be lazy and cheap on that play.” - NAIA Defensive Coordinator

Avoid Multiple Plays Showing the Same Skill

Recruiters want to see variety. Having a series of 60-yard runs to the outside showcases your speed, but recruiters also need to evaluate if you can read blocks, run between the tackles and catch the ball. 

Quarterbacks should showcase throws to every branch of the route tree. Linemen should include video of both run and pass blocks, and defensive backs should show not just flashy interceptions, but also instances when they came up and filled well against the run. 

One talent evaluator told us that colleges are looking for speed, agility and aggressiveness, in that order. Show off these three qualities to grab attention.

They said it: "Include blocks if you are a wide receiver or running back. Quarterbacks should include ball handling and scrambles. Defenders and offensive linemen, show effort plays away from ball." - Thom Boerman, Director of Football Evaluations at 3StepSports

Don't Sabotage Yourself With Music

Music is a critical component to any highlight video. It ramps up the action and gets the viewer excited about what they're about to see. When paired correctly, music and highlights form a perfect partnership that engages the audience and enhances the video.

Just understand that while your friends and family might love the sick track you laid over your highlight, recruiters don’t. They will likely watch the video on mute. Be careful though - if the lyrics are questionable or vulgar, it can cause them to question your decision-making. 

It's certainly not wrong to include music with your highlight, but carefully consider your song selection before posting.

They said it: “Music with lyrics (especially explicit lyrics)... becomes a distraction when watching in a room full of coaches.” - Div. III assistant coach

Before you share your highlight video, make sure you’ve checked all the boxes on this list. This will make your video and you as an athlete, more attractive to recruiters for a better shot at earning scholarship offers.

Ready to learn the ins and outs of the recruiting process?

Check out our College Recruiting Guide for Athletes.