Dear Coach Bryant:
My son has played squash for years, and has always expected to play in college. But now he’s entering his junior year, and other parents are telling me that getting a squash coach’s attention is even more competitive than the game itself.
The sports recruiting process seems so confusing. What do my wife and I need to do to boost our son’s desirability?
Baffled in Boston
The competition to get seen by coaches in any sport is very real. And while the recruiting process can seem confusing, there are things you and other parents can do to help their high school athletes boost their desirability. Here’s how to start:
- Research the right schools. It is absolutely vital that your son identify schools that are within a realistic reach for him – financially, athletically and academically. There is no point in pursuing colleges that are unaffordable for your family or beyond his academic/athletic skill sets. After you have helped him identify six to ten schools that check off all three of those boxes, you then have a corresponding list of targeted coaches to contact.
- Identify the right showcases. The next step is to help him determine where he can be seen by those targeted coaches. Some sport-specific showcases connecting coaches with potential recruits are by invitation only. Others are pay-to-play. It will take a bit of research to find out whether the coach your son wants to meet will actually attend a particular showcase, or whether that coach attended once years ago, and the venue is still using that photo to generate income. Help him ask the right questions.
- Prepare the right video. Your son should prepare a video to send to his targeted coaches in time for them to review it before the showcases. The right video should last no longer than two to five minutes. It should include edited and unedited footage that includes not only his standout moments, but everyday play. That will help those targeted coaches get a realistic picture of what he can do.
- Send the right email. Your son should then email each targeted coach, attaching his short video and high school transcript. Help your son keep his email text very brief, focusing on how he can academically qualify for the college and contribute to that coach’s team. Make sure your son knows that a coach will quickly scan the email to see if this athlete plays at the level where he/she typically recruits, whether the student can qualify academically, and whether the student can afford to attend without a scholarship. This is where your son’s initial research really pays off, because he will demonstrate that he can check all three boxes. The email should close by telling the coach that he will be attending a specific showcase, and what color/number he will be wearing, so the coach can easily identify him.
- Exhibit the right character. The final desirability boost is the way your son demonstrates the intangibles. When a coach is choosing between two equally-qualified players, the final determinant could be which candidate best matches the team culture. While it may be difficult for students to fully assess that culture, I can assure you that all coaches are looking for students who are positive and respectful. They notice how athletes handle themselves on the bench. They notice how they speak to their parents. Evidence of excellent character further boosts a qualified athlete’s desirability.
Coaches are busy. They don’t have time to watch five-hour videos or read lengthy essays. They can’t respond to the hundreds (maybe thousands) of unqualified students who contact them. High school athletes can therefore boost their desirability by accurately assessing their college prospects, identifying the corresponding coaches, sending brief videos/emails/transcripts to those coaches, and then finding a way to connect at the right venues. Once your son completes that process, he’ll be positioned to further boost his desirability by demonstrating not only his playing skills, but the kind of character qualities that will make him an asset to any future team.
All the best,