Emailing a coach: How to make it PERSONAL

College soccer season is incredibly busy, but recruiting never stops. Coaches want to hear from PSAs(Prospective Student Athletes). High schoolers are always told to make their emails “personal,” “make it unique,” “show that you actually did some homework about that school or that team.”

HOW is that done?

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

In this article, you will be given a fish, but you will also be taught HOW to fish for the ingredients to put into your perfect recruiting email.

I am going to pretend that I am a very good 10th grade high school soccer player who is interested in the women’s soccer program at Arizona State University. (If you’re actually a PSA interested in ASU soccer, here’s your fish!) I already know a little bit about the school. I know I’m good enough to play NCAA DI soccer, and that’s my goal. The Tempe area seems cool, and they have a women’s soccer team. I know ASU offers a lot of different majors, but I’m not 100% sure they offer the major I want (for this exercise, I’ll pretend I am interested in Elementary Education).

FIRST STOP: GOOGLE

I Google “Arizona State Majors” and quickly find THIS page, and click on “undergraduate degrees.” I scroll down, and BINGO! Elementary Education!  I bookmark this to save it for later, but for now, all I need to know is that they offer it. Now, when I email the coach, I won’t look like an idiot when I say, “I really want to study Elementary Education, and the program at ASU looks great.”

SECOND STOP: GOOGLE (yes, again)

Now that I have the “student” portion of “student athlete” done, I need to find out more about the women’s soccer team.

  • Coaches’ names
  • Coaches’ bios
  • Team roster
  • Team performance

This will be vital to sending an email that stands out.  This time, I google “ASU women’s soccer.”

Notice that the websites in the google results are different than the academic ASU site.  Most schools have a .com for the school and a different .com for the athletics department.  At this athletics .com, I can quickly find the names and email addresses for the women’s soccer coaching staff. This page will have the most up-to-date contact info for coaches as well — unlike many recruiting services who don’t update their databases right away when a coaching change happens.

I find the names and email addresses for all of the coaches on THIS page. I open up my email, and I start composing an email that includes the top three coaches there (I don’t include the assistant athletic trainer who works with the wrestling team, too).

Coaches are VERY BUSY during soccer season, so I make sure to point out that my email won’t take a lot of time. My email’s subject line includes my name, MY GRAD YEAR, my position, and the fact that I play for a top league in the nation.

After that, I start poking around in their schedule on the ASU Sundevils website. I see that they’ve had some big wins and have some big games coming up. They beat SDSU in overtime. They have a tough game coming up against Oregon State. That’s all interesting, and the SDSU score might be good to bring up in the email. I dig deeper to learn more about the team so I can show the coaches that I really did invest time into learning about their program.

When I click on the main link for “W Soccer,” I can scroll down and see stories that ASU has posted about the team’s games and some about certain players. THIS STORY about Jazmarie Mader really stands out to me. I suffered a concussion earlier in high school, and the recovery taught me a lot. The story also shows me that the head coach is in his first year, emphasizes possession-style play, and plays with two forwards up top. PERFECT! I have lots of information to use in my email now. I go back to my email and start typing.

My email talks quickly about myself, and I include a link to my (SHORT) highlight video.  I talk a bit about Jazmarie, since that really hit home for me.

I’m almost done with my email.

THIRD STOP: SOCIAL MEDIA

I need to wrap up my email with a good sign-off.  Arizona State must have a “catch phrase.”

USC’s is “Fight On!”

University of Texas yells “HOOK ‘EM, Horns!”

I need to find ASU’s phrase, since I’m not quite sure what rabid Sundevils yell.

A quick google search for “ASU Sundevils Twitter” gets me HERE @thesundevils, and there it is.

#ForksUp !

I re-read my email to make sure it’s looking good.

I pointed out that I’ll be in Phoenix in November, and that I kick butt in ECNL.

My club coach’s name and cell phone number is in there, because I know NCAA rules don’t allow ASU coaches to contact me directly this year, but they can call my club coach!

I also noticed that on all of the ASU athletics sites, they call themselves “Sun Devil athletics,” not “Sundevils,” so I fix that little detail in my email. Little mistakes like that can stand out to some coaches.  After a quick prayer, I click “SEND.”

Researching and composing that email took a bit of time, but not a whole lot.

