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More Tips on Off-season Athletic Recruiting

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Our commentary on the athletic recruiting process, web data and recruiting odds (8/3/2022) and ‘off-season’ activities to increase recruiting odds (11/23/2022) continue to be some of our most read. In brief, like standard admissions, there is an increasing number of actions that families can be taking to increase the odds of their athlete playing in college.

With the weather turning cold in the Northeast, we've been taken by a storm of questions about additional ways that student athletes can better position their recruiting effort off the field. While the off-season can be a welcome break, there remains a wealth of actions that applicants can take to advance their profile. What follows are some of the strategies we recommend to our clients and a game-plan for you to make the most of your off-season.

Grades: While the off-season may be a break from your sport, it's hardly an excuse to take a break from your studies. Grades are just as important to a student-athletes' recruitment odds as their in-season performance; keep in mind that coaches have a much easier time getting recruits with good grades admitted to their school, and that this has a major effect on their decision-making. If a recruit has a new marking-period of good results, an email coupling their academic success, combined with a video--even one that has already been sent--is a great way to stay visible and move up a coach’s priority list.

Snail mail: At this point, the vast majority of athletic recruits email college coaches. In a 2022 study of email marketing trends by Intuit-Mailchimp, the open-rate for email marketing campaigns averaged 21.33%. It is fair to say that because videos matter so much to college coaches, their open rate is much higher--but it is also likely that it isn’t 100%. Note that studies indicate handwritten letters have a 90% plus open-rate, as well as commanding the attention of recipients longer than an email would. We advise recruits to send a handwritten note to their target schools in the off-season to supplement their digital contact (see above). A recruit who sends a handwritten note highlighting interest in a program while mentioning a recent email/video is more likely to stand out with both schools they have had a dialogue with and schools that have been non-responsive.

Distant events: Most sports have tournaments during their off-seasons, generally located in warmer states. Athletes should consider that in the middle of the winter--much like many families--coaches from cooler parts of the United States are happy to attend events in warmer locations like Florida, Texas, and California. We recommend that recruits seek out showcase events attended by target schools. Coaches favor recruits who like to compete, grow and learn; taking a trip to a more distant event sends a positive message. In fact, informing a target school about a more distant event that a student athlete is attending through email can send a positive message before the athlete steps on the field.

Web presence: The web presences of students and student athletes matter. Much of what you read about social media is negative and cautionary, but social media can be a tool to advance student athletes as well. Different coaches favor different types of players as it relates to physical and mental attributes. A quick online search of a target program's head coach can often reveal what type of athlete they favor for their team. While some of the characteristics coaches seek out can be generic, many are more demonstrable and specific to the coach and program. With an understanding of what a coach and program favors, an athlete has an opportunity to highlight that portion of their ‘game’ and personality more clearly in their social media and on their recruiting site. Spending time fine-tuning an athlete's social media presence is a time-effective way to manage their impression on their target programs.

Learn the rules: The NCAA has very specific rules of engagement that coaches and athletes need to follow for D1, D2 and D3 athletics that also vary by sport. Knowing how and when coaches can ‘engage’ is important to an athlete’s outreach and efforts to garner attention. Spending the time to learn the rules is a good practice for when one is a little less busy.

From our articles on recruiting, it should be clear to families that the process is complex and changing. It should also be clear that what constitutes an effective recruiting plan is also changing because of the new ways people can gather information and communicate. While a wide array of resources on recruiting strategies is available online for those that don't want to do it alone, we're always ready to mobilize our expertise in support of your application.


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