As the saying goes, first impressions last. As an athlete, your first interaction with a coach may be in the form of a letter, so it must represent you well. Penny Hastings, mother of a former Stanford soccer recruit and co-author of How to Win a Sports Scholarship, explains how to make a coach take notice with just a piece of paper.
Importance of a letter
A letter is a great way to introduce yourself to a coach, show interest in his sports program and ask for information about his school. "Write a little paragraph about yourself and let the coach know, right off the bat, that he can start looking at you," declares Hastings.
A well-written letter also reflects your ability in the classroom, which is important, Hastings says, "because college coaches want their athletes also to be students. They want to see that you can write a letter and know the proper way to do business, which is part of being a college student."
Be a student-athlete
Whether you're sending the letter via email or snail mail, Hastings stresses making it clean and succinct. "It doesn't have to be formal," Hastings explains, "just neat-not wrinkled or stained-and concise, so coaches can see that you're college material."
Remember to proofread the letter, making sure every word is spelled correctly and your grammar is correct. "Don't use the informalities you would in a text or email to your friends," Hastings says. Save the "dude," "ur" and "2" instead of "to" for chatting with friends, and conclude with "Sincerely Yours" or "Best Wishes."
When to send
For the third edition of her book, Hastings interviewed more than 500 college coaches, and most of them said they prefer to hear from sophomores and juniors. "Coaches want to hear from athletes earlier, so they can see them compete in their sports," she says. "So if you contact coaches [then], they can start a file on you and watch you play."
Don't lie. Hastings says, "There are all kinds of ways coaches can find out if you're telling the truth [about your skills and accomplishments]. So don't say you've done something if you haven't; be honest about your capabilities."
Make it personal
According to Hastings, a general "Dear Coach" letter is a huge turnoff to a coach. She says, "'Dear Coach' letters make the coach think you just sent an email or letter blast, so you don't really care where you go to school-you just want a scholarship."
Always use the coach's name, title and address, and make sure that information is correct. You can find it by going to the school's website.
Other ways to make your letter personal include pointing out specifically why you like the coach's program or school; mentioning a family member who went to that school; or writing about a friend or former teammate who played for the coach. Hastings says, "These details indicate a true, strong interest."
Don't get discouraged
If you don't hear back from a coach soon after sending your letter, don't get discouraged. Instead, Hastings suggests following up. "Send another letter that says, 'I wrote to you a few weeks ago, and I haven't heard back. In case you didn't get it, let me tell you again . . .' and then just reiterate your first letter. Coaches are contacted so often that sometimes letters get pushed to the bottom of the stack," Hastings says. "Persistence is good when you're really interested in a school."