So I had to give up a little time on SnapChat — it’s worth it to work towards my goal of college soccer!

College Showcases: A how-to for team managers

You are the manager of a competitive club soccer team full of players with dreams of landing roster spots on college soccer teams. Your team has been accepted into a college showcase, and everyone is excited. The team has prepared, you’ve been reminding your players to contact college coaches, the recruiting flyers are looking great, and it’s time for soccer!

Here are tips for a team manager during a college showcase:

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

Most high-level showcases will have barricades on the sidelines that say “Players and coaches only.” Be sure you are clean-cut and wearing a hat or a shirt from your club so that you are seen as a team “official” when you walk past the barricades to give your flyers to college coaches.

K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, sweetheart)

When interacting with a college coach, keep it short and sweet. The coaches are there to watch the game and usually do not want to carry on a conversation.  A simple “Hi coach, here’s our recruiting info,” while you hand him/her the flyer is great.  If a coach wants to talk more, you will be able to tell. Let the college coach dictate whether or not the conversation goes any further.  He may want to know about a particular player.  She may want to talk to your team’s coach after the game. He may want you to just hand over the flyer and go away.

TAKE NOTES

Every time you hand over a flyer to a college coach, make a note of it. Most college coaches will be wearing gear from their school, so identifying the college will be easy. Some coaches won’t be repping their school, so you’ll have to ask, “Which school are you from?” Have a pen & notepad handy so that you can keep a list, OR pull out your phone and text your co-manager the name of the college.  I’ve used both methods, and the text list ended up being the best way of keeping the list. My co-manager also had a stack of flyers, and we would text each other during the game, keeping the list going and making sure we knew which coaches we had covered.

At one game during the Surf College Showcase in 2016, we had over fifty college coaches watching!

REPORT BACK 

After each game, send out a quick email to the team with the list of colleges that were watching the game. You probably won’t get names of the individual coaches, but that’s OK. When a player emails a college coach, the email should be sent to everyone on the coaching staff anyway.

College coaches at showcases have been known to hand their business cards to team managers or club coaches with a specific request about a particular player. If/when that happens, take a quick picture of the business card and text the picture to the parents and player with instructions to call that coach ASAP. (Or you can try to keep track of a tiny piece of paper long enough to hand it over to a mom or dad while juggling player cards and game reports.  Good luck with that. Trust me. Take a picture of the business card before it disappears.)

DEBRIEF

Take a moment to talk with your team’s coach privately about the game and the recruiting. In person, at happy hour, or over the phone, whatever.  Were there players that didn’t get to play when certain colleges were there? Did some coaches express extra interest in particular players? Talk about all of this with your coach so he/she can follow up accordingly.

ENCOURAGE COMMUNICATION

Remind your players to contact coaches of schools that interest them — SOON!  College coaches have told me that they are inundated with emails and phone calls during the week leading up to a big showcase, but they don’t get a lot of emails during the actual showcase. This is a great opportunity for an email to stand out! If one of your players is interested in one of the schools that was watching a game, an email definitely should be sent that day (especially if that player did well in the game).

Ultimately, a player will earn his/her own spot on a college roster, but there is no doubt that a team’s support staff can be an enormous help in getting players exposed to college coaches during soccer showcases.

Good luck! (and don’t get hurt)

College Showcase Prep: Anatomy of the perfect recruiting flyer

Your team has been accepted into an amazing soccer showcase tournament.

All of the players and parents are excited about playing in front of college coaches against great competition.

You’ll be preparing yourself and your players in the days leading up to the showcase.

During the tournament, you’ll be patrolling the sidelines, handing out recruiting flyers to college coaches.

Will your team’s recruiting flyer help or hurt your team?

I’ve been working on perfecting a team’s recruiting flyer for years now, and I believe I have finally developed the anatomy of the perfect recruiting flyer for soccer showcases. Dozens of NCAA coaches have complimented this design, and managers from other clubs have asked (very politely — you rock, Oceanside Breakers) if they could have one so they could replicate the layout.

Here is the anatomy of the perfect recruiting flyer:

THICK MATTE PAPER!  Use card stock with NO GLOSS.  Coaches want to be able to write on the flyer with whatever pen they have handy. Glossy paper is from the devil.

