Recently I wrote about The Athletic Recruiting Funnel as a way to help bring simplicity and clarity to an often-misunderstood process. If you (parents, athletes & coaches) can start to see the flow of the funnel, then you’ll also see what steps need to be taken to gain control of the college recruitment process.
In response to the article, I received many emails about the first step: AWARENESS. Mainly, how do we create more awareness for our athlete?
So it inspired me to come up with a list (I’m big on lists, in case you haven’t noticed) and share some of the ways athletes can create more awareness with college coaches. I came up with 12 ways in all (I’m sure there are more), and I split them into 2 categories – Active and Passive. Why? Because some of these ways are far more direct than others. For example, even though a newspaper writeup can create awareness, it’s not a vehicle the athlete will rely on to generate national awareness. Some local schools might see it and they might reach out to you because of it. But it’s not an active way to create awareness – unless of course the same athlete sent a copy of the article along with a personal note to hundreds of college coaches. Now that would be considered “active.”
Email – Still the best and most reliable form of communication. Open rates have decreased in recent years, so the best you can hope for might be only 20%. That said, email must be incorporated in an athlete’s marketing strategy. It’s free and by far the easiest way to create awareness on a large scale. One email won’t do the trick… the follow up is key. Handwritten Letters – Moms and Dads reading this can appreciate the value of the hand-written note. And I would recommend it for our children as well. First, a hand-written letter is a nice touch and will almost always warrant a response. It’s not the content of the letter or card that matters. It’s the time you took to WRITE it (as in, with a pen… not a keyboard). If you’re looking for a way to penetrate the clutter and be heard, send a coach (or coaching staff) a handwritten letter or thank you card. It takes time. They don’t get many of them, so the impression factor will be huge. Plus, you probably won’t be sending hundreds of them – and that’s part of the reason why they’re so effective.
Attend a Camp – An individual college camp is a great way to generate awareness at that particular school, which is why you should be in dialogue with that school well in advance of the camp. In some cases, a few other schools will attend another college’s camp to evaluate players. But when you go to a single college camp, you’re there to experience that school and that staff.NOTE: If you get invited to a camp, find out more about that camp ahead of time. What role does it play in their recruitment process? Does not attending automatically disqualify you from being recruited by that school? Don’t think you have to go to every camp you’re invited to! It’s impossible, in fact. But you can use it as a reason to engage that coaching staff.
Campus Visits – Similar to individual college camps, this is an opportunity to communicate interest in a school. You have to make the effort and the time to go see a college campus. And while you’re there, you’re going to visit with several key people: coaches, financial aid, admissions, professors and students. So the act of visiting a campus automatically makes people more aware.
Private Messaging – Different than email and likely won’t occur in the early stages of communication with a college coaching staff. But many coaches use it frequently to correspond with prospects, so it should be incorporated whenever possible.
Phone Calls & Text Messages – Phone & Text are about as active as it gets when it comes to a student-athlete creating awareness. And the more conversations you can have with college coaches, the more awareness & interest you’ll create. Plan ahead of time for what your voicemail and/or text message will be.
Calls from your Coach – Not coaches are willing to do this, but if your coach is willing to pick up the phone and engage college coaches for you, then certainly this will help advance your college opportunities. Remember, you still have a long ways to go in the “funnel.” But all we’re talking about right now is creating more awareness, and your coach (if s/he is willing) can be a big help here.
College Showcases & Combines – Don’t get me wrong. These can be great ways to “audition” for coaches and create awareness. But it’s more passive than active because you’re attending with hundreds of other prospects, in most cases. Sure, you can create both positive and negative awareness at a showcase. Ask anyone who’s gone to a showcase and completely blew it! They’ll tell you one of the biggest mistakes they ever made was attending that showcase. Social Media/YouTube/Hudl – Passive because you’re relying on people to find you. Don’t omit them from your awareness efforts. Just understand that anytime you rely on others, you aren’t doing the leading. You’re hoping they will lead the process instead.
News/Press – Again, if you’re featured in the newspaper, that’s awesome! But expecting coaches to stumble upon the article is not an active way to create awareness. Get that article in the hands of college coaches if you want to get more mileage out of it.
Max Preps (Stat Sites) – Same as the news article. Coaches aren’t surfing MaxPreps for student-athletes. Anyone that tells you otherwise doesn’t understand how college coaches recruit.
Prospect Databases (Sites where coaches have to search for players) – They aren’t doing player searches on college recruiting sites either. Not that this information can’t aid your college recruiting efforts. In fact, recruiting websites and athlete resumes are more the rule than the exception anymore. If you want to play in college, coaches need your bio. But the key is not waiting for them to find you. Athletes must be active in their distribution of information. And the larger the pool, the greater the awareness.
– – – Stay Proactive!
As a published author, public speaker and radio/television guest, Rex is widely considered among the nation’s premier authorities on college athletic recruiting.
Before founding Student-Athlete Showcase LLC in 2003, Rex served as a NCAA Division I Compliance Representative and VP of West Coast Operations for a large college recruiting firm. In 2008, Rex was honored with the prestigious “Forty Under 40” award by the Denver Business Journal.