by Catharine Aradi

It’s not unusual for families with talented athletes to believe they’re invulnerable and to assume that because their player is so strong, being recruited is a foregone conclusion. As long as she has grades and test scores and plays for the right travel team, nothing can stand in her way.

I understand how easy it is to develop this mindset. Everyone tells you what an amazing pitcher or shortstop or power hitter or speedster your player is, and she hears day in and day out that she’s a lock for a Division I program or is certain to get a full ride scholarship. Who wouldn’t lean toward over-confidence if they were bombarded with this kind of information?

Believe it or not, even the most stellar athletes can find themselves without a college team to call home if they don’t know how to avoid making simple, but nonetheless, critical mistakes. Here are a few common things parents or players do that can turn off college coaches.

1) Sending out bulk or mass emails or letters addressed, “Dear Coach,” or “Hi Coach.”  This approach suggests that you can’t be bothered to look up a coach’s name or the school address and that you’re assuming that if you take a shotgun approach, a bird or two will fall out of the sky. 

Note: This isn’t to imply you shouldn’t send letters to a lot of college coaches. Just take the time to address each one individually, and make sure you get the name of the coach right!

2) Looking down their noses at (or snub) schools that aren’t Div. I or whose names aren’t known to them.  This tells a coach very quickly that you’re not really interested in playing college softball. You’re only concerned about impressing people.

Note: If Arizona or Alabama recruit you, that’s terrific. Wear your sweatshirt with pride. But when you’re trying to get recruited, remember that 75% of all players will compete at Div. II, Div. III, or NAIA schools, and only about 5% of all prospects are recruited by ranked Div. I programs.

3) Trying to “negotiate” a deal for a scholarship based on your perception of your player’s worth.

Note: For the most part, college coaches offer athletes a) what they can afford to offer them; and b) what they perceive the player to be worth to their particular team.  They don’t “lowball” families, hoping to get a player at discount.  This isn’t a flea market. It’s always good to remember that if you don’t want that scholarship a coach is offering, someone else will be happy to take it off your hands!

4) Disrespecting the recruiting process. By this, I mean ignoring emails or phone calls from coaches, acting disinterested in their schools, not having accurate GPA’s and test scores at hand when coaches request them, not being up front about where you are with recruiting, and so on.

Note: It’s a great idea before you
start the recruiting process to make sure you understand the recruiting process. If you know what to do and what to expect, you’re less likely to step on someone’s toes along the way.

All of the aforementioned ways of removing yourself from a coach’s prospect list have been around forever. They were common (although not as common) when I started working as a recruiting consultant over twenty years ago.  But I need to add a new bullet to my “Please don’t do these things” list.

5) Posting dumb comments, photos, updates, etc., on your Facebook page or Instagram or Twitter account.  Anyone with half a brain should be smart enough to realize that things uploaded to the Internet will always be subject to misinterpretation. And there’s a reason we use the term, “gone viral” to describe how quickly something we see on Facebook or YouTube spreads from one person to another.

Note: After the fact is too late!  You can cry foul all you want, saying, “Only my friends were supposed to see that,” or “We were just goofing around!” The bottom line is that I know of players who were denied entry into one college or another or who had coaches drop them like a hot potato simply because of a web post.

I cannot stress this often enough. Think before you leap! (Or in this case, before you POST!)  Try to limit your free expression to things that you wouldn’t mind your parents or your minister or your worst enemy seeing. It's perfectly okay to be a teenager and to say or do dumb things. That's in the job description. Just don't give into the urge to share every moment of your life with the entire world. Remember, everyone has a cell phone these days, and most of those cell phones have cameras and Internet access.  Try not to be the poster child for impulsive behavior because it might cost you a college scholarship!