Promote your achievements, sell your best asset….YOU!
15 years ago if I would have mentioned “Marketing to College Coaches” you probably would have laughed. How times have changed. Parents who think their lacrosse player is so good that they can site back and wait for offers will get a big dose of reality when their child is a senior and they wonder where all the offers are.
Marketing your athletic skills has become an essential part in the recruiting process. A select group of high school recruits known as “blue chippers” or “five-star” recruits have the luxury of spending little time trying to get noticed. Coaches already know who those athletes are. However, coaches don’t know the millions of high school athletes that fall outside the blue chip category. The vast majority of athletes need to spend a considerable amount of time trying to standout from the masses. In order to standout, athletes should have a good marketing campaign in place.
A good marketing campaign should be well thought out and executed with precision. Every product (Nike, iPhone, Xbox, etc) that has been a huge success was thoroughly tested in the marketplace. You should do the same before attempting to market your skills. Think of your skills as a commodity, and your target market is college coaches. That means you should build your marketing campaign around the thought of getting college coaches interested in what you have to offer. This article outlines how to develop a marketing campaign that will increase your scholarship opportunities.
When to Start Marketing YOU!
You can begin to contact coaches via email as a freshman to get on their radar. Coaches will not be able to respond back until Sept 1 of your junior year, but they can send you questionnaires and brochures about camps; however, the real recruiting starts Sept 1 of your junior year in high school. That is when coaches really start to evaluate and decide what they need for their upcoming recruiting class. Coaches begin to take more of an interest in your highlight videos, and start to follow your press clippings as you become a legit prospect. The competitiveness of the recruiting game has changed with the advancements of technology — high school athletes and college coaches are able to connect through various mobile apps and social networking sites. If you are not out there marketing your skills, then there is a good chance that you’ll be looked over.
The Importance of Social Media in your Marketing Plan
Social Media in athletic recruiting is similar to the evolution of sending emails instead of letters. There is a new way to conduct business in high school and college athletic recruiting. Everyone is connected! Student-athletes can now display every move of their high school experience with fans and college coaches as they decide on the right college choice.
Social Media is only growing in popularity. More and more people are using social media in various ways to interact, and promote brands or trends. Athletes are using Social Media as a way to promote their brand (themselves).
The NCAA has recently ruled that college coaches may “click, not comment” on social media posts by prospective student athletes. This means coaches can friend “PSA’s”, like, and even share their posts. The new rule is having a dramatic effect on college recruiting!
It is important that you are educated on the impact social media can have on your future. The use of profanity, images of you with alcohol, bullying, wearing skimpy clothing are all examples of how it may cost you a scholarship. It’s not just the scholarship you should be concerned with either. College admissions offices are also using social media to better understand what kind of person you are.
The purpose of sharing this is to encourage you to spend some time reviewing all of your accounts to ensure they are clean. It’s fine for you to have silly images of yourself but be sure there is no profanity. As a reminder, college coaches are looking for positive role models for their program. Your image is going to be plastered throughout the institution, on the media guides, their social media etc.
Social media is not all bad. It can actually be used as a recruiting tool to gain exposure. This is a great place to check in at tournaments, share articles, video and pictures. Although most of your peers are not using Facebook, the college coaches who are recruiting you are definitely using it.
A great recruiting tip is to follow all of the college programs that interest you. The coaches post awesome clips of their athletes in practices, matches, traveling, and site seeing. It’s really fun to follow and it’s easier to stay up to date when you are sending updates. You can take the time to personalize your emails to them to reflect their record or upcoming matches. You will also get a better feel for what playing at the next level is really like.
With the popularity of social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Student-Athletes are under the microscope than ever before. College coaches can easily monitor Student Athletes from their computers and mobile devices. Social media can serve as a valuable resource for Student Athletes to promote themselves and their achievements.
Now let’s look at the what you need to do to hit the field running with your marketing plan!
Set up a Dedicated Email Account – Your email strategy is one of the most important parts of this process and can make or break recruiting discussions with Coaches. You should have a dedicated email account for your recruiting process. This will allow you to be more organized and efficient by managing all your recruiting emails from one Inbox, which will be easier than sifting through all the emails.
Your Email Username should be simple and professional. Your email username should look professional and should represent you. A good guideline is to use your first and last name or your first and last name and graduation year. For example: JordynBurns@gmail.com or JordynBurns2022@gmail.com.
Email Signature – You should have a dedicated email account so you can insert a strategic, professional email signature into all of your emails sent to coaches. This will make your emails look more professional, and it is another indication to coaches that you are serious about the process.
