Developing young golf talent is big business. Kids and parents are heavily invested in building skills that transfer to collegiate success. But it’s a rocky landscape that many college hopefuls end up navigating alone.
So where can families go to find a solid game plan for setting up their child’s future? Enter the college recruiting specialist.
I spent time with Janet Coles who is one of the most sought after college recruiting specialists in the sport. Her clients have landed in places like Harvard, NYU, Carnegie Mellon, University of Washington, Oregon and Yale.
For golf families, Coles is the perfect embodiment of ambition, action and reason. Why? She’s been there and done that more times than you can count. A Northern California
Junior Champion, a collegiate athlete at UCLA, an LPGA Tour winner and former Women’s Golf Coach at Dartmouth College, she has competed in 55 majors and even earned honors as Sports Illustrated College Athlete of the Year.
Coles embraces a few fundamentals when trying to find the right school for her clients.
Fit Like A Sock
It’s human nature for kids and parents to immediately get their hearts set on one particular program. They daydream of wearing school colors, attending sporting events and walking the campus. In many cases perception and reality don’t always add up. “The college game, however, is much different. I like to tell my clients, you want a fit like a sock,” Coles said. “That means searching for environments that are flexible and adaptable to your goals.”
Coles suggests students begin by creating a list of all the things they would like to find in the college environment. Coaches, weather, academics, level of competition.
From there she encourages families to create a list of 15 schools comprised of five long shots, five matches and five fall backs that all share elements from the wish list. Once the list is complete it’s time to reach out and really explore the opportunities.
“It’s a tough process for many people” says Coles. “The top Division I programs only accept a very small percentage of kids. It’s extremely competitive and oftentimes a discouraging process. What kids need to understand is if they want to play college golf, there’s definitely a program for them to hone their skills and be part of a great college experience. It might not be what they’ve been dreaming about, but when you find a program that supports both personal and athletic growth, the reality ends up being better than the dream.”
Make A Statement
Coaches are actively recruiting about 40 players per year and receive 25 emails a day from interested athletes. “What we’re dealing with here is a ton of volume” says Coles. With that kind of feeding frenzy, getting a coach to seriously look at your email is a great achievement.
Coles suggests something as simple as a professional looking subject line which states “Prospective Student Athlete 2016.”
“Most people don’t do this, but listing your class in the subject line can be huge. It’s an important tactic where at the very least, the coach will file that email into a folder getting you another look when he or she is ready to put some mental energy into filling those spots.”
Build Your Case
Coaches are immediately drawn to numbers, Coles says. “GPA, SAT, ACT and low tournament scores are what get a coach’s attention. You’re trying to create a compelling argument for further investigation. Lead with a professional introduction and attach your personal and playing resume filled with all the good stuff.”
Engage The Target
One extremely frustrating fact about college athletics is that based on the NCAA rules coaches are prohibited from communicating with players under most circumstances. In fact, they’re not allowed to mail you back or answer any question you may have, except one. According to Coles, the secret to reaching the next level of engagement is getting the coach to remember you. To do this, you need to ask the only question the coach can answer, which is, “Do you have an online questionnaire?” Coles says “It seems like a small thing, but it’s a neat little tactic the creates some rapport between prospective player and coach.”