USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Jamie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jamie is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
It’s no secret that college coaches are looking at social media accounts. 85 percent of college coaches surveyed by Cornerstone Reputation said their staff conducted online research of recruits. Of these coaches, 87 percent have turned to Facebook, 79 percent have used Twitter and 65 percent have looked at Instagram to gain insight into a recruit’s character. All of this research really means more exposure and presents a great opportunity for savvy student-athletes to leverage social media in their recruiting.
These guidelines can help to create a strong, positive online presence that will impress college coaches.
Don’t allow other people to post on your account without your approval
Sure, student-athletes aren’t professional marketers, but it doesn’t mean they can’t think like one. You need to be in 100% control of what appears on your social media. Many platforms have a default setting where others can tag or menion you on posts that automatically show up in your account. Below are steps to manage your account.
Insider Tip: Use Facebook Timeline Review. Log in to your Facebook account and click the down arrow at the top right corner of the tool bar (next to the lock symbol). On the dropdown menu, select “Settings.” In the left-hand column, click “Timeline and Tagging” and look for “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline?” Click “Edit” and select “Enabled” from the dropdown menu.
Set your accounts to public so coaches can see your posts
It might sound counterintuitive, but keep it public! College coaches turn to social media to get a sense of a student-athlete’s personality and interests. If they see a recruit has sealed up their accounts, they will assume the recruit has something to hide. Or, they will just pass by the student for the next one on their list. All Facebook,Twitter and Instagram profiles start out public, so if they are now set to private, reverse, reverse. Just remember to keep it clean.
Insider Tip: Include your social media handles in messages and emails to college coaches. This immediately opens a line of trust with coaches. As a bonus, NCAA guidelines now allow coaches in some sports to befriend, follow and message high school athletes on social media.
Follow or like a college program you’re interested in
There’s a fierce battle to stand out from the other recruits. Having a deep familiarity for a program is a great way to find that point of differentiation. By following a program on social media, students might learn who’s leaving, who’s staying on the roster and what the coach values most in players. You’ll also get a better feel for the program to determine if it’s a good fit.
Insider Tip: Get creative with who you follow from the team—search for current athletes and strength and conditioning coaches. A lot of students default to interacting only with the head coach, the college and the sports team social media accounts. However, recruits can often get more insider information by following a current athlete, such as what the schedule is like, where they’re playing, what issues they might be having and more. Similarly, strength and conditioning coaches might post workouts, specific muscles to strengthen, skills they’re looking for and more.
DM coaches for a quick response
The Twitter world moves fast, and student-athletes can take advantage of that speed. Sending a Direct Message to a coach doesn’t necessarily guarantee a response, but it does tend to make coach response times quicker. Not sure how to use the DM feature? From the Twitter app, tap the envelope icon, which will open the Direct Message functionality. Click the speech bubble icon with the plus sign to start a new message. In the address box, enter the name or @username of the message recipient. Enter the message. Tap. Send. Get recruited.
A couple rules to follow when you DM coaches:
* Be specific. Recruits need to introduce themselves and state why they are interested in that specific program. Coaches receive a lot of generic, copy and pasted messages, so it’s important to stand out.
* Read staff bios. Depending on the school and sport, teams will have a recruiting coordinator or an assistant coach. DM these individuals first before reaching out to the head coach.
* Keep messaging. Student-athletes can direct message, call or email coaches at any time throughout their recruiting. However, NCAA rules specify certain times coaches can – and can’t – reach out to their recruits. If a recruit isn’t getting a response, don’t get discouraged!
Insider Tip: Update your Twitter account to receive Direct Messages from people you aren’t following. Finding and following every college coach on Twitter would be a full-time job! This is where being able to receive Direct Messages from anyone can come in handy. Depending on the phone you’re using, either tap the gear icon in your “Me” tab, click on the navigation menu or click on your profile icon. Select “Settings” and tap “Privacy and content.” Next to “Receive Direct Messages from anyone,” either slide the twitch or check the box to enable the feature.
Highlight your accomplishments but stay humble
No one wants to be that guy on Facebook who’s always bragging about how great he is. However, student-athletes can promote their accomplishments—and should! To avoid overt self-promotion, student-athletes can mention their achievement in a post thanking teammates, coaches and parents for their support. Be sure to call out:
* Academic and athletic awards or accolades
* Recaps of combine/camp performance
* College visits
* Firm scholarship offers
Insider Tip: Don’t forget to upload videos of you playing your sport. Recruits should seize every opportunity to have their highlight videos seen by college coaches. Videos are the first way a coach will see a recruit.