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. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie 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.
It seems like only yesterday that texting and social media communication from college coaches to athletes was banned. Well, the ban was lifted and the recruiting world didn’t stop spinning and now, there’s just one or two more pretty ordinary ways for coaches to talk with athletes.
NCAA rules on text messaging
Back in April of 2016, the NCAA Division I Council deregulated electronic communication for some of the last remaining sports under the ban including football, cross country, track & field, swimming, and diving. Removal of the ban opened the door for college coaches to send unlimited text messages to recruits.
The timing rules for college coach contact, however, remain the same. That means coaches cannot initiate contact with prospective recruits in any way before September 1 of their junior year in high school. Athletes of course, can still reach out to coaches at any time.
Even if all coaches weren’t on board with removing the ban, the majority of student-athletes enthusiastically welcomed the change. After all, it opened another channel to get coaches’ attention and to talk one-on-one about their recruiting. While that is true, what those student-athletes may have overlooked is that this opportunity also comes with a certain amount of risk-and not just social media, but also texting.
Texting: One more channel for your athlete to carefully monitor
Texting, unlike social media, is really more of a closed circle of communication usually reserved for just your closest circle of friends and family. A place where your student-athlete’s guard may not necessarily be up and there’s certainly a much more of a casual vibe to the conversations. And, add to that, there probably isn’t one of us out there who has sent an errant text (or picture) to an unintended recipient.
Texting with college coaches can be great as long as your student-athlete is prepared to pay much closer attention to what they say, what they send, and how they say it in this forum.
An instant response may not be the best response
With every text, we get more and more conditioned to send an instant reply. Generally, in our speed to get back, spelling and grammar are the first casualties. And, in our haste, we may not take the time to carefully think through our response, or in some cases, we don’t apply the appropriate filters. All of which, may end up hurting rather than helping your child’s recruiting efforts.
Your student-athlete will need to learn how to switch gears and control the tempo of the conversation. Often times teens feel obligated to immediately respond to an older adult (especially a coach) whether it’s a text, phone call, or in-person interview. The thing to stress with your student-athlete is that “Can I get back to you on that?” is a perfectly acceptable response when they are not sure, feel rushed, or just uncomfortable answering a question on the spot.
Write every text like you’re filling out a job application
The real unseen danger with texting is that it’s easy to slip into a very comfortable and casual conversation as if you were just going back and forth with a friend. The trouble is, well, you’re not.
The best approach your son or daughter can take when texting college coaches is to treat every conversation like it was a job application. That means, you are taking the time to check for spelling and grammar errors. With texting, it’s fine to shorthand a few words with commonly used abbreviations like GR8 for “great” or UR for “Your” or “You’re.” You wouldn’t swear, use sexist or racist terms, or inappropriate slang on a job application, and it’s something you need to keep out of every text you send to a coach.
Watch what you share, too. No one would staple a bunch of off-color jokes, poor taste memes, or in appropriate photos to their job application and they certainly have no place in your coach conversations. If you have to stop and think about it, even for a second, “Should I send this?” the answer is always no. Always.
Other things to watch when texting coaches
If your student-athlete is not getting a response to their text messages, the answer is not “send more text messages.” If after three tries they can assume the college coach is not interested or would prefer that you communicate in a different way.
Just like every other teen, student-athletes are usually never without their phone. That instant access to communication makes it easy and tempting to send and reply to texts at all hours of the day and night. Every athlete will to want to keep their coach communication to normal business hours. Coaches will appreciate you respecting their off hours and it also good sign that you are not always on your phone (a huge pet peeve for many coaches.)
Keep your messages positive and newsworthy
One of the most effective uses of text messages is to keep a college coach informed of your latest athletic and academic achievements. This can be anything from a new and improved ACT score, to you’ve got new highlight video to share. Or, it’s always a nice gesture to reach out to congratulate a coach on their most recent win.
Even though it is now very common, texting is certainly not the only way to communicate coaches. For more information on improving more of your coach communications skills you should read Straight Talk on How to Call Coaches and How to Write DMs That Open Coaches’ Doors.