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. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason 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.
Simply put: You cannot overlook the importance of a good subject line when emailing college coaches. Think about it—it’s the first thing they see. A well-written subject line that peaks their interest can make all the difference in your recruiting.
So, we rounded up our team of former college-athletes who have firsthand experience in the recruiting world and asked them, “What makes a student-athlete email stand out?” Here’s what they had to say.
Don’t be generic
“Avoid anything stereotypical and broad,” says NCSA Volleyball Head Recruiting Coach Kelly Stuntz, a former Division I college-athlete who trained with the U.S. National Team. “Coaches aren’t interested in a subject line like, ‘I want to be a Golden Eagle.’”
Instead, they want a snapshot of the player—including specifics. Telling them that you’re “The best recruit” or a “High school football player” doesn’t really give them the information they need. Bottom line: don’t add fluff to your subject line.
“A coach may open your email based on your position, grad year, location, key stats, size, or academic information,” says Davide Harris, NCSA Baseball Head Recruiting Coach and former Division III college-athlete.
That’s why it’s so important to do a little digging. You need to know what drives their recruiting efforts. Do they only recruit in one region? You may want to call out your location. Are they focused on size? Definitely put in your key stats.
Here’s an example for baseball players: 2018 Grad – 6’2″ 190# RHP/1B from Texas – 88 Top FB – 3.8 GPA
The best place to get these answers is their roster. Read more: What You Can Learn From A College Team’s Roster
Tailor the subject line
Every program is different and each college is unique—your subject line should be, too.
A.J. Trentini, NCSA Football Head Recruiting Coach and former Division III college-athlete, explains that Division I coaches want to know your size and your speed. “Reference an incredible athletic achievement you have—like All-State—to draw the attention of the coach,” he says. “And if you go to an elite high school that is known for their athletic prowess, put that on there.”
Here’s an example for football players: John Doe C/O 2018 LB 6’3 220lb 3-DI Offers All-State Selection
Maybe you’re interested in a college that’s extremely competitive academically. Tell the coach right off the bat by letting them know you can get accepted—put your ACT or SAT score and GPA in the subject line.
Here’s an example for football players: John Doe C/O 2017 3.98 GPA 31 ACT LB All-League Selection.
Also keep in mind that coaches at Division III programs have a more difficult time finding student-athletes who understand how the financial aid works for Division III athletes. If you show them that you have specific interest in their division, you will surely stand out among your peers.
Here’s an example for football players: John Doe C/O 2018 4.56 40yd dash w/DIII Interest.
Use a professional email
If your email is your first and last name, such as Jane.Doe@gmail.com, then you don’t necessarily need to include your name in your subject line. Plus, this frees up some character space for other key facts. And as an added bonus, a professional email shows the coach your mature and taking your recruiting seriously.
Most college coaches discover student-athletes by watching their highlight films first. Then, if they’re interested in learning more about the recruit, they will find a way to see them play in person. So it’s crucial to include video in your email and then call it out in your subject line.
Here’s an example for soccer players: 2018 Dynamic Goal Scorer- Video Included
List urgency, if needed
If your email is time sensitive and you need the coach to open it before a certain day, you can call that out in the subject line to maximize your opportunities. This would be the case if you planned on touring campus, or are attending a sporting event where college coaches are evaluating potential recruits.
Here’s a couple of examples for volleyball players:
- 2019 Outside (MN) – Minnesota Select 17-1 *Visiting campus 12/12
2020 Libero (GA) – A5 *Northern Lights Qualifier 12/9-10
Tell them you’re following up
More likely than not, you will email a coach multiple times before they open your email. So, you should tell them if this is a follow up to a previous contact. Just a quick note at the front of the subject line is all you need.
Here’s an example for softball players: Following Up On My Voicemail – 2018 MIF – Video
Spending a little extra time on your subject line can go a long way in your recruiting. Focus on the program to find the best way to market yourself to the college coach.