Recruiting Process Part 2
Once you’ve identified a list of 10-15 colleges that seem like they could be a good holistic fit for you, you should send a personal email to the coach at each school. The goal of this email is to establish name recognition with the college coach and put you on his radar. College coaches don’t necessarily recruit the best players – they recruit the best players they know about. You shouldn’t just hope to be discovered and wait to be recruited. Be proactive and take the initiative: identify schools you’re interested in, and then – recruit the school! Engaging in the recruiting process means recruiting the school, to try to get them to recruit you.
College coaches get hundreds of emails from student-athletes, so you want yours to be short and impactful. The body of your email can be 3 short paragraphs; it doesn’t need to be longer than that. (The coach might not read it if it’s much longer than that.) It is very important that you use proper grammar. In the subject line of your email, put your name and your grad year. Open by introducing yourself. It should be brief but strong. Your goal is to show him, as quickly as possible, why he should be interested in you. So, just like a newspaper journalist, open with a “hard lead” and put the most important information first. Tell him what team you play for, your GPA and test scores, etc. – essentially, you’re recapping the major points that you’ve listed on your profile. This part of your email is obviously going to be the same for the initial email you send to each individual college coach, so it’s okay to copy and paste this part; just make sure after it copies that the whole message text is in the same font, etc., and that it looks good. Make sure you do change the email address and name to which the email is addressed, so that each email is correctly addressed to the correct college coach! It is easy to forget to do this and accidentally send an email with the wrong name or to the wrong email address, and that obviously does not make a good impression.
Beyond that basic personalization, the next part of your email is where you really personalize it to each coach at each school, and this is what will make your email stand out. In addition to telling the coach why he should be interested in you, you should tell the coach why you are interested in his school and his program. It can be one sentence about why you are interested in the school and one sentence about why you are interested in the program, or a couple sentences, but this will set your email apart. It shows that you have at least been on their website and you know a little bit about them, which distinguishes you from all generic emails. The college coach will see that you aren’t just emailing him randomly, but that you have done some research and taken an interest in them. This is an indicator to the coach that, if he does become interested in you and decide to recruit you, you are more likely to come to the school. Coaches cannot afford to waste time recruiting a player if they aren’t confident about that. Since you are genuinely interested, and you know details about the school and the program from the research you did while identifying the school, it shouldn’t be hard for you to comment on one thing about the school you like and to say one good thing about the program. For example, you could mention that the school appeals to you because it has a strong department in your intended major, or that you really like that it’s a smaller school with small class sizes, etc.; and you could compliment the coach on his team’s conference championship the previous season, or if you’ve seen the team play then you can tell him how you like his team’s style of play, etc.
Attach your profile (or a link to your webpage) and attach your team’s schedule or a link to your team’s schedule, so the coach knows when and where he can come see you play. The purpose of your email is to introduce yourself to the coach so that he recognizes your name, and to try to get him interested in you enough to come see you play in person. If you have a highlight video or game film, you can provide a link to watch your videos. (For some sports this is more important than for others. Video is nice but it is usually not essential, so if you don’t have it, don’t worry about it. It’s just another way for you to try to pique the coach’s interest in you, which is the whole goal of the email.)
Carefully proofread your email before you send it. Once you’ve emailed the coach, hopefully he will email you back. Depending on what year you are in high school and what division the school is (there are different regulations for different divisions), you may receive a generic response, but that doesn’t mean they’re not interested – they may not be allowed to reply with anything more than a generic email and an invitation to their ID camp. If you do notice that in the email there is a personalized sentence or two that’s specifically written to you, that’s significant. If you don’t get an email back within a week or two, send a follow-up email, or give the coach a phone call to follow up. If you are persistent and they still don’t respond, then they might not be interested in you, and you may decide to cross that school off the list and either focus on the other schools on your list or investigate whether you should add a new school to your list in place of the one you’re crossing off. But do be persistent – college coaches are very busy, so you probably don’t want to read too much into it if they are slow to respond. If the coach does email you back, great! Reply to his email and keep the communication alive. Remember, your goal is to get him to see you play in person.
One way you can guarantee that the coach will see you play in person is to attend that school’s ID camp. If you are seriously interested in a school, you should consider attending their ID camp, especially if they are showing interest in you. At most schools, a significant majority of the players on their team attended one of their ID camps during the recruiting process. You should also prioritize attending a school’s ID camp if the school is in a different geographic region from where your team plays the majority of its games, since it would be harder for that coach to come see you play. When you’re interested in schools that are further away, it’s even more important to attend showcase tournaments and attend ID camps, since those are the two ways that coach is most likely to be able to see you and evaluate you. If you are going to be attending a showcase tournament or an ID camp, you should email the coach in advance (give him as much notice as possible) to let him know that you’ll be there.
If you can get the coach to come see you play, or if you go to a tournament or camp where you will play in front of him, then you’ve done your job. At that point, it’s up to you to stay calm, be yourself, and show well. Hopefully the coach will like what he sees and follow up with you. If the coach isn’t interested in you after seeing you play, then move on. This process will whittle your list down from the 10-15 schools you recruited to probably 3-5 schools that are hopefully recruiting you in earnest. It is very important that you go visit each school that you are seriously considering at this stage.
Coordinate the visit with the coach so that you make sure to meet with him and meet the players on the team while you’re on campus, in addition to meeting with admissions and financial aid, sitting in on a class, and exploring whatever else you want to know about the school. You can learn a lot by asking questions, and you can learn even more by observing. You should not be influenced by the attractiveness of your tour guide or by the weather on the particular day of your visit (you’ve already considered climate, but whether it’s sunny or rainy that one day shouldn’t matter), but do pay attention to your impressions. If there’s anything about the school you really don’t like, you probably shouldn’t go to that school. If something bothered you that much in 24 hours, remember that 4 years is a long time. But hopefully the visit will confirm how you thought you’d feel about the school, and enable you to make an informed decision about which of your options is best.
Hopefully you will have multiple schools that are seriously interested in you, so that the choice is up to you about where you would most like to attend, live, study and play. Know the deadline dates to submit your applications. If you started engaging in the recruiting process early, then this will be one of the last steps for you, but if you started later, then you may need to apply to schools while you’re still in the middle of the process. Applying to a school is obviously the ultimate expression of interest in that school, so if you started later, submitting your application will indicate to the coach that even though other players have been engaging with him for longer than you have, you are just as seriously interested in his school as they are.
If you’re a junior or a senior and you haven’t started engaging in the recruiting process yet, don’t despair or panic. There will still be schools with roster spots available, so get busy and find them and engage with their coaches. If you’re a freshman or a sophomore, start engaging in the recruiting process now. If it seems daunting, it’s really not that hard. Start by researching and identifying schools, putting together a profile, and writing a short email. Then, check your email, reply to the emails you receive, and follow up on emails if you don’t get a response within a reasonable time frame.
As you get more seriously engaged with certain schools, you’ll want to go to their ID camp, go on a campus visit and apply. Recruit the school, and hopefully they’ll recruit you back, and you’ll have an opportunity to play your sport in college. Being a collegiate student-athlete is very demanding but very rewarding. You’ll need to budget your time and be disciplined, and you’ll need to work hard and perform, but you can do it, and it’s worth it.
Authored by: Edward Cartee Assistant Coach, Trinity University Men’s Soccer Head Coach, Central Catholic High School Soccer United States Soccer Federation “A” License