If you have anxiety over the thought of calling college coaches, you are not alone! Many of your fellow student-athletes avoid calling coaches because either they don’t know what to say or they are nervous and don’t want to face rejection. Well, YOU’RE not most people!
While your friends are texting and emailing (and of course, you’ll do that, too), placing a well-planned phone call to your prospective coach can do wonders to set you apart from your competition.
I’ll walk you through how to prepare, what to say, and what you should do to follow up. So don’t stress. Going in with a plan will go a long way!
Facing the Fear
If you do have some stress about this whole phone calling thing, rest assured, coaches understand how you feel. Fear of rejection is a real thing, and they know how nerve-wracking it can be for a high school kid to pick up a phone and reach out to a stranger who may be holding the keys to his future in the palm of his hand.
If you do get a “rejection” they will usually let you down gently, but even if they don’t, don’t take it personally. On the positive side – at least you don’t have to spend any more time on that school and you can just move on.
How to Prepare for Calling College Coaches
First, do some research
You’ll want to get the scoop on some things, so you’ll be armed and ready before your conversation, as well as have something to talk about if you start feeling stuck.
- Check out their roster. Do they have players in your position graduating at the time you would be coming in?
- Find out who else has committed. This is not always a guarantee, but boys can check out sites like middlehitter.com, who only post commitments that have been verified by a coach, club website, or an official press release. Girls can use sites like RichKern.com, for a pretty detailed database of all kinds of college information (some of which you need a premium membership for). PrepVolleyball.com also updates a master commitment list. Keep in mind, lists like these are only as good as the information that people provide. There may be other unannounced recruits going places you won’t necessarily hear about.
- Learn something about the school, team, and coach. Use your Google skills to gather some information about the school, available majors, the team’s schedule, win-loss record, roster, and don’t forget to read the bio of the coach(es). Their social media channels can give you a feel for the program, as well. This research will also help you evaluate whether a school is a “good fit school” for you, both academically and athletically.
- Find a quiet time and place. Do not have the TV or a computer game running, even in the background, while calling college coaches. You might feel you are paying attention, but if there is even a hint of distraction, the coach on the other end of the line won’t be amused.
- Have more than one school on your list. If a coach “rejects” you, it’s not a great feeling, but knowing there are other schools to choose from helps. Just go down your list to the next one and repeat the process.
Next: Send a pre-phone-call email…
I recommend a short initial email with a link to your profile and video footage, along with a request for a phone appointment. Your phone call will come a few days to about a week later. This initial email is an excellent way to have a reason to call, and becomes a natural conversation starter.
What Should You Say?
As you get yourself organized for calling college coaches on your list, you should plan out some bullet points to help keep your thoughts together. I always suggest bullets so you don’t sound “scripted”, but if you want to write something out, do whatever feels comfortable. You can even practice with a friend. You should also take notes during the call, so you can remember things later.
Make sure to check the team’s game schedule beforehand, to avoid the few hours right before and after their matches. As a general rule of thumb, use a framework similar to this:
If they answer the phone…
- Introduce yourself (name, where you’re from, player for XYZ club/high school, position).
- Make a personal connection if you can (know a fellow player, went to their last match, etc.).
- Mention the email/video you sent in your initial email.
- Ask if now is a good time to talk.
If they say now is a good time…
GOAL: Getting yourself on their radar, inviting them to your next tournament, scheduling a visit, or agreeing to stay in touch and update them with more video as you progress through the season.
- Tell them you’ve been following their program and ask how you might go about speaking to them about getting on their recruiting list/being a part of their program/becoming a (name your position) on their team, etc. Let them explain their process and what he/she feels your next steps should be.
- Let the conversation flow naturally. Be a good listener. Have good manners. Be assertive, but not forceful. Remember, you want a reason to continue the conversation.
- Thank them for taking time out to talk with you.
If they say it’s not a good time…
GOAL: Scheduling a better time on another day, or agreeing to stay in touch and update them with more video as you progress through the season.
- Try to get an actual day/time that would work better for them, but if you can’t, you can do that in your follow-up email.
- Thank them for their time.
- Send your follow-up email.
If they don’t answer…
GOAL: Leave a message that makes them want to return the call, call your club coach, or at the very least, be on the lookout for your follow-up email.
Leave a message to:
- Introduce yourself (name, high school/club, position & height, grad year).
- Tell them the purpose of the call (follow up to the email/video you previously sent).
- Ask if they might call you back (leave a number) and let them know you’ll try again later. If you tell them when that might be, hopefully they can make themselves available for you.
- Thank them for their time.
Send a follow-up email in another few days to a week.
TIP: If you are not yet a senior in high school, NCAA regulations say the coach can’t call you back. In that case, leave a contact number or email of your club or high school coach, and maybe they can help to work out a better time.
How Should You Follow-Up?
GOAL: Establish contact and get a response. Begin to build a rapport.
If your initial email was a knock on the door, your phone call is a way to get them to open it. If you’re having a hard time getting that door to open, here are some things to try next:
- Fill out the recruiting questionnaire on their website
- Email a second time (not the exact wording as before), making sure you have a subject line that attracts their attention. Click here for 4 quick tips to up your email game – including the subject line.
- Have your club or high school coach reach out for you. They can find out the school’s level of interest and help you pin down a better time for a call.
- Send another email with an invite to an upcoming tournament – seeing you play may spark some interest.
If You Don’t Get a Response
Don’t be alarmed if you don’t get a response immediately to an email, especially during their season. That said, after multiple attempts, you may have to admit it’s time to move on.
- You may or may not choose to continue to send periodic updates/highlights as your season progresses.
- Continue moving down your list, to reach out to other schools.
Does Calling College Coaches Really Matter?
Most recruiting coaches say getting a personal phone call from a student-athlete is one of the parts of their job they enjoy, and that it does make an impact (assuming you are aiming for a “good fit” school).
Don’t get discouraged if the schools near the top of your list don’t work out. Continue your search. When you do make that connection, you’ll know.
TIP: Calling college coaches at schools appropriate to your academic and athletic ability greatly increases the likelihood of making a connection with that coach you’re looking for.
Go Ahead, Pick Up That Phone
Hearing directly from you on a phone call gives your potential next coach a chance to form a positive first impression of you, helps you both learn about each other, and helps you get one step closer to finding the right fit school. In any case, college coaches definitely prefer a personal call from a recruit over mass emails from a recruiting service. If they don’t have a position for you, it’s always good to know that, too. Plus, every “rejection” is another chance to practice!
Of course, none of this happens until you pick up a phone, so take a deep breath, get your list ready, and start calling! I promise, with a little patience and persistence, the more you practice this important skill, the easier it gets!
Good luck, and let me know how it goes!