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 athletes 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.
Picture this: You found a school you want to attend and you’re ready to connect with the coach. So, you craft the perfect email and confidently hit send. Surely, they’ll want to get back to you soon.
But days go by—then weeks—and your inbox is left empty. What happened? If you did everything right, why aren’t you hearing back? The truth is that the recruiting process is hard work, and coaches are busy. Student-athletes need to be persistent and stay proactive throughout the process because it may take a few attempts to get on a coach’s radar.
What will help you the most when reaching out to college coaches is to avoid some of the more common recruiting errors. Here five typical mistakes that will often lead to silence from college coaches:
You don’t have a highlight video
Think of your first communication to a coach like a trailer to a movie. You want to peak the coach’s interest so that they conduct a second evaluation. The best way to do that? For many sports, you include a link to your highlight video in your email. Coaches receive hundreds of emails a week and your video can truly set you apart from other student-athletes. Without one, you will most likely blend into the key stats and measurements of similar recruits.
Read more: How to create a highlight or skills video
You’re reaching out to the wrong schools
This is probably the most common reason student-athletes don’t hear back from coaches—they just aren’t the right fit. Maybe you’re only emailing D1 schools when you’d receive more interest and playing time from D2. Or, maybe your ACT/SAT isn’t quite there yet. Whatever the reason, you can maximize your recruiting efforts by doing a little research before you contact coaches. Make sure your GPA and test scores align with the student average and your athletic performance is (or has the potential to be) comparable to the players on the team.
Read more: How to find your best college match
They aren’t recruiting your grad year yet
There’s a chance you could be reaching out too early, especially if you’re an underclassman. While D1 college coaches tend to recruit freshmen and sophomores, D2, D3, and NAIA coaches will oftentimes recruit throughout junior and senior year. If you’re contacting coaches now as an underclassman, make sure you continue to provide them updates on your progress and athletic performance so you stay top of mind. Another thing you should do is look at the college team’s roster and see how many players are already in your position, and then specifically look at how many departing seniors will be leaving your position when you’re a senior in high school. This can be a good indicator on which recruiting grad year will fill that position.
Coaches aren’t allowed to reach out to you
For most sports, college coaches can’t email or respond directly to recruits until September 1 of the student-athlete’s junior year. However, college coaches can and often do contact the athlete’s high school or club coach to let them know they’re interested in recruiting a student-athlete. That’s why you should continue being proactive by emailing coaches your highlight video and filling out questionnaires, so they know you’re interested.
You’re sending mass emails
PSA: This is a lazy tactic and coaches know it. If there’s anything that makes a college coach delete an email quickly, it’s a mass email from a recruit to several coaches. Remember, recruiting is a two-way street and you want to show the college coach why you’re interested in their program. Specifically, call out what makes the program and school somewhere you want to be. Show the coach you’ve been following their team and you’ve done your research. Coaches won’t consider an athlete until the student shows they have serious interest.
Doing your research upfront, crafting individual emails, and following up with coaches can seem tedious, but just hang in there—you got this. The recruiting process can be a little bumpy, but remember, the future is more often than not shaped by the effort you put in today. Continue to follow up with the coaches, improve on your email writing, and eventually you’ll start to make connections. This contact strategy is a good way to get you started: How to contact coaches.