Recruiting Column: College coaches' biggest pet peeves

Recruiting Column: College coaches' biggest pet peeves

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: College coaches' biggest pet peeves


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 identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.


Here’s the dictionary definition of a pet peeve: Something that you find especially irritating or annoying and have no control over. We all have Pet Peeves. My top two pet peeves are: (1) people in the express lane at the grocery store with a basket full of merchandise, and (2) drivers who don’t care about taking up two parking spaces. I’m sure you have a few pet peeves and based on our conversations and interviews with college coaches, they certainly have pet peeves when it comes to dealing with student-athletes.

Here are the 5 pet peeves we’ve heard most often from college coaches. Since you don’t get a second chance at a first impression, don’t be that recruit who annoys a coach right out of the chute.

Pet Peeve No. 1: Athletes who don’t take care of business in the classroom

The last thing college coaches want to do is to waste their time recruiting athletes who don’t take education seriously. If you don’t study in high school, you probably won’t study in college. College coaches don’t want to bother recruiting athletes who might struggle to stay eligible for academic reasons, or worse yet don’t even qualify for admission to their school.

Student-athletes and their parents often don’t understand how important good grades and test scores are to college coaches. When trying to decide between two players of similar abilities, coaches will go with the better student every time. A good academic record is an indication of an athlete’s ability to succeed on campus in every facet, not just on the field.

Additionally, good students often qualify for academic scholarships and in-state tuition, potentially saving the athletic department scholarship money. This allows coaches in the equivalency sports to potentially spread the athletic scholarship money out over more players by filling in the financial gaps with academic scholarships. Finally, grades and test scores are an indication of a student’s work ethic and achievement standards, for all areas of their lives.

Pet Peeve No. 2: Athletes who send impersonal emails or post inappropriate tweets

I don’t know about you, but when I receive a form letter in the mail, it immediately goes to “File 13.” If you think a general email with no personal touch will be well received by a college coach, think again. If you want college coaches to be interested in you, you have to be interested in them. I’m not telling you to research the head coach’s family tree, but it should be obvious that you know a little bit about their program. The more personal the email, the better chance you will get a response.

Much like an impersonal email, an inappropriate tweet or a direct message that reads “Hey Coach, check out my highlights!” isn’t anything a college coach wants to see.  Neither one is going to get a response or even get considered.  Thoughtful, polite and respectful comes across much better than lazy, cocky and arrogant.

Pet Peeve No. 3: Recruits who ask about scholarship money in the first conversation

Timing is everything and just so you know, college coaches generally don’t want to talk scholarship dollars in the first conversation. Remember, college recruiting is a process and you probably aren’t going to land a scholarship in your first contact with a college coach. They want to get to know you as an athlete and a person. When you go on a job interview, you don’t walk in and ask “How much money am I going to make here?” You wait for the appropriate time for that discussion. Every college coach knows you want to maximize your scholarship dollars and if they are truly interested in you they will help you reach your goals.

If you can, let the coach start the scholarship conversation. It might happen during the first conversation, but the more likely scenario is that it will happen after you’ve established a relationship with the coach.


Pet Peeve No. 4: Over-involved, overbearing parents

Helicopter Parents: College coaches don’t want to deal with them. That’s really all that needs to be said, but just in case you don’t know, a Helicopter Parent is defined by Google as “a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.” Really there isn’t a coach in the country (at any level) that wants to deal with a full-fledged Helicopter Parent.

To some extent, all parents have been Helicopter Parents at one time or another, but the problematic Helicopter Parent is easy to spot when their child is competing. When it comes to athletics, Helicopter Parents try to justify why they are so involved in their child’s career. They think they know more than the coach, they make excuses when their athlete doesn’t succeed and they constantly scrutinize their athlete’s performance.

If you think your parents might meet the definition of Helicopter Parents then you better be a lot better than your competition, or college coaches will pick the other athlete every time.

Pet Peeve No. 5: Emails/correspondence from third parties

Adam Dorrell, the head football coach at Northwest Missouri State University may have said it best when he told us: “The biggest thing with us is we would like to be contacted by the athlete. It is a major turnoff getting emails from a parent or even a recruiting service, so to speak. Quite honestly, we don’t even look at those emails because we know they are going to be slanted or biased. We would really rather have the initial contact come from the athlete or even the high school coach of the athlete.”

College coaches want to communicate with YOU, not your parents, your friends and certainly not a recruiting service. Take ownership of your recruiting journey and it will pay big dividends. In fact, we recently conducted a nationwide survey and 100 percent of college coaches said they prefer to hear from the student-athlete, no one else.  100 percent!!  I think that means everyone…

Here’s the deal

Treat the college recruiting process as one long job interview. Take ownership of your recruiting journey.  Be yourself, but be on your best behavior and think about anything you say, do or post.


More USA TODAY High School Sports