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.
If you’ve ever asked for advice on college recruiting, you were probably told to “connect” with the coaches at the schools in which you have an interest. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way the term “connect” took the place of the phrase “introduce yourself”.
Let’s be logical, if college coaches aren’t contacting you, then you need to introduce yourself to them. It’s really that simple. I understand you don’t want to say the wrong thing or irritate a coach, but if you are polite, to-the-point and respectful, you won’t look desperate, be a pest, or be annoying. In reality, if you are a good fit for the program athletically and academically then you are actually doing the coach a favor and they’ll be glad to hear from you.
There are many ways to introduce yourself to a college coach, but here are the top 5 ways.
In today’s world, sending an email is the most efficient way to start a dialogue with a college coach. That being said, it only works if you are contacting appropriate schools. Potential recruits and their parents underestimate the impact an email can have on a college coach. When a player expresses sincere interest in a program and their abilities are a fit, then at a minimum it will spark engagement from the coach.
There is no formula for writing a perfect email, but here are some tips that should help:
- Research the colleges you are contacting and personalize your message.
- The subject line of your email should make the coach want to open it. For example, “1st Team All District Pitcher” or “Power Forward averaging 12.2 rebounds per game.”
- Your salutation should be to the specific coach by name (Dear Coach Smith).
- Introduce yourself as a potential candidate for his or her program.
- Provide academic information: ACT or SAT score, GPA, class rank, honors, etc.
- Provide athletic information: position, height, weight, honors, and relevant statistics.
- Provide a link to your video (if you have one).
- Include a current game schedule with dates, locations and times.
- Include your contact information and the contact information for your high school and summer coaches.
Many college programs have a limited recruiting budget and have to focus on a particular geographic area to observe potential recruits. If you aren’t in that area, the coaches from those programs may never see you. A compelling email and a link to your highlight video might open the door to a college that would otherwise never even see you.
Get a current coach involved
An email or telephone call from your current coach to a college coach can make all the difference in the world. In fact, a few months ago we asked Coach Mack Brown the following question: “Whose opinion did you consider important when you were recruiting an athlete?” Here’s his answer: “Really we didn’t trust anyone’s opinion other than our coaching staff and the player’s high school coach.” So, if college coaches will listen to your high school coach, then their endorsement of you as a player and a student is important.
Most coaches are happy to help their athletes make it to the next level, but you have to help them help you. They need direction and guidance in reaching out to programs that are a match for your abilities. Give them the contact information for the coaches at your top 5 colleges along with some athletic and academic information so they have everything they need to make the first contact.
Many college coaches are actually “plugged in” on social media and active on Twitter. You can take advantage of that fact.
Take the time to create your own Twitter recruiting account. This account should be separate from a personal account and should only have posts related to your sport or your recruiting process. Use a sport-specific picture for your Header Photo and make sure to have a link to your highlight video in your Profile.
After establishing your account, follow the coaches and programs for all the colleges you have decided to pursue. Once a coach follows you back, send a direct message to that coach expressing interest in their program.
Target a few camps or showcases to attend
Camps and showcases can be a great way to connect with college coaches as long as you are strategic about which ones you attend. Don’t waste your time or money on a camp unless coaches from the colleges you are interested in are participating.
Once you sign up for a camp or showcase, notify the coaches from the colleges you are interested in that you will be there. Introduce yourself to those coaches during the camp and before you leave, thank them personally for the opportunity. Finally, follow up with an email to make sure they know you are serious about their program. Understand that if the coaches don’t know your name when you show up to a camp or showcase and you don’t make it a priority to introduce yourself, they won’t know your name when they leave.
Pick up the phone
Finally, if you have a real desire to play at a school, but the coaches haven’t responded to your other attempts to “connect”, pick up the phone and call them. The phone numbers for most coaches are available in the athletic staff directory on each college website. Once you decide to call, make sure you are ready, they might answer! Know what you want to say before you dial the number and be respectful of their time. If you get voicemail, leave a message telling them who you are and the reason for the call. You can follow up the phone call later with an email.
Here’s the deal
Connect, introduce yourself, start a dialogue… they all mean the same thing. The point is to reach out to the coaching staffs at colleges that match your abilities and get your recruiting process moving in the right direction.