If you’ve read my previous articles over the years, then you know how much I value networking and building relationships with college coaches. In fact, we discuss this on a daily basis with parents who hire us to manage their athlete’s college recruitment.
The simple truth remains: only 6 out of 100 high school athletes will occupy a college roster spot. So to stand out from the pack, you cannot sit back and wait for coaches to engage you. You must initiate the dialogue and work to sustain that dialogue over a lengthy period of time.
Which brings me to my focus today: email correspondence. With all the different ways to communicate and engage people these days, where does email stack up?
Proponents argue that email correspondence remains the easiest and most effective communication tool. On the contrary, opponents feel email is overused. It’s antiquated. It’s far less effective than it used to be and college coaches aren’t relying on email as much to communicate with recruits.
Whichever side of the argument you’re on, the most recent data may suggest that mobile messaging (SMS/texting) is overtaking email as the communication of choice. After all, texts are opened 98% of the time compared to emails, which are opening about 20% of the time. Text messaging has a 50% response rate while emails have about a 10% response rate. And 90% of all text messages are read in under 3 minutes.
So by these number, texts are opened faster, more frequently and your chances of getting a response are 5x better than sending an email.
It’s pretty clear how the NCAA feels about it. In April 2016, the NCAA lifted restrictions on electronic communications because it was simply “too difficult to monitor,” they said. Which means, coaches and recruits can text and use social media to communicate directly with recruits.
So if you text, then it needs to be among the primary ways you interact with college coaches.
That said, it’s far more challenging to obtain a coach’s cell phone number than it is their email address (which is often published on their university’s staff directory page).
For this and many other good reasons, email correspondence remains a superb form of direct communication (at least for the time being). Thousands of college coaches continue using email to correspond with recruits daily. Like it or not, email is still a viable marketing tool and it needs to be incorporated into your college recruiting strategy.
Here are a few things to consider when it comes to emailing coaches:
Start with personal introductions. If you intend to pursue your sport in college and you haven’t initiated any dialogue with college coaches yet, then start with personal email introductions. Don’t tell your entire story, just the key ingredients: who you are, why you want to play your sport, your intentions for writing the email and what you expect the recipient to do with this information.
Understand that not every coach is going to reply. In fact, if 1 out of 4 gets back to you, you’re doing pretty well! But stay with it. Don’t get discouraged.
Follow-Up Correspondence. One email isn’t going to do the trick. Set up scheduled follow-up “campaigns” about every 60 to 90 days. Some dialogue with coaches will (and should) occur weekly. Again, keep your emails short; don’t be long-winded (unless coaches ask for you to elaborate). Their time is extremely limited, so engage coaches with things that makes you stand out from hundreds of other prospects in their recruiting funnels.
Recognize a gem when you find one. If a coach is sending you quality, personal emails, and they seem genuinely engaged with what’s going on in your high school career, then chances are you have a gem of an opportunity. Sometimes it’s merely a connection you feel with a particular coach. Whenever you have this feeling, recognize that this is a coach on whom you should focus your efforts and energy. Go out of your way to let them know how honored and appreciative you are in their efforts to recruit you. Mention the coach and his/her school on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. Tell others what a great experience you’re having getting to know this coach. Coaches are human like the rest of us, and they are drawn to people who openly appreciate them.
DON’T limit your options right out of the gates! The recruiting process naturally narrows itself over time, so targeting 5 to 10 schools (like some will suggest you do) is not wise. An email list of 100+ coaches is far more powerful. Remember, this is about networking and building your brand, so the more connections you make, the more relationships you will build and the more opportunities you will expose yourself to.
Have questions? Need help putting your Game Plan into motion? Let me know!
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.