Anyone who has followed college sports for awhile has likely seen that recruiting tactics can get weird. From sending a letter to the family pet to rides in the "swag-copter," it seems that some coaches who want a recruit badly enough—and have the budget to get extravagant—will stop at almost nothing (within NCAA regulations) to get their way.
Compared to some of the crazy stories you might have heard, this heartwarming letter campaign for men's basketball powerhouse Kansas University might not make the list of most extravagant. But it's still amazing to me, especially when you realize that world-famous coach and recruiter John Calipari had nothing to do with it.
Attention-grabbing, over-the-top recruiting tactics aside, it can be tough to understand what coach communication (or lack of it) really means. Most of us don't get weekly calls from Urban Meyer or Carol Hutchins. What we do get are snail mails, emails, and a modest number of contacts from various programs.
So what does that coach contact mean? Let's go from low to high in terms of level of interest.
When a college coach contacts you with a camp invite and recruiting questionnaire
A pamphlet in the mail with information about a college sports camp does not in most cases indicate an interest in recruitment. Whether they realize it or not, student-athletes have access to information in countless databases about tournaments attended or leagues played in.
Colleges make mega-money from camps—they're expensive!—so they mass-invite student-athletes of all ages and abilities to fill their camps each year. Do not take receiving information on a camp as a sign the program sponsoring it is hoping you will come.
The same goes for recruiting questionnaires. If you receive one in the mail, as exciting as it can seem, it's no indication of a program's interest.
While "something" may be better than "nothing," a program sending a recruiting questionnaire is only at the very first tier of expressing interest.
When a college coach contacts you with college brochures and form letters
These fall into almost the same boat as generic camp invites and questionnaires. Like it or not, there are many ways to find information on student-athletes, and colleges are in the business of enrollment.
A brochure or form email from a college or sports program is pretty much just that—a form letter.
If you like what you see, by all means explore the school and see if it would be a good fit for you. Be proactive in reaching out to coaches and sending video. Take the process into your own hands. Just don't assume that because a school sends you mail, they are interested in recruiting you for their program.
When you receive personal emails from coaches or programs
When things get personal, it generally means a level of interest is being expressed. But exactly where that level stands is still up in the air. If a coach takes the time to personally email you, it generally means he or she wants you to know you are on their radar. You've been noticed.
It may also mean you are a second- or third-tier recruit they are keeping on the back burner until they see where the guys or gals above you on the list shake out. And that's okay!
If it's a school you're interested in, be persistent. Do not take a personal email as anything more than what I've outlined. But keep communication going, be prompt when responding and send the coach an updated highlight film and stats.
When a college coach contacts you with handwritten letters, phone calls and personal information
These are the sweet spots of gauging interest from a college coach.
And what do all three have in common? They take time from a college coach's day. If a college coach takes the time to write you a letter by hand, mentioning specifics about you or how you could enhance their program, that is a great sign.
A personal phone call, within NCAA approved dates and times, is very meaningful.
If a college coach gives you his or her personal contact information, not only should you feel confident that they want to stay in touch and hear from you, but you should use the contact info ASAP and often.
Want to learn more about communicating with college coaches? Download a free sample chapter of Athletes Wanted.
Remember: No matter how you feel about the school, be prompt and courteous in responding to college coach contacts.
Our scouts can help you understand your level of recruitment and how to talk to college coaches. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.