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. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie 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.
Your student-athlete has done some recruiting legwork. They’ve researched a bunch of schools, created a list of 50-plus to target, and may have even reached out to the coaches through email. But it’s been a while, and you haven’t heard back from anyone. What do you do?
It’s time for your student-athlete to pick up the phone. In this era of texts, tweets and emails, the majority of college coaches receive fewer than seven phone calls a week. Taking the time to make a call can really set you apart from other recruits and increase your chance of a response.
Prepare a script
When calling a coach, one of two things will happen: they’ll either answer, or they won’t. You should be prepared for both scenarios. In case they do pick up, here are some tips for phone calls with coaches. However, coaches are pretty busy, and they likely won’t have your number saved in their phone, so they might not answer. In this case, you’ll want to be ready to leave a brief but informative voicemail.
Insider Tip: Calling coaches in the summer is a good opportunity to catch them in the offseason when they are a little less busy.
The best way to prepare to leave a voicemail is to write out a brief script and practice it before you call. This might feel silly, but it lowers the chance of calling and freezing up when it’s time to leave your message. Hey, it happens to all of us. Coaches expect athletes to be a little nervous, so don’t sweat it too much.
To help avoid that scenario, here’s some what you’ll want to include in your voicemail script:
- Your name
- Where you’re from
- The team you play for and your position
- Your graduation year
- Reason why you’re calling (you’re curious about their recruiting timeline, you want to see where you stand skill set-wise, etc.)
- A note about how you’ll be following up or how they can contact you
- A closing line thanking them for their time
Practice, practice, practice
Once the script is written, practice it out loud. A good tip is to call your own phone number and leave a voicemail to hear what you sound like. Would you recruit yourself if you were a coach? When you leave the actual voicemail, be sure not to read directly from the script. You will want to sound as confident and enthusiastic as possible. Reading a script can make you sound like a robot.
Here are a few other tips to help you leave the best voicemail possible:
- Make sure the student-athlete is the one calling. While they may feel intimidated to speak to a coach, coaches want to hear from the recruit directly, not their family.
- Check your surroundings, and be sure you’re in a quiet area without any distractions or background noise.
- Speak clearly, enunciating your name and phone number especially. It’s a good idea to repeat your phone number, just in case.
- Personalize each voicemail you leave by including the coach’s name and a couple of specifics about the school’s program.
- Don’t let the message go longer than 30 seconds. But don’t rush, either! Speak at a natural pace.
Insider Tip: Start by calling the schools on your list that you’re not as interested in. This type of practice will increase your comfort with leaving voicemails without as much pressure involved, and you will have a few calls under your belt before getting to your top picks.
After they have left a voicemail, your student-athlete should immediately follow up with an email restating the information from their message. If you don’t hear back within a week or so, it’s OK to call and leave another voicemail or two. Persistence is key. If you’re leaving multiple voicemails, it’s important to make sure each message can stand alone, as the coach may only listen to one of them. Also, shy away from referencing other voicemails you’ve left the coach. This can come off as passive aggressive.
Insider Tip: Your chance of making contact with a coach actually increases each time you call, so don’t get discouraged.
If you keep getting a coach’s voicemail, you should talk to your high school or club coach about facilitating a time to talk to the coach on the phone, as it might just be too early for coaches to contact you directly. Remember, student-athletes can contact a college coach at any stage of their athletic careers, but for Division I and Division II, coaches usually have to wait until their junior year to contact them directly. Here is more information about when college coaches can contact student-athletes.
Effective communication with college coaches is one of the best ways to stand out among other recruits. It can be awkward—and even scary—but the more you do it, the easier it gets. And, in the end, when a coach remembers you and reaches out because of the professional voicemail you left, it’ll all be worth it.