USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
So, you want to play your sport in college, but you’ve hit one minor obstacle. College coaches don’t know who you are. Guess what, join the crowd! You are a part of the 98 percent; the athletes who aren’t highly recruited. If you really want to play at the next level, then it’s up to you to do something about it. It’s February and pretty soon another school year will be behind you. You can’t afford to procrastinate another day.
There are only so many ways to generate interest from college coaches. You can sign up for a camp, try to connect on Twitter, schedule some unofficial visits, or you can strategically send emails to colleges that match your abilities. I know you’ve heard it before, but the most efficient way to start a dialogue with a college coach is to send emails to programs that match your abilities. One word of warning…spend the time to get it right, or your email will be deleted after the coach reads just a few words. And remember, college recruiting is a little like baseball. If you get a hit in 3 out of 10 at bats, you’re an All-Star. If you get 3 responses from 10 emails, you will find a place to play.
Given the above facts, here are the specifics of an email strategy that will give you an advantage over your competition.
What your emails should include
There are 3 fundamental things any email to a college coach should include:
1. Accurate stats and/or metrics: The statistics you send to a college coach need to be a realistic picture of your abilities. I realize it’s tempting to “project” a little extra velocity to
your fastball or to round down on your 40 time, but that does more harm than good. Every college coach is going to verify your stats before they waste the time to come see you in person. If the stats you provide don’t match what they are being told by your coaches or other scouts, then you will NEVER have a chance to compete for a roster spot with that school.
2. A link to your highlight video: Video alone may not land you a scholarship, but it certainly will serve as a virtual handshake to any college coaching staff in the country. What could be a better introduction to a college coach than an honest, impartial evaluation of your abilities?
3. The contact information for your current coach or coaches: This information gives a college coach an easy way to verify your stats and learn a little about you as a player, teammate and student. There are very few college coaches who will sign a player without at least talking to their high school coach. An athletic scholarship is a big investment for a school and coaches take the responsibility very seriously. That said, make sure you know what your current coach will say before you write down their contact information.
Specific rules to follow
There is no detailed blueprint for an effective email strategy, but here are my thoughts on what might help:
1. Your email should be short and to the point. Don’t waste a coach’s time with a 10-page autobiography on the greatness that is you. That email will be deleted immediately. Instead, send a brief overview of why you should be considered for their program and get to the point where a coach can make their initial assessment of you immediately.
2. Research the colleges you are contacting and personalize your message.
3. The subject line of your email should make the coach want to open it. For example, “1st Team All District Point Guard” or “Left handed pitcher sitting at 90 MPH.”
4. Your salutation should be to the specific coach by name (Dear Coach Smith).
5. Provide academic information: ACT or SAT score, GPA, class rank, honors, etc.
6. Provide athletic information: position, height, weight, honors, and relevant statistics.
7. Provide a link to your video (if you have one).
8. Include a current game schedule with dates, locations and times.
9. If possible, have your current coach follow up with an email a few days after you send your email. If your coach is unable to send an email on your behalf, at least include his or her contact information in your email.
10. If you don’t hear back from your first email, send a follow up email. If you don’t receive a response at that point, move on to other schools.
You might also consider creating an Athletic/Academic Resume and including much of the above information on the resume in an organized manner. This not only shortens your email, it also makes it easy for the college coach to review.
Many college programs have limited recruiting budgets and have to focus on a particular geographic area to observe potential recruits. If you aren’t in that area, the coaches from those programs may never see you. A compelling email with an athletic/academic resume might open the door to a college that would otherwise never even see you.
Real life example
Last year one of the athletes we were working with just couldn’t understand why his emails weren’t generating any interest. I knew his athletic abilities weren’t the issue, so I asked him to send me a copy of the email. Here is what he sent (I have changed the names, links, school and location for example purposes):
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Baseball scholarship
Hey coach this is Billy Brown. I am interested in your school and baseball program. I would like to get to know more about it and get a chance to come visit.
That is my recruiting video.
Now, I think we would all agree that the above email isn’t bad, but it just isn’t going to stand out from the other 100 emails those coaches receive every day. For that reason, we had a short conversation about putting some thought into every email and I made a few suggestions. Here’s an example of how his next round of emails read:
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Varsity catcher with a 1.85 pop time
Hello Coach Smith:
My name is Billy Brown and I am junior at Lincoln High School in Jacksonville, Florida. I am a two sport athlete, but my passion is baseball and my dream is to play in college. I have been the starting varsity catcher since my sophomore year. Here is a link to my athletic/academic resume: https://www.playced.com/getplayced/athlete-profile?athlete=276 . The resume includes my skills video, my coach’s contact info and all my relevant statistics. I am very interested in New College and would like the opportunity to earn a roster spot with your team.
I would like to discuss the possibility of becoming a Bulldog in 2017. If there is anything I can do to help you decide if I’m a good fit, please let me know.
Thank you for your time,
The next day he sent out 15 emails to schools matching his abilities and he received 6 responses. He didn’t receive an offer from every college, but he had several offers to choose from! Understand that the reason this email was successful is because it was personal, expressed specific interest in the program and the resume contained enough information for the coach to make a decision on whether or not he was interested.
Here’s the deal
An effective, well thought out email strategy isn’t the only way to generate interest from college coaches, but a personal, polite, respectful email, followed up with an email from your coach gives you a fighting chance. Don’t expect to hear back from every coach, don’t take it personally and don’t get discouraged. If the first few emails you send don’t result in a response, make an adjustment.