By: Natalie Pedersen
Student-athletes don’t realize that athletic ability alone is not enough to get recruited, and this applies to ALL colleges. Yes, athletic ability is important, as well as strong academic scores, but there is one more key element that is important and should not be overlooked: making a good impression on a coach. Not just a good first impression, but a lasting impression that continues each time you not only talk to a coach, but anytime a coach hears or sees your name. What do I mean by that? Read on, my friends.
First, let’s start with the less obvious ways to make a good impression on a coach, or rather, how to avoid portraying a negative image to a coach. All of your social media pages are public and can be viewed by coaches at any time. This means you should not have any pictures or posts portraying yourself in a negative manner. “Sure, they understand that you are just a teenager,” says one former Division I Recruiting Assistant. “But, anything vastly inappropriate can greatly diminish the chances of a certain coach recruiting you.”
Another former Division I coach says “everything an athlete does is under a microscope,” meaning you never know where or how a coach will evaluate your character and determine if you are a fit for their team. “No one wants a bad apple dragging others down with them.”
You can also make a good impression on a coach through your letters and emails. Show the college coach that you are smart and a good student by having good grammar and writing skills. Remember, you are not sending a text to your best friend, so use complete sentences and pretend you are writing a thesis paper for your favorite teacher that accounts for 100% of your grade.
Next, take a minute to think about any phone conversations that you’ve had with college coaches. Did you present yourself in a professional manner? If you haven’t talked to any coaches on the phone yet, then think about how you can make a good impression every time you do. First, be prepared when you call coaches by knowing what questions you’re going to ask. Don’t call from a cell phone unless you know you’re going to have a good reception, and make sure there isn’t any background noise that could interfere with your conversation. You don’t have many opportunities to talk to coaches, so take advantage when you get them!
You should also be prepared to receive calls from coaches. Make sure you know the NCAA rules about making and receiving calls and know when the date comes that college coaches can start calling you! Have a list of questions you want to ask near the phone at all times. If for some reason you can’t talk at the time the coach calls, schedule a specific time that you can call the coach back. And, if you miss a phone call from a coach, make sure you have a professional and appropriate voice mail message. This is a key element that many student-athletes miss and one that could hurt your image if your voice mail is inappropriate in any way.
Now, what about talking to coaches in person? Whether you meet a coach at a camp, on an unofficial or official visit, or in your own home, you should always look presentable and act respectful. Shake the coach’s hand, use “Sir” or “Ma’am” when addressing them, and don’t swear. If you’re attending a college camp, make sure you come prepared with your own equipment because this is something coaches will notice.
As one former DI college coach puts it, just being respectful is still not enough. “Those who ask the coach questions will make a more lasting impression. Keep in mind that coaches are having the same conversation over and over with hundreds of prospects, so a little back-and-forth [sport] talk with a student-athlete who looks you in the eye and knows what he’s talking about will truly help that coach remember who you are in the future.”
In one article from the South Bend Tribune, Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald from Northwestern University talked about the professionalism of his coaching staff which can also be applied to recruits.
He said “At one of our first staff meetings, [Athletic Director Jim Phillips] said, ‘The “N” never comes off. That’s the guiding principle. In other words, NU coaches represent the school seven days a week, 365 days a year. If you don’t operate that way, you’re making a huge mistake.”
So, think about how you can impress coaches and put your best foot forward at all times. Prove to each college coach that you will be a good representation of their college and will wear their colors with pride.