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 and is the affordable solution to high-priced recruiting companies. 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.
If you’ve ever asked for advice on college recruiting, you were probably told you need to “connect” with as many college coaches as possible. I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime a few years ago the phrase “connect with” took the place of “introduce yourself”.
Let’s be logical, if coaches from the colleges you’re interested in aren’t contacting you, then you need be proactive and introduce yourself to them. It’s really that simple. I understand you don’t want to say the wrong thing or irritate a college coach, but if you’re polite, to-the-point and respectful, you won’t look desperate, be a pest, or be annoying. In reality, if you’re a good fit for the program athletically and academically then you are actually doing the coach a favor.
University of Washington football coach Chris Petersen may have said it best when he told us “Whether you’re being heavily recruited, lightly-recruited or not recruited at all, the fact of the matter is that you’ve got to be proactive with this process. Like anything in life, you should be your own advocate. Take it upon yourself to figure out where you belong.” If you’re committed to playing in college and willing to be your own advocate, here are five simple ways to “connect” with college coaches.
In today’s world, sending an email is still the most efficient way to start a dialogue with a college coach. That said, simply sending an email makes you no different than the other 100 recruits that are doing the same thing, each day. Don’t waste a coach’s time by sending a 10-page novel on why you’re so great. The reality is, they aren’t going to read it all anyway. Instead, send a brief overview of why you should be considered for their program. Ask them for their valuable feedback and what you can do to learn more about their program. Get to the point where that coach can make an easy, early assessment of you and do your best to create a conversation. Make that happen in no more than two paragraphs!
There is no formula for writing a perfect email, but here are some tips that should help:
- Personalize your message.
- The subject line of your email should make the coach want to open it.
- Address the coach by name (Dear Coach Smith).
- Introduce yourself as a potential candidate for his or her program.
- Provide relevant academic information (ACT and/or SAT score, GPA, etc.).
- Provide relevant athletic information (position, relevant statistics, etc.).
- Provide a link to your video (if you have one).
- Include a current game schedule with dates, locations and times.
- Include your contact information and the contact information for your coaches.
A compelling email and a link to your highlight video might open the door to a college that would otherwise never even see you.
2. Get your coach involved
An email or telephone call from your current coach to a college coach can make all the difference in the world. College coaches will listen to your high school coach and their endorsement of you as a player and a student is important.
Most coaches are happy to help their athletes make it to the next level, but you have to help them help you. They need direction and guidance in reaching out to programs that are a match for your abilities. Give them the contact information for the coaches at your top 5 colleges along with some athletic and academic information so they have everything they need to effectively communicate with college coach.
3. Target a few camps or showcases to attend
Camps and showcases can be a great way to connect with college coaches as long as you are strategic about which ones you attend. Don’t waste your time or money on a camp unless coaches from the colleges you are interested in are participating.
Once you sign up for a camp or showcase, notify the coaches from the colleges you are interested in advance that you will be there. Then, introduce yourself to those coaches during the camp and before you leave, thank them personally for the opportunity. Finally, follow up with an email to make sure they know you are serious about their program. Understand that if the coaches don’t know your name when you show up to a camp or showcase and you don’t make it a priority to introduce yourself, they won’t know your name when they leave.
4. Create a recruiting resume
Every recruit needs to understand that while an online resume/profile can be helpful, you’re mistaken if you believe you can post your resume online and wait for the scholarship offers to roll in the door. Most college coaches don’t spend their evenings scouring through thousands of profiles on recruiting sites. And, unless the recruiting service matches you with appropriate colleges, what makes you think your resume will be seen by the right coaches? The most effective way to use an online resume/profile is to share the link to your resume with the coaches you have identified as realistic possibilities.
5. Unofficial visits
Unofficial visits can be used much the same way as attending a camp or showcase event to connect with college coaches. The simple definition of an unofficial visit is anytime you (or you and your parents) visit a college and your parents foot the bill.
Unofficial visits to colleges in which you have interest are a great idea and can be helpful in the recruiting process. Like the college sponsored camps, you need to be strategic with your unofficial visits. Make sure the program is a match for your abilities and you have a genuine interest in the college. Then, alert the college coach that you will be on campus and perhaps a short meeting might be possible.
While you are on campus, soak it all in. Go to the Student Union, watch the team practice or play a game, take a tour of the campus. Make sure you feel comfortable. When you leave, you should have a feeling about how diligent you want to be pursuing that school.
Here’s the deal
Connect, introduce yourself, start a dialogue… they all mean the same thing. The point is to reach out to the coaching staffs at colleges that match your abilities and get your recruiting process moving in the right direction.