Recruiting Column: How NOT to talk to a college coach

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  This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.

(Photo: Playced)

(Photo: Playced)

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and you felt like you were talking to a brick wall? Maybe you have had a conversation with someone that wouldn’t make eye contact with you? How about trying to talk to someone that was staring at their phone, non-stop? Or my personal favorite, every time the other person speaks, you are saying “huh, did they really just say that”? Man, those are not fun conversations to have. In fact, they can be flat-out exhausting, frustrating and mind-numbing.

Recently, I had “that” conversation with a high school athlete who, coincidentally, is just starting his college recruiting journey. Let me be clear, the 15-minute talk I had with this young man included all of the “no-no’s” that I just mentioned… Yikes! As our chat progressed, the only thing going through my mind was, “I sure hope he doesn’t talk to college coaches like this.”

With that debacle so fresh in my mind, I thought it might be wise to give some conversational advice to you recruits, when talking with college coaches (or any authority figure for that matter). Here it goes: SHOW SOME RESPECT! The following is how you absolutely do not want to talk to a college coach.

Show a lack of interest in a program

One of the most tried and true ways of being crossed off a college program’s recruit watch-list is by showing a lack of interest in that particular program. And there is no worse time to show a lack of interest than when you are talking to a coach from that program. Listen, I understand that you truly may not have interest in every school that recruits you. But here is a little secret to recruiting: things change, circumstances change and opinions change. Just because your initial impression or opinion of a school isn’t the best, doesn’t mean that school isn’t right for you. Recruiting is like dating. You are fact-finding, gathering information and getting a feel for whether or not there is a future.

If you are fortunate enough to have a college coach search you out and want to have a conversation with you, show some respect! Have genuine interest in what that coach has to say, learn as much as you can about their program/school and reserve any judgement until you are in the decision-making phase of your recruiting process. The coach that you blow off at one school might get the head job at your dream school. Then what?

Bad body language

Do you realize that a conversation is not all about words? Often times, what you don’t say speaks louder than what you do say. Think about this: if you say yes but shake your head no, which answer do you mean? To maximize your college recruiting experience, you cannot be sending mixed signals when speaking to college coaches. If they are taking the time to personally talk to you, it is your responsibility to send clear signals that back up the words coming out of your mouth. Here are the signals you are sending with bad body language during a conversation:

  • Not making eye contact – Not listening at all
  • Looking at your phone – You have somewhere better to be, this isn’t important
  • Bad posture – Unsure, not confident, lazy
  • Looking at your parents when asked a question – Immature, can’t speak for yourself

I could easily extend this list, but you get the idea. College coaches are looking for athletes that are confident, that are not afraid to fail and will add to the positive chemistry of their team. I totally get that conversations can be awkward and nerve-racking at times, so do college coaches. It is 100% normal to be nervous and sometimes you can’t control that. However, you can control showing bad body language. Show some respect and just don’t do it!

(Photo: Playced)

(Photo: Playced)

What did he/she just say? 

If using foul language is a part of your everyday vocabulary or it’s something you just can’t control, I am here to tell you to get it in check. Hear me out on this; how you speak and the words that come out of your mouth are a huge indicator of your character. College coaches pay attention to it and many of them believe that it is a sign of poor decision-making abilities or a lack of discipline. Is that really the impression you want a college coach to walk away with after a conversation with you? I had a coach once tell me that if an athlete doesn’t have the ability to expand their mind and their vocabulary past 4-letter adjectives, there is no way they can learn what we want to teach them. Eliminate the curse words from your conversations and show some respect!

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