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 identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
We get asked hundreds of recruiting questions every week, which is completely understandable given the fact that the first time any student-athlete goes through the recruiting process is probably the last time they will go through the process. For that reason, most student-athletes and their parents are “rookies” when it comes to college recruiting. For the most part, the questions we receive stem from either a misconception about how college recruiting really works or because athletes are intimidated by the process.
Here are the three questions we were asked most last month and my answers to those questions. Hopefully, these will help ease the stress related to college recruiting…
“I’ve sent an email to several college coaches. Why haven’t I received any responses?”
There are many reasons why your email might not have been answered. Here the most likely ones:
- The coach was on vacation or just didn’t see your email.
- There isn’t a need at your position.
- Your email wasn’t compelling enough to warrant a response.
- The program isn’t a fit for your athletic or academic abilities.
None of the above answers is good news, but there is a lesson to learn from each response. One thing for sure, you will never know the reason unless you follow up. Send a second email, perhaps with a more personal touch. Also, if you didn’t review the team roster and the incoming recruiting class before you sent the first email, you need to do it now. Nearly every college website in the country has the team roster available and most can be sorted by position and graduation class. With a little work, you can get a pretty good idea if there is a need at your position.
If you believe there is a need, then review your first email. If you didn’t express specific interest in the program and personalize the content, then take two minutes and change your approach on the second email. Here’s the deal, if your stats and metrics aren’t compelling enough to separate you from the pack, then you have to somehow make the coach interested in talking with you. The best way to do that is to show you know something about their program and explain why you would be a great fit.
Finally, if you didn’t receive a response, that might actually be a response. If the programs you are reaching out to are not realistic for your academic and athletic abilities, your recruiting journey is going to be difficult at best. You really need an honest evaluation if you want to have a successful recruiting experience. Don’t waste your time sending emails to Harvard if you are an average student and don’t spend your time pursuing Duke if you are a 5-11 power forward. You need to pursue schools that will have as much interest in you as you have in them.
“Everyone tells me I need exposure. What is the best way to get noticed by college coaches?”
If you haven’t been noticed by college coaches yet, the best way to get noticed is to do it on your own. Attending a showcase camp with 200 other athletes will help, if you stand out. Setting up an online profile might make you feel good. Sending a Direct Message to a college coach telling them “Check out my highlight video” may do more harm than good. Take ownership of your recruiting process and go directly to the source in as many ways as you can.
Here’s what I would suggest:
- Fill out the recruiting questionnaire on the school websites of the colleges in which you have the most interest. Pay attention to the questions they are asking. That will provide insight on what they are looking for.
- Send an introductory email expressing specific interest in their program that includes your academic standing, some relevant athletic stats, a link to your highlight video and your current coach’s contact information.
- Have your current coach send an email vouching for your abilities and character. Most coaches want to help, but don’t ask them to send too many emails.
- Send a follow-up email to the coaches you have not heard back from.
- Try to connect with college coaches on Twitter. If they follow you, then send them a Direct Message expressing specific interest in their program.
- Strategically select a few camps and showcase events to attend. Send the coaches in attendance an email before the camp notifying them that you will be there. They need to know your name before the camp.
The bottom line is that you have to be creative with how you try to connect and be persistent. Keep in mind that you have to get noticed before you will get recruited.
“What should I include in my first email to a college coach?”
There is no magic formula for an email to be noticed by a college coach, but here are my suggestions:
- Send the email to a specific coach, not to a general email address.
- The subject line needs to be compelling so they will open the email.
- Address the coach by his name (i.e., Dear Coach Barrett).
- Express specific interest in their program.
- Include a link to your highlight video.
- Include personal and academic info (height, weight, GPA, test scores).
- Include athletic info and accomplishments (Best statistics, athletic honors).
- Provide the contact info for your current coach.
- Provide your contact info including phone number and email address.
If your first email includes all of the above, any coach that actually reads it will have all the information necessary to decide whether or not to contact you directly.