SINGLE FOLD! Tri-fold flyers look snazzy, but they’re confusing. It’s difficult for coaches to decipher any particular order of the info inside, and the flyers always end up folded incorrectly.  Keep it simple with a single sheet of thick matte card stock with a single fold.

COACH’S CELL PHONE front and center! Be sure to have a picture of your coach with his/her cell phone number prominently on the cover. NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from contacting high school players, but club coaches can be contacted.

TEAM NAME, ACCOMPLISHMENTS, and WEBSITE front and center! Have your team’s name prominently at the top, along with the team’s best accomplishments. If your team has a recruiting website, include that link, too.  Simple web addresses (URLs) are best. If you don’t have a team website, you can purchase a .com from GoDaddy and simply have it re-direct to your team’s GotSoccer page. OR, contact me if your club’s board would like to talk about making recruiting websites for all of your teams.

EASY-TO-VIEW PHOTOS! Each player should have his/her own section with a photo. The photo should be recent, and head/shoulders only. Since the actual photo on the paper will be quite small, crop the photo so that a college coach will be able to clearly see the face and match that with the player on the field. Teenagers will make this difficult, but try to have the photo match the player’s current hair style/color.

EASY-TO-READ PLAYER INFO! Be sure to make the graduation year prominent for every player. Include the player’s name (duh), jersey number, grad year, position, height, email address, cell phone, high school, GPA, and possibly SAT/ACT test scores if the player wants that included. If a player is blazing fast (speed kills), include the 40yd dash time.

NOTES SECTION! Be sure to leave room for college coaches to make notes. Each player should have space for notes, and you can leave more room for notes if your roster doesn’t fill up all of the room on the flyer.

QUALITY PRINTING! They didn’t pay me to say this, I swear. If you’re local to San Diego, Print & Copy House in Encinitas is amazing. The turnaround time is great, and the quality is even better.

DON’T TRY TO BE SNAZZY. A few years ago, I walked past a college coach trying to make sense of a recruiting flyer handed to him by another team. The flyer was eye-catching. It looked like something out of a marketing presentation from a hip start-up hoping for angel investor seed money.  It was awful for college recruiting.  Do your team a favor and leave the snazzy marketing material away from the recruiting flyer.

If you use this layout, you can easily modify it to include 16-22 players by making more “notes” sections or increasing/decreasing the size of the team’s info section on the front.

Good luck at your showcase! (and don’t get hurt)

Prepping for College Recruiting Showcases: a to-do list for team managers

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional beginning of summer, and it is also the beginning of the summer recruiting season for college coaches.  Teams have been working on their skills, looking to collect hardware for the trophy case as well as attract the attention of college coaches on the sidelines.

The players will be putting their best soccer on display, and the team staff can be a significant help to assist players in their recruiting efforts. (click here for manager tips during the showcase)

Here is a team manager’s to-do list for the week leading up to a big summer showcase.

SUNDAY OR MONDAY (the week before the showcase begins):

  • Finalize your recruiting flyer and get it sent to the printer (read more about the perfect recruiting flyer HERE).
  • Find the link to the list of college coaches attending the tournament. Each tournament will have the list online, like the ManCity Cup HERE.
  • Email your players and families, telling them to look at the list of colleges and decide which college coaches they’d like to contact.
  • Give your players a sample email template they can use when emailing coaches. Be sure to tell the players to include the team’s schedule, their own cell phone #, the coach’s cell phone #, and a link to a highlight video or player profile. Including a sentence or two about why the player likes that particular college will also help the email stand out to college coaches! (“I watched your game against… The team looked great. I love how you attack out of the back, and I think my playing style will fit well.  I also love the engineering program.”)

MONDAY OR TUESDAY:

  • Remind your players to be sending out emails to college coaches.
  • Have an in-person meeting or a phone call with your team coach(es) to discuss the recruiting strategy at the games.  The coaches will be busy coaching and will not be able to deal with college coaches during the games, but ask your team’s coaches if they want to be told if a certain college coach is there to see a certain player. Some coaches will be eager to put in particular players to be seen if a college coach is there to see that specific player. Other club coaches would rather focus on coaching the game.  Make sure you are on the same page with your team’s coach!
  • Remind your players to be calling college coaches as well.  A phone call or voicemail will go a long way to help a player stand out to a college coach.  College coaches are making their recruiting plans for the showcase right now. If a player takes the initiative and courage to call a coach and leave a nice voicemail, it could make the difference between being on an evaluation list or not.

