“I’ll open that email.” How to stand out in a college coach’s inbox

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.

An introductory email to a college coach is the digital equivalent of  knocking on the door. It serves as a calling card and first impression, and as such, it can be an important first step in the recruiting process.

So, what do coaches look for in an email? What are the key pieces of information that will get an email read and saved from the Trash? We caught Joe Adam, who is now in his third year as head football coach at DII Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire at a good time, he said. “We’re right in the period before spring football and this is a time we’re starting to build our pool of guys we may have interest in for the fall.”

An email, he says, “holds a lot of weight,” but his time is precious, and if an email does not instantly and accessibly convey the information he is seeking about a recruit, he will “move on.” Here are tips from a coach’s perspective on how to craft the most impactful email.

Convey essential information in the subject line

Coach Adam receives up to 25 emails a day. He tackles them mostly in the mornings but may dip into more at the end of office hours. “We are mobile all the time, so I dip into them at home,” he says. “You can’t get away from it.” Adam opens every email, but a carefully crafted subject line can make the difference between “read” and “delete.” “If I get a subject line that reads, ‘What’s up, coach?’ I’m moving on,” he says. “But a subject line that reads ‘2019 strong safety, 6-foot, 215 lb., 3.4 GPA, I’m opening that email 100 out of 100 times.

A subject line that said something along the lines of ‘High Academic Recruit,” might be the only other thing that would catch my eye.”

Pay attention to the fundamentals

Make sure your email is going to the right people. “I get emails addressed ‘Dear Coach So-and-So, I’m interested in School B’ and, well, this is not School B. You can tell that the auto-populated field sent it to the wrong school,” Adam states.

He also emphasizes the importance of researching a school before applying. “We’re a high academic school,” he says. “Before I watch anybody’s highlight video, I’m going to qualify them from a GPA perspective. If you’re emailing me with a GPA of 2.5, I’m just going to hit delete.” He also recommends running spellcheck before hitting “send.” “If there are grammatical errors in the email, I move on,” Adam emphasizes.

Get personal

“I don’t see that very often in emails,” Adam says. “I see a lot of the accolades and what they do on the field. But I rarely see personal information about their family situation, for example, where their parents went to school or whether they have a sibling. I would love to see that included, maybe at the bottom of the email. This is information we cover in our online recruit form, but it would be great to have that information upfront.

Does your social media wave red flags?

The email is a conduit and avenue toward social media, Adam observes. “If I’m interested in a recruit, I will send him something via email and follow-up with his social media. I’ll check Facebook and Instagram for any inappropriate stuff. My rule of thumb is: if you have images on your phone and you were with your family, would you unlock your phone and let them scroll through them? If you don’t think they are appropriate, that’s a good barometer (on whether or not to post something). There have been times I‘ve dropped multiple recruits and pulled scholarship offers because of their social media.”

Get to the point, use humor at your own risk

  • Adam doesn’t mind mass emails. “I understand people are trying to get their name out there, but they should learn to BCC (to hide the emails of the 50 other coaches on the email).”
  • Adam does not want to have to work to get vital information. “If I have to read through 20 lines to figure out your GPA, it’s going to get lost in the shuffle,” he advises.
  • Use humor at your own risk. In emails, as in comedy, timing is everything. “If I open an email after a 15-hour workday, I don’t know if humor is going to fire me up that much,” Adam says with a laugh.

They should teach this stuff

“There’s no doubt,” Adam agrees. It is surprising that with so much on the line, recruits will send out emails that indicate a lack of preparedness and a lack of attention to detail, or on the flip side, not respond to coaches’ emails or follow-ups in a timely manner. These are not qualities or behaviors that will impress. “When you’re only dealing with potentially 25 scholarship athletes a year, then the pool is very tight,” Adam says. “Every little piece counts. Guys that are in my position who are investing and handing out money want to know exactly who they are getting involved with. I want to recruit kids who believe in what we do. It is vitally important.”

Read More: How to write subject lines that will get your email opened

Read More: How to tell if coaches are reading your student-athletes emails

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