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 is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Do you know someone whose personality just really irritates you? Maybe they come across as arrogant, or only talk about themselves, or even worse, never stop talking! Consider this; if you were a college coach, would you want that person on your team? Would you want to coach that person for the next four years? Probably not!
For that reason, the last thing any recruit wants to do is to irritate a college coach right out of the chute. You only get one chance at a first impression and you need to make the most of it. There are many things a recruit might do that could irritate a coach, but there are 5 that are very common and can be easily avoided. Here they are…
Overstating your athletic and academic abilities
In my opinion, the number 1 way to irritate a college coach is to “project”, “round up”, or “exaggerate” your athletic or academic abilities. Let me say that in another way; the fastest way to get your name scratched off a recruiting list is to communicate that you are stronger, run faster or throw harder than you really do. If you don’t think college coaches cross-check this information, you’re fooling yourself. If you waste a coach’s time by making them research your real stats you will NEVER play at that school. Keep in mind that before a coach invests any significant amount of time on any recruit, they will make sure they know the real picture.
I realize that if you are a freshman or sophomore it’s easy to rationalize that you will improve as you get older and work harder. Guess what! College coaches already know that. They know the need to project where each player might be as a senior and they have the experience to do that. They also understand that some athletes develop later than others. Most college coaches will be able to project your abilities just from viewing your game film. Your athleticism will tell them everything they need to know.
Being foolish on Social Media
In today’s society many high school students spend more time texting, tweeting and posting than they do talking. In fact, the average American checks his or her phone 110 times a day. That seems like a lot to me! Keep in mind that your habits and actions on social media are a reflection of your personality. You are literally painting a self-portrait with your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts.
Given these facts, college coaches have become more and more active on social media and to some extent use it as a way to communicate with potential recruits. Right or wrong, most college coaches will assume that how you act on social media will be how you act on campus.
In fact, many college coaching staffs have someone in charge of reviewing the social media accounts for all potential recruits.
In spite of all these facts, one of the most common mistakes by high school athletes that irritate college coaches is the recruit who is reckless or foolish on Social Media. College coaches don’t expect high school athletes to be public relations experts. They just want players that will make good decisions and positively represent their university. Chris Yandle, Director of Communications at the University of Miami may have put it best when he said, “Live your life, don’t tweet your life.” Use your common sense. Don’t post, tweet or direct message anything you don’t want a coach to see.
Sending impersonal emails or inappropriate direct messages
I don’t know about you, but when I receive a form letter or a “canned” email I delete it immediately. College coaches feel the same way about emails from prospective recruits. If you think a two sentence, general email with no personal touch will be well received by a college coach, think again. In fact, it’s downright irritating. If you want college coaches to be interested in you, you have to be interested in them. I’m not telling you to research the head coach’s personal hobbies, but it should be obvious that you know a little bit about their program. The more personal the email, the better chance you will get a response.
Much like an impersonal email, an inappropriate tweet or a direct message that reads something like, “Hey Coach, check out my highlights!” isn’t anything a college coach wants to see. Neither one is going to get a response or even get considered. Thoughtful, polite and respectful comes across much better than lazy, cocky and arrogant.
Attitude is everything
My good friend, the late Brooks Thompson, a former NBA player and Division I college coach told me “My coaching staff watches players from the time they step off the bus until the time
they get back on the bus. We watch how they warm up, how they interact with their teammates, how they handle themselves in competition, how they win and how they lose. We evaluate the entire package; we don’t just look at the box score.” Every recruit should consider themselves warned. A player with a bad attitude stands a good chance of irritating a college coach before they even meet them.
College coaches watch how you react to game situations and how you interact with your teammates and coaches. Your behavior is always on display and that will only intensify if you play in college. College coaches are certainly looking at talent first, but your conduct and character are definitely factors, especially when they are trying to decide between recruits of similar abilities.
You don’t have to be a boy scout or a nun, but if you don’t respect your teammates, coaches and parents then your attitude might be a problem. College coaches don’t want to babysit half their roster.
Asking about scholarship money in the first conversation
Timing is everything and just so you know, college coaches generally don’t want to talk scholarship dollars in the first conversation (unless you are a 5-Star recruit). Remember, for most athletes college recruiting is a process and you probably aren’t going to land a scholarship in your first contact with a college coach. They want to get to know you as an athlete and a person. When you go on a job interview, you don’t walk in and ask “So, how much money am I going to make here?” You wait for the appropriate time for that discussion. Every college coach knows you want to maximize your scholarship dollars and if they are truly interested in you they will help you reach your goals.
If you can, let the coach start the scholarship conversation. It might happen during the first conversation, but the more likely scenario is that it will happen after you’ve established a relationship with the coach.
Here’s the deal
You don’t get a second chance at a first impression with a college coach and a bad first impression can be hard to overcome. Make sure your first impression is a good one by avoiding the above 5 mistakes.