March 20, 2014

The Introductory College Volleyball Recruiting Letter

Coach -

I have questions about introductory letters.  Having read your great website and book, one piece of advice comes through loud and clear:  cast a wide net in contacting coaches and programs.  Based on this advice, I suspect that many athletes send introductory emails/letters to dozens of schools.  I also suspect that in many cases, the only thing the player initially knows about many of those schools is that they have a volleyball team.  So, at a very early stage when just trying to get on the programs' recruiting radar, how much research and personalization is appropriate or necessary?  In other words, what should you say to a coach about why you're interested in his or her program (i.e., sending an email/letter) when, candidly, you're not entirely sure that you are?  This seems particularly true when an athlete is still undecided on a major or does not honestly know what collegiate level is appropriate for her skill level.

My gut tells me that every correspondence should have at least some personalization (e.g., "Congratulations on your strong finish in the MAAC tournament last year..." or "It's impressive to see that your team's record has improved each of the five years since you were hired as the head coach...")  But is that enough?  Obviously, the goal of the correspondence is to deliver a player's information, a link to some video and a tournament schedule in the hope that the coach will see something that captures his or her interest and gets him or her to either come watch the athlete in person or to contact her coach.  So, what should be in the first paragraph, in order to help encourage the coach to read the second paragraph and/or click on the link?  Or are the coaches simply looking for stats (year, height, position, approach touch) and video, and not really reading the rest of the letter?

As always, I appreciate your insight and advice. P.R.

Glad to help and thank you for the compliments on the book and site - Did you know that and Inside College Volleyball were voted the #1 resources for college volleyball and recruiting?  At least by me and my mother!

In general, because of the value of video, the importance of the introductory letter has diminished.  A player could literally write, "hey, knucklehead coach, look at my video" and we would!  

The player could write an introductory letter which could be read at a Presidential Inauguration because of its artistic beauty, and a coach will still want to see the video. Conversely, a player could just send a link to a video and say, "thanks for watching" and we would still want to see the video.

In the early stages of the outreach process, college coaches understand that families are trying to figure everything out.  Sure, we may say that we like a personalized letter or some reference to the program, but we understand how overwhelming this can be for a family.

I believe the first contact/outreach with a college program should be short and honest.  "Dear Coach, I am just starting to explore my collegiate future. Please find my video link and basic information about me.  I hope to hear from you soon!".

After that first outreach, hopefully the family can begin the evaluation process of colleges based upon their responses and the year in school of the PSA. It is at this juncture, that doing some research on the school and program would be important because not only do you want to convey to the coach that you do have a sincere interest in their program, but you want to also start to gather information so you can ask questions and review them being a good fit for you!

But, back to the initial outreach - Short, simple, include video link, team name, number, position, height, and schedule.  If your PSA can help the collegiate program, then the coach will respond, if she can't, then the coach won't.

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