Most email service providers, such as Gmail and Yahoo, enable you to create and add an email signature to your emails. This information should include your name, graduation year, position, high school (or club team); GPA, SAT and ACT scores; link to your online profile, link to your YouTube Channel; link to game schedules, etc.
Let’s take a look at this example. Jordyn Burns is a Midfielder at South Adams High School in Adams, New York. She is graduating in 2022. Her email signature may look something like this:
- Jordyn Burns ‘22
- Midfielder | South Adams CSD | Adams, NY
- GPA: 3.5 | SAT: tbd | ACT: tbd
- Athletic Profile: www.allstarrecruits.com/jordynburns (links to your Profile)
- Video: www.youtubejordynburns.com (links to your YouTube channel)
- Phone: 555-111-1212
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/jordynburns (links to your Facebook Profile)
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/jordynburns (links to your Twitter Profile)
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/jordynburns (links to your Instagram Profile)
This signature would appear at the bottom of all of Jordyn’s emails to college coaches. It is another way for coaches to get a quick snapshot of you.
Your Online Profile – Your online profile is one of the most important tools to maximize your exposure to coaches. AllStarRecruits gives you the ability to promote yourself, show coaches how serious you are about playing college sports, and to illustrate the attributes that you would bring to their program. It also provides details of your academic record, standardized test scores, showcase events that you will be attending, as well as links to local media articles. Your email strategy and your online athletic profile go hand and hand.
Create Your Highlight Video – The majority of coaches in the US are using the internet to watch videos on new Recruits. If you don’t have a video ready to go, then you are missing a great opportunity to get noticed. It is difficult for coaches to travel all over the country to watch recruits play. College coaches have an extremely busy life. They have team commitments, recruiting budgets, opponent research and scouting, game planning, recruiting of thousands of players, travel, practices, and the list goes on. With all that a coach has to do, it is very unlikely that they will spend the time or money to come watch you play based on your reputation.
You need to make it as easy as possible to get around a coach’s busy lifestyle. It is much more convenient for a coach to sit in his office and watch a 3-5 minute video of you then it is to travel across the country. Sending your video to a coach can fast track the recruitment process for you. Recruiting videos have become an essential part of any high school recruit looking to gain the attention of prospective college coaches. Most recruiting videos today are presented through online links. AllStarRecruits.com has the functionality for Student Athletes to upload links or YouTube videos directly on their recruiting profiles. Coaches time is valuable, so it makes more sense to send a link that can be easily be viewed online through a laptop or mobile device. Learn more about Creating your Highlight Videos here.
Getting the Attention of Coaches
You have created your online profile, researched schools and created your targeted school list, optimized your personal brand, cleaned up your social media accounts, created your highlight videos, and now it’s time to start getting the attention of college coaches. This is a key part of the process. It is also important that YOU (the recruit) are the one driving the process….not your parents or anyone else. If a coach receives a compelling and relevant email from a high school student athlete who wants to be part of their program, it can be extremely powerful and hold more weight than someone else doing the work.
It’s About Them (Not You)
Before you contact a coach, you must do your homework. You must start thinking about the coach’s needs before your own. Most student athletes who are hoping to get recruited send emails and videos that are all about themselves and never mention anything about the university, the program or the coach. Before you attempt to call or send emails, make sure you know something about the program. Make sure you have a clear, concise message on why you would like to play for their program, and how they will benefit from what you can bring to the team.
First, make sure to Google the Coaches on your Targeted Schools List and search for them on Twitter and YouTube to find information on their programs and coaching style. Next, write down any personal connections you have at the schools on your target list. If you don’t have personal connections at a school, try to get in touch with current or former players (via Social Media) and ask them if they would talk about their experiences with the program.
If you are wondering why you are doing all this research, it is because you want to be relevant in your emails and videos than every other athlete trying to get the coach’s attention. The more effective you are at communicating via email, the better chance you have of getting on a coach’s recruiting list. If it is before September 1 of your Junior Year, the Coach is not able to respond, so it is imperative that you provide them with relevant, useful content.
You can utilize email in many ways to gain exposure with coaches:
- Schedule calls with coaches
- Schedule unofficial visists
- Let coaches know you will be attending their camps
- Let coaches know what tournaments you will be participating in
- Send coaches a link to your online profile
- Make coaches aware of your grades/test scores
They key is to create relevant, attention grabbing emails. Utilize the research you have done to spark interest with coaches.
You will want to send the Coaches to your top three schools an Introductory Email to get on their radar.
Need help writing your email?
Continuing the Conversation
Once you have started a conversation with a college coach, it is important to keep these coaches updated on your athletic achievements. When updating coaches, be sure to include both individual and team accomplishments, anything from winning a league championship to improvements in personal stats. Updated highlight videos should also be included in order to show your progress throughout the season.