WEDNESDAY OR THURSDAY:

  • Pick up the recruiting flyers from the printer.
  • Buy sunscreen.
  • Get a hat/shirt that has your club logo on it. Polo shirts are best, but whatever you can get is great.
  • Get cash for parking at the fields.

FRIDAY:

  • Check in the team.
  • Remind players of the NCAA rules regarding recruiting at tournaments.  NCAA coaches are very limited in the contact they are allowed to have with high schoolers. The rules vary so much from year to year that most NCAA coaches default to the most strict of the rules (no contact beyond just a simple greeting) for all high school athletes.  (This is why it is vital to include the club coach’s cell phone # in all emails!)
  • Also remind players and parents that you will be handing out recruiting flyers to college coaches during the games. Let them know that after each game you will send out a list of colleges that were watching. Let the families know that they can look forward to getting those lists from you (and that you like chocolate/beer/tacos, if they’re feeling grateful for all of your hard work).

TOURNAMENT TIME!  CLICK HERE to read all about recruiting during a showcase.

Advice from the Financial Aid Expert

helpCollege soccer scholarships are very rarely “free rides,” and college is getting more and more expensive every year.

Many competitive soccer families find themselves in a difficult financial situation in the years leading up to their athlete leaving for college:  They are in the middle and upper-middle class economic ranges, and even though they don’t feel “wealthy” at all, they qualify for very little “need based” financial aid (if they qualify for any at all).

Making college affordable for the parents while minimizing their children’s debt upon graduation is a goal of many parents of college-bound soccer players.

We asked financial aid expert, Jen McMahon, about the search for college affordability.

allstarJen is the head of the financial aid department at an NCAA Division II university.  She also owns and operates All Star Financial Aid, a private financial aid consulting group specializing in finding aid for families of college-bound student athletes. **

Before the Q&A with Jen, some basics:

FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA can be filed beginning Oct 1 of a high schooler’s senior year, and needs to be re-filed every year after that throughout college.

EFC: Expected Family Contribution.  The FAFSA will return a number to the family that states how much the family should be able to pay per year towards college. (This number frequently results in a lot of sarcastic and “are you kidding me!?” laughter.)

Now on to the Q&A with the expert:

RSF Attack: Besides not saving enough money early enough, what is the most common mistake families make regarding college finances? 

jen-mcmahon-1Jen McMahon: The most common mistake is not to file the FAFSA.  Some families think that they make too much money, but by not filing the FAFSA they are saying they are not interested in any other scholarships and grants.

RSF Attack: What would you say is the biggest financial misconception you see from families of college-bound athletes? 

Jen McMahon: The misconception is that D1 is always better than any other division.  Young American children see only D1 football and basketball on TV.  We are teaching our children that D1 is where it’s at.  Outside of football and basketball, other sports compete possibly at even a higher level than D1 in other divisions.

RSF Attack: If parents of a high schooler haven’t started saving for their child’s college education, what is the best thing they can do now? Or is all hope lost? 

Jen McMahon: You may not believe it, I am not saving for my kids college. It actually hurts you on the FAFSA.  All hope is not lost there is a lot of money out there in scholarship and grants.  It’s also amazing what loan programs are out there for students and parents.

RSF Attack: For families that don’t qualify for need-based aid based on the FAFSA but still need help covering college costs, what is your first piece of advice to them? 

Jen McMahon: File the FAFSA. You may not be eligible for need based federal grants, but may qualify for a college’s need based scholarships and grants. They won’t be able to give them to you unless you file the FAFSA. Also, all students no matter what the need is, will be able to borrow between $5500-7500 just by filling out the FAFSA.

RSF Attack: Many parents don’t consider private universities because of an assumption that they will be much more expensive than a public/state school.  Is this a poor assumption?

Jen McMahon: The sticker price is defiantly more expensive, but the student’s “need” is greater, so it can level out for families. A private school can end up being an even lower cost than a state school in some cases.

