In my last article I went over some of the basics of college recruiting: taking care of business on the field, in the classroom, and on your college entrance tests. However, there's more to being recruited than just talent and grades. You can increase your chances of playing softball at the next level if you strive for excellence in the following areas as well…
Attitude and Conduct
An area not everyone considers during their college recruiting journey is how their attitude and conduct affect future opportunities. I know you see professional athletes throwing tantrums on the field or celebrating excessively, but I wouldn't recommend being that kind of athlete.
Practice carrying yourself well and practice honoring the game every chance you get. This means doing so when things go well, but more importantly when things don't. I know tempers flare and you may feel extremely frustrated from time to time. That's human and it means you care about what you do. However, practice exercising self control and become a competitor that looks fierce, focused, and unstoppable no matter what! Be a source of determination, confidence, and positivity teammates can draw from in good times and bad.
The truth is, you never know when someone is watching.
Yes, college coaches and scouts watch for the skills you possess and the plays you make, but they also look at how you respond under adversity. What do you do when obstacles and challenges arise? Do you get down, give up, stop playing your game, and let negativity sink in? Or do you keep pushing forward? Do you continue making a positive impact?
Impress those who see you play in both your best performances and your worst outings.
Social Media and Online Presence
This can be an entire article all by itself. All I will say is, admissions departments, college coaches, and a whole lot of other people who will become influential in your future success, DO look at how you conduct yourself online. This is a FACT!
How they see your online presences is NO different than their evaluation of you offline, or in the real world. It's all connected. As far as they're concerned it's ALL a part of who you are. Do NOT give them reasons to discard you because you got all brave behind a keyboard or mobile device. Do NOT give them reasons to dismiss you because your friends thought it was funny to hack your account and post inappropriate content. It's still YOUR account. YOU are responsible for what shows up there, and don't think a clever nickname will “hide” you. Just because “everyone” else thinks posting their drama and stupidity online is fun, doesn't mean it's a good idea for people like you who actually have goals and dreams to go after.
Be willing to do what others won't so you can achieve what they can't!
The rule to follow for your online persona is simple: Always conduct yourself well, online or offline, as if the most important people in your life are watching. I don't care if you plan to delete a post later or figure just because it's a digital world you can “erase” it by deleting it. You can't. Once something is posted online, it's there, somewhere, and CAN be pulled up later. Plus, you never know who got a copy or a screenshot of what you posted before you could take it down. Don't take the chance!
Do the Legwork
One of the biggest mistakes I see student-athletes and their families make is assuming “if you're good enough, someone will find you and recruit you.” Why wait for someone else to determine your fate?
Do anything and everything in your power to get your name and face out there. In today's world of youtube, email, social media, Skype, and various other platforms, there's no reason for you to sit and home and wait for the phone to ring. Do not think that taking care of business in the classroom and on the field is enough. Do not think that simple attending recruiting events and showcases is enough. Do not think that creating an online profile with a recruiting service or website is enough. It's not, not if you want to give yourself the MOST opportunities possible.
Do not wait for your coach to do all the work for you. Do not wait for your counselor to do all the work for you. They each have many other student-athletes to help. YOU only have YOU to work on. Take ownership of your journey. Do the work.
Do not wait for college coaches to come find you. Go to them. Make it easy, but be smart about how you do it. I know college coaches who say the very first contact they get from a some players says something along the lines of, “I want to play softball in college. Do you have money for me?”
Um…what? This coach has probably already seen other players, been in contact with other players, heard about other players, and, if they don't know anything about you, and the first thing you ask is that question, the answer is going to be, “No.” They will consider other players they actually know something about before they ever think about giving you money when they know nothing about you.
Instead, start off like you would in real life when you meet someone new. Introduce yourself. Ask questions that help show your interest in attending their school and being a part of their program. Show you're interested in them by actually doing some research on who they are and what their school and softball programs are about. Don't ask questions that you can easily find the answer to on their school's website. This shows that you didn't care enough to do some work and you want them to do everything for you. Bad idea!
Show them how YOU can help THEM. Don't just go straight to asking or taking. Don't make it all about you. Give them a reason to listen to what you have to say. Make it at least a little about them. Why do you want to be part of what's going on at their school? Why do you think you'd be a good fit for each other? Include these kinds of details.
Make sure you use the right name for the coach and school. Double check this before you call or hit the send button in a message! This really does happen. I've talked to a number of college coaches who've experienced this kind of mistake or lack of attention to detail in communication from a potential recruit. Yes, it's a lot of work because the more coaches you contact, the more chances you'll have. Reaching out to coaches is not always the most fun task and it can be quite monotonous and boring, but again, be willing to do what others aren't!
Yes, there are templates out there you can use to help you begin communication with college coaches, however, if you're using a template you found online or via some other easily accessible source, chances are other players are too.
When a coach sees yet “another” letter written with exactly the same wording as a bunch of other emails they've gotten this week, they KNOW you didn't put much time or effort into writing it. They KNOW all you did was fill in the blanks. They KNOW you didn't put any personal thought or effort into your communication with them. This is a BAD way to start.
I'm not saying don't use templates at all. They can be very helpful. Go ahead and look at a template for getting a general idea of what kind of information you can or should include in your communication, but don't forget to add your own personal touch somewhere along the line.
Communicating with college coaches is likely a very new experience for you. This means you probably won't be perfect at it the first time you try it. You may not want to start off by contacting the schools you're most interested in first. Instead, start with the schools you have marginal interest in first to get some experience under your belt before you go for the ones you really, really, really want the attention of.
BONUS Tip: Follow Up
It's true college coaches can't contact you before a certain point in your high school years, however this does not mean you cannot contact them. Just because they don't immediately respond, don't give up. If you jot them a note or give them a call (and leave a message if they don't answer), from time to time, they'll likely remember your name before they remember the name of someone who only made contact once and never bothered to follow up.
That said, respect a coaches' time. They are incredibly busy and don't need pointless emails that say, “Dear Coach, just wanted to say Hi!” Have some kind of purpose for writing. Update them on something you just accomplished. Congratulate them for something cool that just happened with their program. Whatever reason you find, make sure it helps them see how you can benefit them and that you're serious about their program.
Be SMART about who you contact. Make sure you meet the general requirements and would be a decent fit for the school and program you contact, otherwise you're just wasting your time and theirs. There's enough work involved in your college recruiting journey. You don't need to add to it by spending time on tasks that don't benefit you. Best wishes to you in your journey. Work smart AND hard on and off the field.