During my first year of coaching college baseball, I would tell one of our players that success in life often depends on your ability to wear a lot of different hats. I didn’t mean literal hats, or course, which could be confusing for a baseball player. Hats were a metaphor. I was referring to the ability to read the situation, room, or audience, and adjust your behavior (speech patterns, appearance, mannerisms, etc.) accordingly. In our discussions, that meant that the way that he would talk to and interact around me, a graduate assistant, should be a lot different than the way he should with our head coach or one of his professors. His “hat” (my metaphor for his presentation and behavior) should match the situation.
The value of social awareness and being able to navigate different social situations appropriately is a valuable skill in all areas of life, and the recruiting process is no different. This is not about being phony, or fake. This is about being adaptable and able to put your best foot forward for the gatekeepers (college coaches) who can either provide you with or prevent you from opportunities to play in college. If we are being honest, it’s about showing that you understand the “unwritten” rules of recruitment that we try to explain in plain terms so often. Passing this initial test is often what will allow you the opportunity to show coaches who you really are and add personality and individuality into your recruitment. In order to get to that point, however, you need to get your foot in the door.
To illustrate our point, let’s use the example of introducing yourself to a coach through email. It’s a formal introduction and an expression of interest to someone in a formal position at a place of higher education, and should be written in a more formal tone.
“Dear Coach [Insert Last Name]” followed by a coherent and well-written email (good grammar, appropriate content, easy to read format, etc.) is likely to be well-received by 100% of coaches. That doesn’t mean that you will get interest form 100% of coaches, but you won’t get rejected on the basis of your self-awareness or presentation. On the other hand, an email starting, “Wassup Coach [Insert Name]” is likely to get sent straight to the trash by a considerable percentage of coaches, even before reading about the type of player you are. Coaches typically don’t want to be addressed like you would your teenage friends. They want to see that you understand their position as gatekeeper and “get it”. It’s possible that later in communication after a relationship has been started and you’ve had a better chance to “read the room” (understand and get to know the coach), that you may be able to write, “Wassup Coach J-Money” in a text or email, but you never get to this point without passing the first email test!
There are tons of other situations in recruiting where it’s important to be able to read the situation and act accordingly. The way you talk and act around an umpire, for example, will be much different than the way you discuss the strike zone with your teammates in the dugout. The way you ask your coach about a conflict with a class will be much different than the way you bring that issue up with the professor. Calling your parent names (even jokingly) in public can be received much differently (by them and others) than doing so at home.
Baseball is notorious for its unwritten rules and formalities, and as you can see, recruiting is no different. We’ll continue to try to spell things out for you and help you understand the process so that you can learn to wear the appropriate hat in the appropriate situation. In the meantime, take time to think about context and circumstances for different social situations so you can put your best foot forward and earn the most opportunities to show college coaches who you truly are. Also, check out our series about a recruit named Alex. His success and mistakes hold clues for the way you can better understand the recruiting process, avoid missteps, and wear your “recruiting hat” when you need it most.