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 software identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting advisers provide a recruiting experience that is trusted by college coaches and backed by a money-back guarantee.
There’s definitely a strategy to writing an effective email to a college coach. In fact, emails are a great way to introduce yourself to a coach and start a dialogue if they are done the right way. Conversely, a poorly written, impersonal email loaded with typos and without the necessary information has no chance for success.
Believe it or not, most college coaches actually look through their emails daily. When a player expresses sincere interest in a program and their abilities are a fit, an introductory email can spark interest from most college coaches. Given those facts, why wouldn’t you take a little time to do it right the first time? If you don’t, you probably won’t get a response. Most unsuccessful recruiting emails have the same flaws. Here’s the five we see most often.
1. Impersonal emails with typos and errors
I don’t know about you, but when I receive a “canned” or “form” email, I almost immediately delete it. If it’s obvious that the sender doesn’t know me and doesn’t know anything about me, I’m not even going to take the time to read the first paragraph. So, if you think a general email with no personal touch will be well received by a college coach, think again.
If you want college coaches to be interested in you, you have to be interested in them. Listen, I’m not telling you to research the head coach’s family tree, but it should be obvious that you know a little bit about their program and the email should be free from typos. When it’s obvious you’ve taken some time to write the email, there’s a much better chance you’ll get a response. Here’s a real example of what not to do in a recruiting email (the names have been changed to protect the innocent):
My name is Travis Nortonsburg and I want to play collige (yes, that’s how he spelled it) baseball for your team. I am a junior at Trinity Senior High School and I think I will make the varsity team this year. When do you start handing out scholarships?
Needless to say, he didn’t get any responses and he certainly wasn’t added to any prospect lists.
2. No link to your highlight video
When writing an email to a college coach, you have to make it easy for the coach to quickly decide whether or not you might be a fit for his or her program. College coaches receive hundreds of emails every week and they just can’t spend a lot of time on every email they receive. The best way to make it easy for a college coach is to provide a link to your highlight video. A college coach can decide on most prospective recruits after watching 45 seconds of video. Even if they read your email, if they can’t view your video you have zero chance for a response.
3. No contact information for your current coach
Think about it logically. College coaches want great student-athletes who will represent their team and institution in a positive manner every day. To identify those players, the coaches need to get to know you and they want to talk with the coaches who see you at practice, watch you in games and talk with you daily. Every college coach in the country will contact the high school and/or select coach for any athlete they are serious about. Providing the contact information for your current coaches in your email will make it easy for college coaches to contact them and “get comfortable” with you as a student-athlete.
4. Inaccurate athletic and/or academic information
One of the most common ways to ruin an email to a college coach is to overstate (or understate) your athletic or academic statistics and accomplishments. I get it, it seems harmless to round down your 40 time, or project where you might be athletically in a few months, but that’s the fastest way to get your name permanently scratched off a recruiting list. If you think college coaches don’t cross-check this information, you are wrong. Every college coach will verify your stats and grades before they invest any significant amount of time recruiting you.
If for some reason you understate your academic or athletic accomplishments or statistics, you’re selling yourself short. It’s ok to be proud of your achievements and there’s a way to present them so you don’t come across as braggadocios.
Just be honest about your abilities and achievements. Coaches know that for underclassmen they need to project where each player might be as a senior. They also understand that some athletes develop later than others. If you’re realistic about your abilities, your chances to find a college scholarship increase dramatically. If you overstate your statistics and abilities, how do you think a coach is going to react when he or she finds out you were faking it? And if you understate your abilities, you’re just hurting yourself.
5. The emails are from your parents
Adam Dorrell, the head football coach at Abilene Christian University may have said it best when he told us: “The biggest thing with us is we would like to be contacted by the athlete. It is a major turnoff getting emails from a parent. Quite honestly, we don’t even look at those emails because we know they are going to be slanted or biased.”
Even though every college coach in the country feels that way, some parents actually email college coaches on behalf of their kids. That’s right, they introduce themselves as “Nick’s dad” and go on to explain how good Nick really is and why he’s a good fit for that coach’s team. I’m pretty sure that’s a hard sell. I call these parents “Sports Agent Parents”. They truly believe that contacting a college coach on behalf of their athlete is a good idea. They also think that their opinion about their kid will be perceived as objective and will be well received. They need to think again.
Here’s the deal
If you’re going to take the time to send emails to college coaches, take the time and get it right the first time. Make sure you avoid the top five characteristics outlined above and you’ll have a good chance of starting a conversation with quite a few college coaches.