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 and play at the college level. Nelson Gord is a former collegiate and professional ballplayer, successful high school head coach and the founder of the largest travel baseball club in Illinois. Nelson 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, helped create NCSA Team Edition, the free recruiting platform for club and high school coaches and their teams.
Unless you’re one of the top athletes in the country, you’ll need to be proactive to get recruited by college coaches. You can’t afford to sit and wait for coaches to watch your highlight video or discover you at a tournament — it’s up to you to make the first move with emails and phone calls.
There’s a common misconception that high school athletes aren’t allowed to contact college coaches until their junior year of high school. In reality, athletes can reach out to coaches any time they want — NCAA rules only limit when college coaches can initiate recruiting contact. While coaches in most sports can’t contact recruits until June 15 or Sept. 1 of junior year, they are free to read emails, answer calls, listen to voicemails and follow on social media.
How to contact college coaches
Before you start writing emails and dialing phone numbers, you need to get all your ducks in a row. When communicating with college coaches, make sure to include a link to your NCSA profile so they can easily view everything they need for their initial evaluation. Key information to provide includes:
- Highlight or skills video — update your video every six months if possible.
- Athletic stats — verified, third-party stats from a combine or other event are preferred.
- Academic info — GPA and ACT/SAT scores if applicable.
- Contact info — You, parents, club/high school coach, personal trainers, etc.
- Competition schedule — Upcoming games, tournaments, camps, showcases, etc.
- Why you are interested in their program — Coaches are looking for recruits who are excited to compete for them.
Ready to reach out? Start with an introductory email. An email is a great way to make first contact and send over your key information. Resist the urge to copy and paste or send emails with generic subject lines. To catch the eye of a college coach, your subject line should include your grad year, position, state and relevant stats. Example: “2020 Linebacker from IL, 6’2” 220lbs, 4.6 40yd dash.” At the end of the email, tell the coach about your plans for following up.
A great next step is a follow-up phone call. You’ve already introduced yourself via email, so your phone call should open up the dialogue for the coach to tell you more about the program and invite you to visit campus. Calling up a busy college coach can be nerve-wracking at first. To calm your nerves, roleplay the call with a friend or family member beforehand. Create a list of questions to ask the coach and even consider writing a script in case you get the coach’s voicemail.
Remember — if you call and the coach picks up, they are free to talk. If you call and the coach doesn’t answer, they can’t call back. Leave a message and send an email to let them know when you plan on calling again.
Now that you’ve established contact, don’t fall off the map! Once you get into the groove and start emailing and calling dozens of coaches a week, it’s important to respond promptly and keep the lines of communication open. Continue to reach out as you get new athletic and academic stats, schedule campus visits and invite coaches to upcoming tournaments. In addition to emails and phone calls, texts and social media can be effective platforms for staying in touch.
When to contact college coaches In general, we encourage you to contact a coach as soon as you have identified their school as a good fit. Even if a coach isn’t recruiting your grad year yet, it’s never a bad idea to reach out and get on their radar. For major Division I sports, it’s the norm for athletes and families to begin reaching out and going on unofficial visits as early as 8th grade or freshman year.
It can also be effective to contact a coach based on their recruiting calendar. For example, the peak recruiting season for fall sports (football, soccer, volleyball) is during late winter and early spring. While coaches recruit all year round, they have more time to actively search for recruits and conduct evaluations after the season ends. During the summer, be sure to give coaches a heads up on camps and showcases you plan to attend.
Which coaches should you contact?
Finding contact info is easy — 99 percent of college coaches have their email addresses and/or phone numbers listed in the athletic staff directory on the school’s website. But depending on the college and the sport, you might have better luck contacting someone other than the head coach. Does the program have a recruiting coordinator? Many larger programs employ a recruiting staff to screen student-athletes. If you’re looking to send an introductory email, this is the best person to start with. If the program doesn’t have a recruiting coordinator, look for position coaches. If they don’t have position coaches, check for an assistant coach. Otherwise, it’s fine to start with the head coach. Just keep in mind that the head coach will likely be more difficult to reach.
Can parents contact college coaches?
Coaches are recruiting the student-athlete — not the parent. All recruiting emails, phone calls, texts and DMs should all come from the athlete. Coaches want to get to know you and see if you are responsible enough to manage your own recruiting process. However, parents play a key supporting role. As long as the student-athlete is the point of contact, parents are free to give you questions for the coach to answer. During an official or unofficial visit, parents should ask questions about classes, dorm rooms, housing, meals, work out programs, study halls and tutors. And once their athlete has received an offer, parents can start asking financial aid questions.