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. John Moore began his athletic career playing four sports in high school. After battling through injuries (including playing his last high school basketball game on a broken ankle) he went on to earn scholarships at Tri-State University (now Trine.) At Trine, John excelled as a player in both basketball and football. After graduation, he coached high school basketball and football in his home state of Michigan before returning to coach basketball at his alma mater. John 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.
You’re going to love it when your plan comes together. That’s the great thing about reaching out to college coaches. There’s an easy way organize and execute a powerful plan of attack. It just takes a little prep work. This is the stage where recruiting starts to get real. Although it is the main responsibility of your athlete, that doesn’t mean parents, guardians, and others can’t play a supporting role. So, before you start firing off random emails and filling out questionnaires, here are four ways you can better prepare to contact college coaches.
Focus on the right schools for your athlete
You may have already received mail from colleges and they all look pretty good. It’s easy to picture your child fitting right in. But we all know there’s more to it than that. The best way to approach reaching out to college coaches is to first create a realistic list of schools you want to attend. Here’s how to build your list.
Parents & Athlete: Talk about where your child wants to go to college. Take in to consideration things like financial impact, major, size of school, etc. To help get the conversation started you can ask your student these 20 questions to find his or her best college match. Be flexible and keep your options open. Many families are beginning to add junior colleges to their target list. Many two-year schools offer quality academics and highly competitive sports programs in addition to considerable savings.
High School, Club Coach & Athlete: Have your child meet with their coach to help determine what college division level would be the best fit. Knowing where you child stands athletically will help focus your recruiting efforts on the right schools. Some coaches may even be able to introduce you to college coaches or recommend schools they think will be a great fit.
High School Counselor & Athlete: Your child should also talk with their counselor to determine their academic standing or rank. They can also provide information on grants and scholarships, and schools that would be best for your child’s chosen major. All of this information will help create a better list of potential schools.
RESULT: You now have enough information to build a great list of potential schools. The best approach is to bucket your college picks into three categories: Reach, Realistic, and Reserve schools. Reach schools are those may be a stretch for your child athletically or academically. Realistic schools are those that are a good match across the board, and reserve or “safety” schools are the ones where your child’s athletic ability and academic credentials exceed the school’s range for freshmen athletes.
ACTION: Whether it’s on a computer or even a spiral notebook will do, make sure your athlete captures the list. Your list will be your guide to reaching out to colleges coaches.
The first email is the hardest. Here’s how to make it easy.
There are two goals for every email your child sends to a coach. One is to show they’ve done their homework and know about the program and the other is to demonstrate they are a standout recruit that would make a great addition to the team. Keep it short, personalized, and memorable. A great subject line includes your full name, graduation year, position, key stat for that position and one detail that might interest a coach like “left-handed pitcher.” Of course, include a link to your online profile and highlight videos along with your contact information.
Athlete: Writing emails is a task for the athlete. Coaches want to work directly with athletes so they get to know them. It’s also a good sign of maturity when your athlete can take charge of contacting coaches.
Send the emails in the morning, it’s the best time to reach out.
Parents: Resist the urge to write emails. You can proofread and check-in weekly with your athlete to make sure they are sending emails (and responding) to coaches.
RESULT: You’ve set your recruiting wheels in motion. Your child will soon discover the more they write the easier it becomes.
ACTION: Keep sending emails to every coach on your target list. Record each email sent and each response in your communications notebook or on your computer. Be patient. Send a follow up email in a few days if you don’t hear back. If you are not hearing from anyone, try re-writing your emails and sending again.
Depending on the coach, you can also direct message on Twitter
Twitter is quickly becoming a college coach favorite. One way to get the attention of a college coach is by sending them a direct message or DM.
Athlete: Take a look to see if any coaches from your target list is active on Twitter. Then, check out how to write DMs that open coaches’ doors.
Parents: You can assist on the search for coaches on Twitter, but don’t direct message on behalf of your athlete.
RESULT: You’ve opened up another line of communication for contacting coaches that other recruits may not be using.
ACTION: Send DMs to coaches on your target list but don’t forget to email as well. Same rules apply. Keep it really short, highlight your knowledge of the program and why you’re a great recruit. Record in your communications notes. Monitor your account for responses. Don’t flood the coach with messages.
Many recruits never pick up the phone. It pays to be the exception.
While NCAA rules restrict the times when a coach can contact a recruit, your child can pick up the phone and talk to a coach at any time. Calling a college can be one of the most effective tools in the recruiting process. Here’s all you need to know about making the phone work for you.
Athlete: College Coaches like to hear directly from recruits. Don’t worry, they know you might be nervous. Relax, don’t try for perfection just conversation.
Parents: Leave the calls to your athlete. You can help find phone numbers for coaches and follow up weekly with your son or daughter to make sure calls are being made.
RESULT: You’re taking advantage of an opportunity most other recruits shy away from. This is another great way to connect with coaches and develop a recruiting edge.
ACTION: Athletes need to do their homework on the coach and the school before picking up the phone. Have questions ready. Your athlete can also try practice interviews with friends. Have your child write notes on their calls in their communications notebook. Keep trying. It may take a couple of tries to get through. Try calling position coaches, too.
You’ll find getting your recruiting game started is much easier when you take a little time to assign roles and responsibilities, organize, plan then execute. You’ll feel more confident during the process and you will be ahead of the game compared to other recruits.