June 9, 2021
Effective communication with college coaches is the foundation upon which you’ll build a lot of your other recruiting efforts. If you are being diligent in your school research and in building out your list of qualities, your first touchpoint with your identified target schools is usually going to be email, prior to seeing them in-person at a showcase or camp. One common series of questions we get from enrolled families leading up to our showcases centers around coach communication before camp: Should I email coaches? When should I email them? What should I send them? How many coaches should I email? How long should the email be?
While there are some guidelines (covered below) that give more details into those specific questions, it’s important to know that effective coach communication is driven by some core principles. To be effective, all coach communication should be:
If you’re sticking to these three principles at all times, you’re going to be off to a good start in your coach communication efforts – but let’s dive into more detail.
Your time leading up to your Honor Roll session is a crucial time in your communication with college coaches – you have the chance now to lay the groundwork of contact to help draw the right eyes to you at camp and facilitate in-person discussions.
Identify your target list of programs
The first step is to do the school research that will help you identify the schools at camp that could be the right fit for you. If you haven’t already read or watched Part 3 of this pre-camp curriculum, you can start there with how (and why) to build this list of school qualities to find programs that offer the right fit.
Email your target list of coaches with highly-personalized emails
Each of these emails should provide the important information that coaches need, namely: your basic info (email, phone, grad year, position, home city/state), academic information (most recent transcript, up-to-date unweighted GPA, test scores if you have them) and any video that you have. Even better than including or attaching each of these pieces one-by-one is thoroughly completing and updating your SportsRecruits profile (we covered how to do this in Part 4 of this pre-camp curriculum) and including a link to your complete and updated profile. This will let you house your updated transcript, video and more in-depth information all in one place for efficiency.
Remember: the purpose of these emails is to introduce yourself, express interest in the school and give coaches important information that gives them some insight into your academics and athletics – so keep your emails as concise as possible while accomplishing that three-part purpose.
When you’re writing these emails, it is crucial that they’re personalized to express your genuine interest and hopefully solicit a response. While all of these emails will serve the same purpose and will need to include a lot of the same details and tactical information, it’s important that it’s not a form email that you copy-and-paste to as many coaches as possible. Coaches can tell when an email isn’t personalized, and those types of generic emails do not effectively express your genuine interest in the program and are far less likely to get a response from a coach.
Personalizing these emails means more than just getting the coach’s name and school right (although that’s an important start!) – it also means giving some brief but specific reasons that you’re interested in the school, and why it’s a good fit for you. For example: if the school has an academic offering or major that is unique and that you’re interested in, use that!
One of the reasons that your “homework” from Part 3 was to write out some bullets of why you’re interested in each of your targeted list of schools is to set up this personalization.
Understand timelines for coaches’ replies
Between now and camp, coaches are going to be incredibly busy as they close the books on their own spring season, graduate their seniors, send their underclassmen away with a summer development program and hit the recruiting trail. That, plus the fact that many of these coaches receive hundreds of emails each day from prospective student-athletes means that they may not get back to you right away (it’s also another key reason to personalize your email – in a crowded email inbox, a thoughtful, personalized email can help you stand out).
Be patient in hearing back from coaches, and don’t lose hope or cross a school off just because you haven’t heard back from the coach in a week or two. Patience, persistence and proactivity are all crucial to success in effective communication with your target schools.
Parents’ (and other adults’ and/or advisors’) Role in Coach Communication
As you see above, Rule #1 in coach communication is that it be driven by and sent directly from the student-athlete – but this doesn’t mean that parents and other coaches or advisors don’t have a role.
We can’t state strongly enough the recommendation that all communication be written by and sent from the student-athlete. Not only does this show coaches that the player is interested in the school and actively engaged in the recruiting process (and not just the parents), it also demonstrates the maturity and communication skills that coaches are looking for in the players they want to recruit. BUT, parents can play a critical role in the process as both an accountability partner and copy editor/proofreader.
During recruiting crunch time, student-athletes are going to potentially be sending out a sizable number of emails – and they all need to not only be effectively personalized, but they need to make it to the right coach’s inbox, with the right school name, correct mascot and the right personalized tidbits about the school. Having mom or dad as a second set of eyes and safety net to make sure that all of these things line up is a great way to avoid costly mistakes in your emails.
