You’re excited about pursing your college dreams while getting to play the sport you love. School is going well, you’ve scheduled your SAT and ACT tests, and you have even sent out your initial emails to your potential volleyball schools. You’re eager to get the coach conversations going!
And the wait begins.
As time marches on, you realize it’s been more than a couple of weeks and you haven’t heard back yet. Your excitement gives way to doubt.
Did my email go through? Are they just too busy? Did they Google me and not like what they saw? Did they already fill their roster with better players? Am I too short, too skinny, too…. ?
And then you check your email to find someone wrote back! OK, it’s a school you’ve not really heard of before, and it’s only one coach (out of 50+ schools you’ve reached out to), but hey, it’s a start, right?
What gives? What happened to all the rest of the coaches I sent emails to? Should I try again? Give up? Change my name and move to Sweden?
The waiting is the worst, isn’t it? You put yourself out there, and that was hard enough. Now you have to decide how to navigate the delicate balance of “Should I reach out and bother them again?” and “I need to keep my name fresh in their mind.”
I checked in with several coaches who all agree, they want you to reach out to them. Assuming you’ve done some research, and feel you’d be a good fit at their school and for their level of athletic program, here are 4 tips that can help you not only get on their radar, but make it onto their list and get some serious coach conversations started.
4 Tips to Spur those Coach Conversations
1) Make a personal connection.
Just like applying for a job, the recruiting process is all about relationships, and forming relationships is a life skill that will take you far, volleyball or no volleyball. If a coach senses that your message is a mass email from a recruiting service, or it shows you’ve made no effort to make a personal connection, he/she will likely move on (or just hit delete!). On the other hand, creating an authentic positive connection can help get you on his radar and begin to form a relationship.
Begin by doing some research. Learn about the teams you’re interested in. Follow their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds, as well as their website updates. You’ll see how well they are doing throughout the season and what their current roster looks like. Watch some games either online or on TV, so you can see the players and coaches in action. Learning all you can about a program helps you write emails that are more personal and show you’re making an effort to really see yourself on their team. It also gives you a realistic picture of whether you really are a good fit there.
2) Consider your email strategy.
When writing your emails to coaches, include something about yourself that helps them get to know you as a person (especially in the first few sentences). Maybe there are mutual people you both might know – someone playing there from your same high school or club team, something about the college you like, etc.
Think of your coach conversations as a series in a few phases, spaced out over several days.
- Phase one – filling out the recruiting questionnaire on their website.
- Phase two – the follow up email. Reach out to the head coach and assistant(s)/recruiting coordinator. Let the coach(es) know of your interest and that you’ve completed the questionnaire. If you are not yet a senior, acknowledge that you realize they may not be able to contact you back, and provide the email and phone number of your club and/or high school coaches.
- Phase three – follow up with another short email (not the exact one you previously sent) and then a phone call.
The subject line matters
Also very important is the email subject line. Include key information they can get at a quick glance.
- Graduating year
- Some specific information that would be important to the coach. For example, if it’s a highly academic school, include your GPA. Include a stat or your height (if it’s notable). You should ALWAYS have a video link in the email.
Example: Lisa Morgan, 6’5″ 2017 OH 3.88 GPA, video included
[Bookmark this: How to Create a Highlight Video that Coaches Want to Watch]
2) Send updates when things change.
Keep your information current and be proactive about letting coaches know when things change – especially when you have new video footage. Did your team recently win a bid to Nationals? Did you receive an award? Have a great game against a legit opponent? Get some great SAT scores? These are all opportunities to email coaches and let them know your updates. Sharing this additional information serves two purposes – sending them the update, and giving you an excuse to re-start conversations that may have slowed down (or have yet to begin).
3) Have perseverance.
Believe it or not, this tip could end up landing you a spot on the team just for the fact that the initial emails you sent may have gotten lost in the shuffle. True story: My daughter’s first couple of emails to the head coach at The University of Texas were never read! She didn’t give up though, and was eventually recruited, began a great relationship with the coaches, and graduated with her degree after an amazing four years as a Longhorn libero!
If you haven’t heard back in a long time, don’t put yourself down and give up. There may be many reasons for this, some of which are out of your control. Just keep the search going, expand your options to as many schools as possible who would be a good fit for your academics and playing ability, and stay persistent.
4) Invite! Invite! Invite!
Coaches obviously can’t recruit you if they haven’t seen you play, so don’t be shy – invite them to do just that! Many tournament websites have a page with an RSVP list of coaches who will be attending. Use that list as a starting point, but also check out last year’s list, because many don’t RSVP until very late, and others don’t RSVP at all.
If your target school isn’t on the list, there is no harm in emailing them anyway – and don’t forget to get some video footage while you’re there so you can send updates when the tournament is over! Big tournaments where you play against tough competition provides valuable footage! When you get home, send a follow up email with a link to the fresh updates you want to send.
Picking up a phone is an important component, too. Click here to get help with calling college coaches.
Hang in there!
It’s understandably an emotional time trying to spur these coach conversations, and you might be tempted to throw in the towel when it gets frustrating. Before you jump ship, know that the NCAA has regulations on when coaches can contact you. This depends on time of year, your age, and what division/level the school plays in.
Also, remember that coaches are extremely busy! It just might be an oversight that they haven’t written back to you yet (as was the case for my daughter). It’s very likely, that with a few tweaks to your strategy, you’ll be just fine and will land yourself somewhere great. You also never know when coaches will change schools – if they find themselves trying to start up a new program, they’ll need new recruits and maybe YOU will come to mind!
When to move on
Despite your best efforts, for some schools, those coach conversations just aren’t happening, and there does come a time when you might need to evaluate whether your time would be better spent elsewhere. Just like asking someone out on a date, if you’re seeing any positive signs, it might be time to move on to the “other fish in the sea”.
If a coach has specifically told you he has no spot, or has filled all the positions for your class, send a final thank you email, appreciating his/her time (many coaches won’t even give you this courtesy). You never know when the situation may change or you may cross paths again in the future. Keeping that positive relationship is key. Then, just move forward to other options.
Summary: How to keep the coach conversations active
- Make a personal connection
- Do your research, Email more than once, Don’t forget your club/HS coach contact info, Write good subject lines
- Send updates
- Share new achievements, Include fresh video footage
- Have perseverance
- Invite! Invite! Invite!
- Use the tournament RSVP list, Send follow up email with fresh updates after the tournament ends
The sooner the coaches know you exist the better. Once that is accomplished and you’ve had some initial conversations, it’s time to keep the ball rolling, so your hard work has a chance to pay off! Using these tips will get you closer to getting on their list in no time!
Now go fire up your laptop and get started!
If you would like help with your emails, you can download some tips and templates for writing to coaches here. Ready to take the next step? Start your online profile here!