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.
Social media may have taken the recruiting world by storm, but calling college coaches still remains one of the most effective tools in the recruiting process.
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Why call? Why not? While NCAA rules restrict the times when coaches can call recruits your son or daughter can pick up the phone at any time. It’s a great way for your student-athlete to introduce themselves, it shows initiative and maturity, and they will find it much easier to talk to a coach in person, say at a camp or college visit, once they have spent some time on the phone. I’m not saying it will be easy at first. Growing up in a world where people would rather text than talk, calling coaches may not be in your child’s comfort zone. But, not trying to sound too much like a Nike ad here, comfort is the enemy of getting what they want. Recruiting will challenge your student-athlete in many ways. So, here’s some advice from coaches and former recruits that will make calling coaches a lot easier.
Set the Stage for a Good Conversation
Just like their sport, practice, preparation and persistence are key. I know it sounds lame-but your student-athlete should try a few practice calls with a friend. It honestly helps to do a couple dry runs so they can get comfortable with the routine. Also, a friend can give them invaluable feedback–you’re too loud, too quiet, phone is breaking up, too much background noise, etc.
Your child should treat a coach call like an in-person visit. That means scheduling enough time to have a good conversation. They should also be in a quiet place free of distractions, including television, video games, noisy pets and family members. Calls will go better too when there isn’t parent in the room so give them a little space. Before the call, you can make sure they have everything they need in front of them including: A list of specific questions for the coach that show you’ve done some homework about the school, and a notebook to jot down the coach’s answers. Here’s five good starter questions for their list, but be they include some questions specific to the coach, the program, and the school:
- How does your recruiting class look for my grad year?
- What camps, tournaments, or showcases do you recommend?
- What does it take to earn an athletic scholarship?
- Can I meet with you if I make an unofficial visit?
- What is the best way to update you on my progress?
Game on, Energy Up
One thing every recruit should remember is they are talking to coaches who have a certain degree of intensity and passion for their sport. That means they should keep the energy and enthusiasm high. Coaches want student-athletes who exhibit a similar passion and are excited to compete at their school.
Energy also equals confidence, and a good, confident way for any recruit to start a call is to simply and clearly identify themselves (first name, last name and high school.) And before the call ends, your recruit should always thank the coach for their time and let them know they are looking forward to speaking with them again.
Listen and Learn
A great phone call means you need to play both sides of the ball, meaning talking and listening. Of course, it’s easy to get focused on getting questions answered and making a good impression. But you want your child to listen attentively as well. Taking notes is a good way to help them concentrate and be a better listener. Plus, their notes may lead to some good follow up questions and will help them write a follow up thank-you note.
Be Prepared for These Typical Coach Questions
One reason coaches like to take calls from recruits is that they have a chance to find out more about them. They’re likely to ask about your child’s strengths and weaknesses, what other schools they are considering, what goals they have, and what they are looking for in a college. Honest, straightforward answers are the best. One-word answers are not great and fail to impress.
Body Language Counts
It may sound funny, but body language is just as important on a phone call as it is when meeting a coach in person. It’s best to stand up during the call. Your son or daughter will feel more confident and that tone will be apparent to the coach. Smiling as they speak also will make them sound more at ease and friendly. They may even want to consider dressing as if they were meeting the coach on an official visit instead of slouching around in sweats. Even though a coach won’t see any of this, it’s going to help them make better calls.
Always be Prepared, Persistent
As you can imagine, coaches are busy people. And your son or daughter may have to leave a couple of voicemails. They should have a voicemail message prepared in the event they don’t get through. Remind them to speak slowly and clearly when they leave their name, high school, position and phone number, along with a time when they will call back.
Even with all the preparation and practice your child may still feel a little nervous and uncomfortable and that’s expected. One thing they should know is that most college coaches have been talking to recruits for years now and they expect a little nervousness and will do what they can help put them at ease. And, the more calls they make, the easier it will become.