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.
There’s no doubt social media has changed forever the way colleges recruit athletes. While it’s true that it can be a doubled-edged sword, the stories most often told are the cautionary tales of recruits who were suddenly dropped by colleges because of the conduct and character they revealed on social media. Thankfully, more and more recruits (yet not all) have gotten the message and have cleaned up their accounts and now effectively use their social presence to help and not hurt their recruiting efforts.
Twitter, for now, is the recruiting platform of choice for both coaches and athletes alike. The more social savvy student-athletes are using Twitter not only for exposure but to also gain greater access to college coaches through direct messaging.
In a recent article in the Knoxville News Sentinel, long snapper Adam Bay talked about Twitter and his recruiting experience.
“I thought it was going to be emails and texting,” said Bay, “But 95 percent of it was through Twitter and keeping my profile clean for the coaches to see.
“I followed about 1,000 coaches and DM’d about half of them. Realizing how Twitter was just growing bigger and bigger throughout the years, it was just something I had to do.”
While Twitter has opened another door to the coach’s office, student-athletes need to be smart about how they use it. Here are a few guidelines to help you to best leverage DMs with coaches and recruiting staff.
Guides for Direct Messaging coaches and staff
Before any direct messaging begins, every student-athlete must understand that coaches are seeing and reading what you say and post in social media. And they don’t stop there. They could be checking out your friend’s profiles, too. (Be sure to read my article on a student-athlete’s guide to social media.)
Following colleges coaches on Twitter from schools you are interested in attending is a good idea. You’ll get a better sense of their personality and coaching style as well as their program. Some coaches will even follow you back-and that’s a good sign. Just remember, there are rules in place as to where, when, and how a college coach can contact you. As a student-athlete, you can DM a college coach at any time. The coach, however, may not be able to write back depending on the time period.
A Direct Message is one-to-one communication
Social media moves at a fast and short clip but that doesn’t mean you can just paste a link to your recruiting profile in a DM and send it off. Like in the ancient days of email, direct messages require care and thought go into what you write. At a minimum, ask a specific question about the school, coach, or the program to show you’ve done your homework and have a genuine interest playing at that college.
Humility is your best friend. Arrogance is your worst enemy.
Just about everybody has a little more swagger when it comes to their social media feed, but a DM isn’t really the place for it. Be kind, humble and respectful. Respond promptly if you receive a DM from a coach. Be appreciative of the time and attention. There should be no vulgar or profane language–even in acronym form. A DM is another place to sell not only your athletic skills and grades, but also your maturity.
Avoid the one thing coaches hate most
You’re not doing yourself any favors when in your first DM to a coach you ask for a scholarship offer. It wasn’t okay when student-athletes were sending actual letters. It wasn’t okay when students were sending emails, and it’s not okay for DMs. There’s a time and a place to discuss scholarships. Let the recruiting conversation take its course and one day you might even receive a DM with a scholarship offer.
Use DM, but don’t abuse it
Direct messages may seem like the shortest and fastest way to communicate with a college coach, but you need to make sure you don’t wear out your welcome. Don’t send DM after DM if you don’t get a response right away. Be patient. If you don’t hear back within a few days, you can try to resend. Also, try to keep your DMs newsworthy. For example, you have a link to some new game footage to share, or your GPA just moved north of a 3.0. Finally, keep an eye on the clock. DMs can be more intrusive than an email so you want to stick as close as you can to normal business hours when you send your DM.
Stay sharp when it comes to all coach communications
As we saw with Adam Bay, DMs could become the main communication channel between you and college coaches. But all coaches are different and that means you need to stay sharp when it comes to talking with coaches on Twitter, online, on the phone and in-person. After all, the first DM you get from a coach might include their phone number with a message to call them.