When the WRONG schools are recruiting me.

Parents and athletes often ask us about what to do when the “wrong” schools show interest. Here’s some food for thought when replying to coaches at schools that (at least for the time being) may be at the bottom of your list.

First and foremost, always remember to be humble & grateful. Show respect for college coaches.

After all, in many ways they collectively hold your future athletic fate in their hands. Plus, your paths are bound to cross at some point down the road, so even though you don’t currently believe their school is the best fit for you, treat each opportunity and each person with the same utmost respect.

“How do I politely tell a college coach I’m not (or no longer) interested in their school?”

We believe in a simple rule: Every coach deserves a response. Sure, it’s never easy telling someone who’s invested time and energy in you that their offer/opportunity doesn’t stack up. But if you treat college coaches as potential employers, and give them the respect they deserve, then you’ll never go wrong.

An email like this would be extremely appropriate:

Coach [Last Name], this has been an experience I’ll remember forever. It was humbling to receive interest from so many college coaches. I really enjoyed communicating with you and I can’t tell you how honored I am that you showed interest in me as a student-athlete.

Deciding on my final few choices has been so much harder than I ever imagined. My family and I have spent countless hours determining the “best fit” for me, and I have narrowed my final selection down to a few schools. 

Coach, even though I have decided not to attend [school name], I cannot thank you enough for your interest. You have an outstanding program and I know you would have been fantastic to play for. In the end, my final choices simply appeared to offer more of what I’m looking for in a complete college experience.

I just wanted to be up front with you and update you on my current status. Should things change, I will contact you immediately. Thanks again for taking the time to get to know me. I’m grateful for your interest in me and I hope our paths cross again in the near future.

“What if I just reached out to a coach, and then quickly changed my mind about their school?”

This happens more than you might think. The fact is, kids change their minds. So if they initiate dialogue with a coach, and then decide a couple days later they really want to stay closer to home, for example, then the athlete might respond to a coach with:

Coach [Last Name], I know I just contacted you, however, through this process it has recently become very clear to me that I would really like to stay closer to home (provide a good reason or two why). I sincerely appreciate you contacting me so quickly and if anything changes, I will be sure to let you know.

“What happens if I am contacted by a coach and I KNOW for a fact their school will not be among my final choices? Do I immediately tell them ‘thanks but no thanks’?”

Again, you should be respectful of coaches’ time and their effort to contact you. So a quick “Thanks but I’m not interested in you” is NOT what we recommend. That said, we aren’t implying you should reply with phony interest either. If you think this particular school is a C- or D-list school, then it’s ok to be somewhat vague. It’s not necessary to completely rule out the option before you have to, and you’re wisely keeping these options open until it’s time to narrow your choices to a few schools. In the meantime, trust the process of generating college interest from more schools than you can manage. Of course it requires work, but you’ll be far more pleased with the end outcome.

If you’re asking the above question, then a reply like this is appropriate:

Hi Coach [Last Name],

Thank you so much for contacting me. My family and I are still evaluating all of my options and we’re extremely grateful for your consideration. Our plan is to carefully review each school that’s showing interest in me, conduct as much research as we can and then assess their respective (sport) programs. If I have any questions, I’ll definitely be sure to contact you.

This is not only a mature response, but it tells college coaches you’re handling this important project responsibly, and that while you’ll entertain many offers, you’re 100% committed to landing the right offer.

Just remember, college coaches change jobs all the time, so a coach at a school you view as a “C-List” school could very well end up coaching at one of your “A-list” schools next year. It happens all the time. So don’t burn bridges – especially early in the process – without fully understanding your options yet.

The truth is, most kids end up going to college somewhere nearly opposite of what they envisioned when they started the recruitment process. That’s because they learn so much about different areas of the country, various types & sizes of schools, and about themselves as they journey through this experience over the next 1-3 years.

Key Takeaways:

– Every college coach deserves a prompt response.

– Keep your college options open. Don’t rule out opportunities before you have to.

– Trust the process of generating college interest from lots of schools.

– Don’t tell a coach “thanks but no thanks.” Be humble. Be grateful. Be respectful. You never know when your paths will cross again.

Rex Grayner
Rex Grayner, SAS President

Rex Grayner


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.


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