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. Jason is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason 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.
We’ve all come to expect instant communication. If someone doesn’t respond back after a couple of hours, you might wonder if their phone died. But in the recruiting world? Not so much.
Email has become the most popular and preferred way for student-athletes to introduce themselves to coaches. So naturally, coaches get hundreds of emails a week, and most of them go unanswered. If they do reply, it’s completely normal for it to take one—even two weeks—to hear back.
This process can leave a lot of parents wondering: where does your student-athlete stand in the mix? Is their email buried at the bottom of the inbox, or has it been opened? Here’s the best way to tell.
USE READ RECEIPTS
Some email carriers provide the option to request a delivery receipt, which confirms whether your message was sent to the recipient’s mailbox and opened. The caveat here is that the email address typically needs to be tied to an organization, so your student-athlete’s school email may provide this functionality, especially if they’re associated with Outlook or Gmail.
HOW TO REQUEST A READ RECEIPT IN GMAIL
- Compose the email as usual
- In the lower-right corner of the compose window, click “More Options”
- Click “Request Read Receipt” from the drop down
- Send the message
HOW TO REQUEST A READ RECEIPT IN OUTLOOK
- Go to the “File” tab and select “Options”
- Click on “Mail”
- Scroll down to the “Tracking” section
- Check the following boxes: “Delivery receipt confirming the message was delivered to the recipient’s email server” and “Read receipt confirming the receipting viewed the message”
Adopting this habit—albeit somewhat weird—will help you better understand how your student measures up to other recruits. If your family is firing off email after email only to see them go left unread, you could be targeting schools that aren’t the best academic and athletic fit for your child.
Or, it’s also possible you’re not sending them at the right time. Here’s an insider tip: Email in the evening.
INSIDER TIP: EMAIL BETWEEN 4 P.M. AND 8 P.M.
NCSA data shows that optimal send time is between 4 and 8 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. That doesn’t necessarily mean your athlete must stick to those hours. You can test a few options to figure out what works best with coaches’ schedules.
But sending at the right time is just one way to get your email opened. Don’t forget to take a look at your student’s subject line, too. Does it clearly communicate who they are and entice the coach to open it?
INSIDER TIP: WHAT SUBJECT LINES ARE BEST
When it comes to subject lines, your student should avoid using something generic or cheesy like “Playing football” or “Your best recruit!” Instead, just get right to the point: include their full name, grad year, position and important stats.
Then, they should tailor this information to the school. For example, if your family is considering Division I programs, use your student’s best key stats. Or if they’re interested in academically rigorous programs, focus on their GPA. For example, a long distance track runner might use “Jane Doe 2015 Grad 2:10 800m 4:52 1500m 3.5 GPA,” while a baseball player would write “John Doe 2015 Grad RH Pitcher 6’2” 190lbs 85mph Video Included.”
Once they’ve got a stellar subject line, follow this last insider tip to boost their chances of getting their emailed opened: Don’t mass email.
INSIDER TIP: DON’T MASS EMAIL
We’re all for efficiency, but not at the expense of personalization. Student-athletes sometimes copy several coaches on a single email in attempt to simplify the process. But coaches perceive this as impersonal and stray away from opening these. To improve their odds of hearing back, encourage your student to individualize every message.
Emailing coaches may start to feel like applying for a job, especially when you’re trying to make your child’s “application” stand out. But if you incorporate these small tactics, you can turn a tedious process into an efficient one.