Not only should coaches be updated on your athletic achievements, but they should be updated on your academic progress as well. Notifying coaches of updated SAT and ACT test scores expresses that you are working hard both on and off the field. Coaches really do care about how you will fit in academically into their program, not only athletically.
Finally, inform coaches of the other schools who have shown interest and are actively recruiting you. Ask coaches where they are in their recruiting process. Questions that you should be asking after the first few emails should be:
- Are you recruiting athletes in my grad year and position?
- This is beneficial in eliminating college options who would not be recruiting you.
- Have you been able to watch me play live or have watched my video?
Lack of time makes it hard for a coach to see every athlete play, so checking in will give you a better opportunity for your skills to be noticed.
- Do I fit in to your recruiting plan, or where do I rank on your recruiting board?
This is a very important question, because the answer will dictate if you want to continue to pursue that school.
Remember, when contacting college coaches, to be upfront and honest with them in order to have the most successful interactions and decide if they will be the best fit for your future. Always try to be direct, clear, and build a relationship just as you would when talking with a parent or friend.
The Best Time to Send Emails to Coaches
Since you are putting in all this effort into creating relevant, attention grabbing emails to coaches, you must also be strategic about when to send them.
Coaches say that they receive most of their emails from potential recruits on nights and weekends. Don’t be like all of the other student-athletes who are trying to get the Coach’s attention. They are emailing the coach when they (the student-athlete) are free, not the coach. Remember, it’s about THEM, not YOU. Think about a Coach’s schedule. The majority of the time, it is crazy busy. Coaches can read an email at any time, but it is a good practice to send your emails in the morning (between 9:00-11:00). Many Coaches are sitting at their desk in front of their laptop at this time. This also allows coaches all day to go through their email account and respond. If they don’t open or respond to your email after a few days, then send them a follow-up email.
You might be thinking…“I am at school, or I don’t have the time to send emails on weekday mornings”. There are a couple of ways around this. After you draft your emails, you can have them scheduled to be sent out at a time that you choose, preferably for coaches between 9:00am-11:00am. There are services like Boomerang for Gmail, which is a plugin/extension you can download for free and is simple to use. Second, if you have a study hall in the morning, you could explain to your teacher what you are trying to accomplish and that you would like to spend the class time sending out emails to universities you would possibly like to attend. This is a reasonable request, I would think most teachers would understand. You should have the emails drafted completely so you are just sending emails and not editing and writing during this limited time.
Make sure to check game/event schedules (you can find them on the school’s athletic website), so that you are not sending a coach an email on game day. Coaches will be focusing on the game that day and chances are that your email will go unopened. You should also know when a coach’s season is over. For the most part, the few weeks after the season ends, Coaches will be trying to wind down and will not be doing any recruiting.
When to Contact College Coaches
First you need to consider your grad year and which division you are interested in. Student-athletes are allowed to email college coaches at any time, but NCAA regulations restrict Division I and Division II coaches from actively recruiting until the September 1 of their junior year. This means that if you are not a Junior and are emailing Coaches, you should loop in your high school or club coach (you should always consider having your coaches included). It’s common for college coaches to coordinate schedules through the high school or club coach since they can’t call the student-athlete directly. Division III and NAIA college coaches, however, can contact recruits anytime.
Next, consider the time of year. The NCAA lays out four contact periods throughout the year that dictate the type of communication Division I and Division II coaches can have with student-athletes. If you are a Junior and emailing a coach during a “dead period,” for example, you will not get a response. Another reason to use “read receipts” on your emails.
How Often to Email Coaches
Now that you have sent out your introductory emails to the head and assistant coaches at one of your target schools, give them 48 to 72 hours to open the email (read receipt) and respond. Be sure to cc your high school or club coach. If you do not hear from them within that time frame, you should send them another email (at the strategic time). Send them a follow-up email and reference your previous email and include the date you sent the first email. If you have new events scheduled you can include them in the follow up email. Remember keep it short and concise. Coaches are extremely busy and do not have time to read through lengthy emails.
In the meantime, continue to update Social Media with relevant, positive content. Keep your athletic profile updated. If you or your HS or Club Coach do not hear back from the College Coach, wait a month and do the process again.
If you work hard at these tasks, then your recruiting strategy is well underway. You have given yourself a far greater chance of getting the Coach’s attention, which is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in the recruiting process. Once you get your “foot in the door” coaches can get to know you to see if you are a good fit for their program.
I would recommend following the same process for your top three targeted schools, before moving on down the list.