Not long ago, I was in touch with hockey expert who was gauging interest in an e-book that would help guide minor hockey parents through the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) recruitment process. In our email exchanges, I mentioned that I did not see need for collection and analysis of data, or for a survey of hockey parents to determine interest, or any type of research. I knew first-hand that there was strong interest. I only had to look around the hockey parents we knew. My husband and I were just one year removed from minor hockey, and like many parents in the minor midget draft year, we had fumbled around the Internet learning the rules and regulations about NCAA recruitment. Sure, there was plenty of information on the Internet, but there was little to lead us through the recruitment steps.
Should I register with the NCAA Eligibility Center?
No doubt, you know the NCAA rules and understand the educational and athletic components. The NCAA Eligibility Center has current information. For a $75 USD fee, you can register and set up a profile. You will be issued an ID, which you will include in correspondence with NCAA coaches, so that they can look at the student’s academic and athletic profile, if they choose to.
Note: Before we enrolled, I created an Excel worksheet to see if my son’s grades for his core courses (math, science, social sciences) met NCAA criteria. Working with a spreadsheet allowed me to follow his GPA mid-term through final exams. Moreover, the formula I entered allowed me change grades (up/down), so that I could project the required marks for grade 12 core courses. Try it: If English is a subject in which your kid gets 60s, but is whiz at math, you can adjust the figures to estimate a final GPA. This will help you determine if summer school courses are required, or if the NCAA is a realistic option.
Should I hire someone to do this for me?
In our draft year, the team invited a guest speaker, a retired teacher who had navigated her way through the NCAA scholarship minefield and secured one for her daughter, then for friends and acquaintances. Now, she was selling her services to us. Before she finished her presentation, I realized that she was not doing anything I couldn’t do. Sure, she was a former teacher with insight into the education system, but I am a practicing technical writer with dozens of publication credits to my name. Research and communication are my forte.
She was selling what was available on the Internet for free, so with my knack for administrative work, and professional experience in writing and managing business projects, I found it easy to locate reference material, to create a schedule, and to organize a systematic approach. It made for a fun side project.
If you are organized, you can do it yourself
The main components of my DIY kit included the following:
- Online player profile included game statistics, links to game highlights, recommendations from current and former high school coaches, personal and team accomplishments, and PR pieces.
- Separate email address. Create an email address specifically for this campaign. We did this, so that all responses received were downloaded to our household computer, my husband’s laptop, and my desktop computer. It was convenient for us.
- Communication strategy. Create an action plan to target the schools your student-athlete wants to attend. Stagger emails, but contact schools regularly (initial contact, consistent follow-up), especially when there is an accomplishment of note that you want to draw attention to such as an award.
- DVDs of full game footage. Burn game video to DVDs and mail them mail to universities.
- Tracking sheet. An Excel worksheet (or Word document) to track email messages and video submissions to universities, and the resultant responses.
Once you know your strategy, and with an action plan in hand, your tactics are simple: research, contact, and follow-up.
1. Cull the list of Division I schools. Obtain a full list; it is available online. If you do not yet know which schools you want to target, visit their websites to get a feel for the campus and university lifestyle it offers. Verify that you have up-to-date contact information for the hockey coaching staff. Tools: Internet access.
Keep yourself organized
2. Create a tracking sheet. Type the name of universities (in alphabetical order, or in an order that makes sense to you), add contact information: names, email addresses, and telephone numbers of all members of the hockey coaching staff. Add columns to note dates (submitted, followed-up) and one for comments. Tools: Word document, or handwritten checklist.
Create promotional material
3. Create a micro website. With information and web design in my professional toolkit, it was easy for me to create a series of five, connected webpages that detailed our son’s hockey and scholastic accomplishments. It also include links to online articles and highlight reels on YouTube . To keep it private, I added a password. In every email, I included a hyperlink to the site along with the site’s password. Tools: Blogging software, a host site and domain name (free with WordPress.org and Google’s Blogger), Internet connection, and an eye for website design, plus the ability to write well.
4. Send an introduction email. We were lucky to have a newspaper article to draw on. Using the headline of a local newspaper article in email subject line was sure to draw attention of the coaching staff. The body of the email should include current player statistics and basic information about the player’s team and league, and explicitly express interest in being a student-athlete. Include links to online game footage, if available (indicate time marker, to highlight your player). Address email to head coach, cc: assistant coaches and operations. Tools: email address specifically for player, and NCAA contact list in email address book.
Go easy on the number of hyperlinks you include. Spam filtering software may catch, and possibly delete, your message if it contains too many links because it will appear to be a phishing email.
Follow up regularly
5. Send follow-up emails. We were more comfortable with email messages than telephone calls, so after we mass-mailed game footage on DVD, we continued to keep in touch that way. Follow-up emails listed team statistics, mentioned our son’s player award(s), and repeated his interest in playing for the school’s team. During this process, our son and his team enjoyed a successful hockey season which culminated in our son being drafted by the OHL; the email with a subject line referring to being a draft pick gained some attention from NCAA schools. Tools: tracking sheet, mailing labels, DVDs, and DVD cardboard mailers.
Do not expect return phone calls, or personal responses to your email messages. Coaches cannot make contact until the end of junior year (grade 11).
Once contact is made, you can invite coaches to games, showcases, and tournaments. And well, you know the rest.
All the best!
Sample NCAA Recruitment Tools
|Contact Information||GPA Tracking Sheet
|Online, Player Profile