RSF Attack: What is your opinion of the current student loan crisis, with so many college graduates crippled by their student loan debt? (42 million Americans own 1.3 trillion in students loans, with many owing $100,000 or more after graduation from college.)

Jen McMahon: I haven’t seen that students are “crippled” by their student loan debt.  I see that students are uneducated about student loans and don’t know their options.  The government has great programs in place for students to be able to manage their student loans.  Additionally, students that take out student loans have better GPA’s and are able to build up their credit. Taking out a loan that has to be paid back after graduation helps a student feel like they have a stake in their education, too, since they have “skin in the game.” As long as the debt is manageable and reasonable, student loans can be good. The “crisis” that I see is not with the student loan program but the lack of financial preparation that students receive K-12.  We are not equipping our students to be able to handle finances.  That’s why several universities are implementing financial literacy programs to provide assistance for those student.

RSF Attack: Thank you for your advice and insight!

 

Do you need to pay for a recruiting service?

A hammer sitting on a shelf is just a hunk of metal and wood — you have to USE the hammer the right way for it to be useful.

There are many college search tools, and they are just that — TOOLS that need to be used.

Here are FREE search tools you can use to find a college that fits your preferences for everything BUT athletics:

college_board_logoThe College Board has a great free search tool HERE.

cs_logo_baseboard   CollegeData.com has another search tool you might like HERE.

niche-logo-fullNiche.com is a fun tool to see lot of “insider” info about a school’s on-campus culture.

There are also PAID college recruiting/matching services that you can consider.  Many have free options, but they’ll always try to entice you into paying for a membership with more services and features.

These companies will add ATHLETIC matching along with the types of matching the search tools above use.

Many will offer insider connections to college coaches, claiming they can put you in touch with college coaches more easily than you could on your own.

Here are a few:

ncsa_logo_black-6180a58c5968381e7ffa70dad7fd87a5  BeRecruited_Logo__new__large  cff-logo option captain-u-logo-png.png sflogo
images

“Do I need to pay for one of those recruiting/matching services?”

As you would expect, the answer isn’t the same for every family.

The truth that the paid services don’t loudly advertise is that ALL OF THE INFORMATION they provide is out there for you (for free!), if you know where to look (it’s not that hard) and you have the time.

Also, even though paid services advertise that they can get you in touch with college coaches, the truth is that college coaches like to hear DIRECTLY from the athlete.

(Free advice: When a tournament is using one of those paid services, sign up for the basic and FREE profile so that your information is sure to be in the database & programs that coaches get, but don’t feel like you’re missing out if you don’t pay extra.)

Many families decide that it’s worth the cost to have a service that helps save time and organize the search process.

If you sign up for a paid service, USE IT! Take full advantage of the tools provided, but don’t assume that the service will do all of the work for you.

smile-because-I-am-overwhelmed-300x300“What if we don’t sign up for one of those paid recruiting services? Will this process be too overwhelming to do on our own?”

Great question!  And, the answer is NO!  You can do it, you just have to put in the effort.  You will have two main tasks:

1: Organize your search

2: Figure out which schools are the best fit for you — academically, athletically, and socially.

That’s a lot to do.  Will a paid service do all of that for you?  NO! Will a paid service help a bit with the first few steps?  YES, but you’ll still have to put in the time to organize your search, narrow down your choices, and contact coaches.

In the long run, when your recruiting journey comes to an end, you’ll feel ownership of the process.  You will also have organized a huge project.  You will have learned how to communicate with coaches and how to market yourself. Everything you do in your recruiting journey will be building skills that will help you succeed in college, and that’s awesome.

Tip for Juniors and Seniors: Always have a physical on hand

PhysiotherapyAs you’re planning your Spring & Summer college visits, your to-do list just got one item longer: ATHLETIC PHYSICAL.

If you’re a junior or senior in high school, looking to attend an ID camp or train with a college team for a day, the college coach might request a physical. You should have one on hand, already done, so you can send it to the coach immediately upon request.

HERE is a generic athletic physical form from the American Academy of Family Physicians. You can take to your doctor’s office. Most high school athletics offices have similar forms as well.

Get the physical done by the doctor, scan the document to your computer, and you’ll have it ready to send to a coach.  Physicals are typically valid for six months, so be sure you have an up-to-date physical on hand when you start planning college visits and camps.