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 Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology-based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Winning is all about creating, and capitalizing on, competitive advantages over your competition. Whether you create a physical advantage through strength training or a mental advantage through game plan preparation, figuring out how to separate yourself from the competition is the difference between success and failure. Oftentimes, competitive advantages are shaped from the little details or simple habits that most people unknowingly overlook. And when it comes to college recruiting, it’s those little details and simple habits that can be the difference between scholarship offers, landing a roster spot or seeing your athletic career end at the high school level. Here are some tips that will undoubtedly put you on your way to earning a college scholarship.
Talk to the person who matters
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you send an email to the wrong coach at the school you are interested in, will they read it? I think the answer to both of those questions is no one really knows! Here’s the deal: emailing college coaches is really kind of an art-form. From understanding what you say to what you include, there can be a lot of variables that can prompt a response or complete radio silence. But here is one thing you can be sure of, if you are sending your emails to the wrong coach, don’t expect a whole lot.
Consider these factors when deciding which coach you’ll be emailing:
- Knowing the college level determines who you address. The higher the level, you will most likely be dealing with a specific recruiting coordinator. The lower the level, you will most likely be addressing the head coach. For example: Division I equals recruiting coordinator and Division III equals head coach. The point here is to do your contact research accordingly.
- Regardless of the specific coach you select, be sure to CC (carbon copy) all the other coaches on staff. This creates accountability within that coaching staff to talk about you, which ultimately increases your chances of getting a response. I know what you are thinking, but keep reading.
- Sending a “to whom it may concern” email is not a good look. It gives the appearance that you haven’t even looked at the coaching staff and gives a mass-marketing feel to your email. Make a decision, be specific and remember, cc solves that problem anyway.
Your coach is your friend
It’s not your high school or select/club coach’s job to get you a college scholarship. I know that might not be want you want to hear, but it is the truth. From running a practice schedule, to managing games, to getting the most out your team, your coach simply does not have enough hours in the day to dedicate to your scholarship search. Understanding that simple fact is crucial to your growth as a student-athlete. Because here is the catch, your coach is probably more than willing to follow the lead you take during your window of opportunity. In other words, they would be happy to be used as a reference to college coaches. It’s on you to make it easy for them.
So, here’s what you do:
- Target 10-15 colleges that you can realistically play for.
- Confirm with your coach that he or she believes those schools make sense for you.
- Draft an email that you would like for them to send on your behalf.
- Confirm with your coach that he or she would be willing to send the email.
- Provide the drafted email, along with contact info of the coaches at those schools, to your coach.
- Ask your coach to hit send.
It really is that simple. Do as much of the work for your coach as possible and ask them for help. It shows them how serious you are about playing at the next level. Additionally, make sure you BCC (blind carbon copy) your coach on any email you directly send to college coaches. They need to know what you have going in order to play their part!
Start the conversation
What’s the best way to create a conversation? Ask a question. What’s the best way to make an informed decision? Ask a ton of questions. What’s the best way for you to find out if a college program might be a good fit for you? Ask that program’s coach.
Sometimes, we forget that college recruiting starts with a conversation, not a scholarship offer. Far too often, recruits get so focused on the dollar value of a scholarship, failing to see their real value within a program. To understand what is best for your future, you have to be committed to having real conversations with real coaches. Quit assuming that you know what is best for yourself based on the limited knowledge you have for any given program. Don’t tell a coach how great you are and feel like you have to sell yourself to earn a scholarship. Instead, ask questions and engage in meaningful dialogue that will produce the appropriate results for both you and a college program. This isn’t just about signing, it’s about committing your time, energy and efforts for the next four years.
Snail mail never fails
How many 15-18-year-old kids do you know that send letters in the mail? Seriously! That number could probably be counted on one hand. In fact, I would be shocked to know if any of you recruits reading this have ever sent more than five letters in your lifetime. Now, think back to the last time that you received a letter in the mail. How did you feel when you walked out to open mailbox and realized that someone had taken the time to send you a personal note? I don’t care if it was your grandma or not, if felt pretty good and that’s a fact! When all else fails, break out some pen and paper and get to writing.
Regardless of who we are talking about, it always feels good to get a personal letter in the mail. It makes us feel special to know that in the iPhone world we live in, someone was willing to dedicate that kind of an effort to us. The same applies to college coaches. Sending a personal note to a college coach expressing interest in his or her program sets you apart from other recruits. Why? Because most recruits would never do it. It takes too much time and too much effort to actually write your thoughts down on a piece of paper, stick that note in a stamped envelope and put it in the mailbox. Thoughtfulness may not get you a scholarship, but it sure will make a good impression on a college coach. And just imagine if you are actually a good fit for a program you send a personal letter to. Think that won’t make you stand out in the crowd?
So, what other ideas can you implement into your recruiting game plan to gain a competitive advantage over the competition. Be creative. Be genuine. And don’t look back and say, ‘what if.’