Mom and dad: please keep in mind that this is copy-editing, and not copy-re-writing! A college coach is going to be able to tell if you write or re-write this email for your student-athlete. They receive enough emails from high schoolers, and also enough from lawyers, doctors, marketing executives, etc. – who haven’t received this pre-camp curriculum – pretending to be high school students that they know the difference.
One of the hallmarks of an Honor Roll Camp experience is the unparalleled access to coaches, and the opportunities that you’ll have to connect and engage with them face-to-face while you’re on-site. To best take advantage of those opportunities we advise student-athletes to have a plan of attack – and also an open mind. Each phase of the two-day program offers slightly different opportunities to connect with coaches, so putting some intentional thought into how to best use each part of the program can help set you up for success.
Coach Introductions (Day 1)
After the showcase portion on the morning of Day 1, all coaches will be introduced. This is meant to help you find your target schools later on at camp – take note of the coach name (which will also be listed in the Headfirst on-site mobile app) as well as what they’re wearing so you can find them more easily during the coach meet-and-greet and between games.
Player / Coach Meet-and-Greet (Day 1 & Day 2)
On Day 1 of camp, there will be a dedicated portion of 30-40 minutes to introduce yourself to college coaches. While this isn’t the time to have a 20 minute chat with a coach, it’s a great time to introduce yourself and give coaches a chance to put a face to your name, and to the notes that they took while you were showcasing earlier on in the day. If you’ve done your pre-camp communication homework, the schools that are on your target list also should have received an email from you with your academic info, and hopefully some video, which can be an entry point into this first conversation.
It’s also important during this window to be targeted in the coaches you try to connect with, because the 30 minutes will fly by. While it can be tempting to head towards “shiny objects” (whether it’s D1 programs, Ivy League programs, or something else) during this window, you’ll be best served by systematically and efficiently starting conversations with the schools on your list – and remember from Part 3: labels like division or conference aren’t the way that you’re going to ensure holistic college fit.
The coach connection period on Day 2 of camp is a great time to follow up with some of the top schools on your list – whether those are ones that you had on your list coming into camp, or some additional schools that you learned about and gained interest in while you were there.
During Games (Day 1 & Day 2)
During each of your games, there will be a different, rotating group of college coaches in your dugout and assigned to your field. Take advantage of this time to both connect with schools on your field that are on your list, and to learn more about and engage with coaches at schools that maybe weren’t on your list. These interactions in the dugout and on the field offer a natural and organic way to learn more about a coach and a school, and to give coaches the opportunity to get to know you as a player.
We covered some aspects of in-game coach communication in Part 2: How to Stand Out to College Coaches, but there are a few keys to success here that bear repeating:
Between and After Games (Day 1 & Day 2)
When your camp team assignment is posted to the Honor Roll on-site mobile app, we’ll also post our coach grouping and rotation document. This will list which coaches are assigned to your game slots and on your fields, and also when specific coaching groups are “roaming”, or not assigned to a particular field.
You can use this document to help find your target coaches while you’re not playing – between games is a great time for conversations with coaches who are “roaming”. Take advantage of this time to connect with coaches – while also resting up, hydrating and getting food before you’re back in action.
After you’ve connected with coaches on-site at Honor Roll, the most important post-camp step is following up! While at every session, we do see student-athletes verbally commit to coaches and programs before they leave camp, for the majority of student-athletes, there is a necessary post-camp process of follow-up coach communication to continue to advance your recruiting.
In the week or two after camp, reach out to coaches who you were able to connect with on-site and thank them for their time. If they’re schools that were already on your list and have your academic info, contact info and video, then you don’t need to re-send – but for any school that you didn’t communicate with prior to camp who you have since gained interest in, send along your SportsRecruits profile, video, academic and contact info so that they have access to it all in one place.
For coaches with whom you had a great connection – whether it was a long conversation, or they showed you a few specific pointers in your game – don’t be afraid to send them a handwritten thank you note after camp. Email inboxes – especially for college coaches – can get very crowded, so one way to standout is to intentionally mix up the “channel” of your outreach. By sending a handwritten note, not only will it be more likely to stand out, but it also shows genuine interest in the program, because of the extra attention and effort that it takes to put pen to paper, get the athletic offices’ address and put a card in the mail. These sorts of more manual touchpoints can be particularly meaningful after in-person contacts – whether it’s an extended conversation or coaching attention at Honor Roll, or after they host you on their campus on a visit.