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 Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. 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.
June was a great month for our coach interviews. In fact, each of our three interviews last month featured coaches who recently guided their programs to a spring-semester national title!
We had the opportunity to sit down and talk college recruiting with Brandon Elliott (Virginia Wesleyan Softball), Marty Slimak (Cal Lutheran Baseball) and Lori Meyer (Minnesota State Softball). And, when coaches like this offer up advice, take it! In case you missed any of those interviews, here’s a look back at some of the highlights.
Brandon Elliott, Virginia Wesleyan Softball
Q: Give me an idea of what an email from an athlete to a coach should say.
Here’s the deal: if you’re interested in a program, you better convey that to those coaches. Be unique and show that you know what you’re talking about in regards to the program you’re emailing. Do you really know who you’re emailing and why you would even consider that school, let alone the softball program? The last thing that any coach wants to get from a recruit is the standard copy/paste email that you’re sending to every other coach that has a pulse. Often times, you hear of parents and athletes complaining about the blanket emails and camp emails they’re getting from colleges because they don’t appreciate the lack of personal attention. The same can be said for coaches and those impersonal emails we get from recruits.
Additionally, coaches aren’t going to read a page-long email every time you send something. Keep it short and to the point. Introduce yourself, give us a reason why we should get out and watch you and tell us where we can see you play. And don’t be afraid to ask a coach where you stand once they see you play. Coaches don’t want to waste their time as much as you, the recruit, don’t want to waste yours. Ask, “Now that you’ve seen me play, do I have a chance in your program?” As a coach, I want to know if I have a shot at landing you as a recruit and I am going to ask that as early as I can in the process. So, why shouldn’t you ask the same of me? Ask the questions that you want answered.
Q: What is your advice to a recruit interested in Virginia Wesleyan who you have not yet identified?
Be a pest. I tell kids that all the time. Like that scrappy leadoff hitter that you can’t ever seem to get out, be a pest! If you have serious interest in any school, communicate that to the coaching staff and keep communicating that to them. Send them updates on your schedule, where you’re playing and when you’re playing. Keep them posted on how you’re doing in school and on the field. And don’t expect a response every time you send something.
I think most kids fail in that sense because they take it personally if they don’t get a response with everything they send. They stop communicating because they have this false expectation of how we as coaches are supposed to handle them.
If I get 75 emails today, that’s like reading a 75-page book, not to mention the responses that go along with it. If you think about the time it would take me to respond to each and every one of those emails, it would be virtually impossible to do so. If a coach doesn’t email you back immediately, it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested. It might mean they’ve got a lot going on at the moment. Stay after it!
Marty Slimak, Cal Lutheran Baseball
Q: How does a recruit get your attention?
If we haven’t seen the young man play, the best way for a recruit to get our attention is to get in touch with us directly. The first step would be to go on to our website and fill out the recruiting questionnaire for prospective student-athletes. That questionnaire basically gives us everything we need to know about a player to get the ball rolling. From personal info and academic achievements to athletic achievements, it’s geared specifically to help us make an initial impression on a player.
The next step would be to have a coach reach out to us on your behalf. Most of the time, if you’re a legitimate recruit, your high school coach is going to want to help promote you to college programs. If we get a good report from your high school coach and you’ve filled out that questionnaire, we’re going to take notice. That’s really the best way to get our attention if we haven’t seen play.
Q: What’s your advice to parents of student-athletes going through the recruiting process?
Do I want to get to know the parents of a player we’re recruiting? Absolutely. Parents are a huge part of getting their kids to this point in the first place. But as a coach at this level, I don’t need mom or dad acting like their son’s agent. I don’t need them telling me how great their son is or how much better he is than all of the other guys out on the field. I need their son to be the one telling me that he’s going to be that guy for our program.
Parents should help their kids to do all of the little things that maybe 17 or 18-year olds aren’t quite sure how to do yet. Help them to stay organized and let them know that they’re the ones that the coach wants to hear from. Get them focused on taking charge and let them know that you’re going to follow their lead. Listen, it’s your son that’s going to be with us for the next four years. They need to know that we expect communication and interaction with them and we’re not interested in mom or dad doing all the work for them.
Lori Meyer, Minnesota State Softball
Q: Give some advice to recruits when emailing a college coach.
When you’re reaching out to us via email, make sure that you’re the one writing the email, not mom and dad, or anyone else for that matter. We want to know that you want to play for us because we’re recruiting you, not your parents!
I would also say that you need to be clear on why you’re interested in Minnesota State. And that’s not just from a softball point of view.
When I read an email that’s addressed to me and I see the name of another school within the body of the same email, it’s pretty evident that all the prospect’s doing is copy/pasting. You’d be surprised how much that happens and quite frankly, I just delete those. If that’s the amount of effort you’re putting into Minnesota State and our softball program, why would you expect us to take you seriously? All it shows us is that you’re mass-marketing yourself and you’re willing to accept anything that comes your way. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success in my time here. Much of that has to do with bringing in the kids that want to be here.
Q: When reaching out to you or your staff, is there anything a recruit can do to stand out?
Something I tell the kids that attend one of our prospect camps is that sending a hand-written letter really catches my eye. Go back to the hand-written letter! It’s such an easy, effective way to show us that you’re unique. If you’re willing to put your thoughts down on paper and send us a letter, that tells us that you pay attention to detail, you’re going the extra mile and you want our attention.
Listen, I don’t think parents and prospective recruits understand just how many emails we get each and every day. We could literally spend all day going through and replying to all of them. With all of the recruiting services out there now sending emails on behalf of kids, it becomes very difficult to know what’s real and what’s not. I would encourage recruits to get focused on schools that they’re sincerely interested in. By doing so, we can take you seriously and get to a decision that’s best for you.