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Recruiting When Not On The Field: Making Sure Coaches Get (And Read) Your Emails

Communicating with coaches is one of the most important and most difficult aspects of a successful college recruiting journey. While there are a number of ways to reach out, coaches primarily use their email accounts in their recruiting efforts. This means that you should pursue a coach communication strategy that effectively leverages email. Before you consider what to write you have to make sure that you are giving your emails the best shot possible at being delivered to and opened by coaches. This process has become increasingly difficult for student-athletes aspiring to play in college.

Email Delivery

The email system that you use to message a college coach is what primarily determines whether the email is delivered to the coach’s inbox. Rapid growth in technology has led to many recruiting companies entering the market to attempt to serve families on their journey to college. Each of these companies has their own technology platform and often their own messaging systems. These messaging systems usually work by allowing you to type a message and send it to many coaches at once. These messages are then delivered in the form of a recruiting email template sent to a coach’s email inbox. While this may sound appealing to families, allowing for easy communication with hundreds of coaches at once, these systems can actually have a detrimental effect on your recruiting success.

The problem with these mass messaging systems is that a significant proportion of these emails  get caught in the coaches SPAM folder, never to be seen by the coach. This as an unsuccessful delivery. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other email service providers that host coach email addresses have increased the effectiveness of their SPAM filters to the point that they are extremely selective about the emails that are allowed in an inbox. These SPAM filters look out for email senders that have a reputation for sending to too many addresses at once (such as recruiting platform messaging systems) and mark them as mass senders and SPAM. To compound the issue, email service providers such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo measure the open rates of emails sent from different systems. With many recruiting service emails ending up in SPAM the open rates are usually low, resulting in additional filtering of emails sent from these systems.

Statistics vary depending on which email service provider the coach is using but you could have anywhere from 20% to 60% of your emails to coaches filtered by SPAM when sending from a recruiting platform. Consider this metaphor: it doesn’t matter how great your message is, if you put it in a bottle and push it out to sea — the person you sent the message to will never get to see it. Using a messaging system and not knowing if a coach received your message can create a lot of additional stress and difficulty in the process as it is already difficult to stand out to a coach when your email is successfully delivered.

So what is the best way to ensure that your emails are delivered to coaches? The answer is to use your own personal email account to send emails, one at a time, when you message coaches. If you are using your gmail address for instance, the deliverability rate to coaches will be close to 100%. This will ensure that the coach receives your email to their primary inbox.

Now that we have spoken about ensuring that your email is effectively delivered to a coaches inbox let us discuss how a coach evaluates their inbox and decides which emails to open.

Email Opens

Coaches receive thousands of emails from a growing number of interested athletes every year while their available time for sifting through and responding to these remains unchanged. Coaches often evaluate which emails to prioritize based on their initial impression of each email in the overview section of their inbox. Below is a graphic of what a typical coaches inbox looks like at any given time.

Coaches employ a few simple quick decision making techniques when evaluating which emails to open and devote their precious time toward. Coaches look at the sender name, the subject line and the line of preview text shown for each email (as in a typical inbox and the image above) to get an indication of the likelihood of a productive conversation with a potential sender/recruit.

The example above shows an inbox containing emails sent from private email accounts and recruiting service messaging systems. Despite the restrictive SPAM filtering of recruiting service emails, the sheer quantity that are sent from these platforms result in many still making it through to a coaches inbox. Emails from recruiting service messaging platforms (such as the second and last emails shown above) are easily identified by factors including: a visible recruiting company name, generic subject line or  preview text that says ‘Dear Coach’. These emails are immediately disregarded by the majority of college coaches. In fact, a new company called Athlete College Advisors conducted a survey of over 100 college coaches asking how they like to be contacted. Less than 5% of those coaches said they like emails sent from recruiting companies, while 94% said their preferred method of communication was from personalized private email accounts.

So why do coaches disregard these emails? Emails identified as recruiting service messages tell the coach one important thing: the sender is most likely contacting many other schools using a mass messaging system. This has a negative impact on the coach’s perception of your genuine interest-level in their particular program. Coaches want to devote their time and energy to prospects that have narrowed down to a few schools that they are genuinely interested in.

Coaches create mental piles of emails to open and reply to, the first email in the example above will go to the top of the pile because it is personal, sent from a private email account and addresses the coach by name. Any recruiting service emails that actually get delivered to the inbox will be disregarded, placed at the bottom of the hypothetical pile. This results in many student-athletes falsely assuming a coach is not interested, resulting in colleges getting ruled out simply because the wrong messaging system was used to message coaches.

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