Recruiting Essentials: Make Phone Calls Count

By Brandon Hall
North Carolina Scouting Director

Phone calls can be tough.  There is a skill to becoming good on the phone.  Of course, some are better than others, as it is built into their personality, but very few people grow up dreaming of making cold calls for a living. 

Personally, as a recruit and then as a coach, I had to work to become adequate on the phone.  At the end of my first ever phone call as a high school recruit, my parents pulled me into the living room and very calmly suggested that I work on my phone call etiquette.  Lucky for me, the coach on the other end called back and as I spoke with individual coaches more and more, I became a lot more comfortable on the phone.  Flash forward five years, and now I am making the phone calls to recruits.  For me, it was equally horrifying early on… What would we talk about?  How would I get the information I wanted out of the recruit?  How can I sell my school?  Again, as I made more phone calls as a coach, it can become more enjoyable. 

Last week we talked about writing emails and capturing the attention of a college coach.  While we discuss phone calls, we will be hitting on some of the same factors.  When you begin to receive, and make phone calls, keep in mind these items:

+ College coaches are busy
+ Have a point to the phone call and make it  
+ While on the phone, you are in a business meeting – treat it that way

Becoming Better on the Phone

As I was coming through high school, we did not have cell phones with us.  I know how old this makes me seem, but it really was not that long ago. In order to run a friend down, we had to pick up the phone and call.  I actually knew most of my friends’ phone numbers by heart.  If I wanted to communicate with my girlfriend at night, I had to call.  On that call, I may have to speak to her father first.  I was not great on the phone as a high school senior, but I had practice using a phone.

When college coaches are calling juniors and seniors in high school these days, some may not even realize their texting, snap-chatting, Instagram smart-phone can make and receive phone calls.  Most high school students have so many ways to communicate with friends, that they do not need to make phone calls.  This can make phone calls with college coaches interesting and difficult early in the process. 

There are some recruits that have polish on the phone.  They have that natural ability to communicate with ease. However, from experience, most are not comfortable talking to a college coach, early in their recruiting process.  As the player is on the phone more, especially as they become comfortable with certain coaches, they become better on the phone.

In order to get better on the phone, players need to spend time on the phone.  Talking with your friends can help, as many of them will ask you why you called and wonder why you did not just text them.  Keeping a friend on the phone for five minutes is a good place to start, and should be fairly easy. To bump up the discomfort level, players can call family members that they may not speak to everyday. Call a grandparent, aunt, or uncle.  Do not tell them why you are calling.  A cold call creates more discomfort and is the best way to learn.  Engage them in conversation for five minutes.  As you become more comfortable on the phone the conversations will be more meaningful and will resonate with you and the person on the other end.

Receiving A Recruiting Call

Receiving a call from a college coach is a pretty special moment, especially the first time it happens.  As you think about the conversation, the college coach will probably do most of the talking, working to introduce himself and his program.  Below are some tips that may help with the initial conversations with college coaches:

+ Move to a quiet area to take the call
+ Take notes during the call
+ Have a plan of 2-3 questions you will ask every coach that calls

Moving to a quiet area is a pretty simple idea, but you would be surprised by how many players struggle to focus on the phone call because of their environment.  If you are in a situation where you cannot get to a quiet area, it is perfectly fine to setup a call back time, letting the coach know you are looking forward to speaking with him. 

Taking notes during a call allows you to stay engaged with the conversation.  It may allow you to ask questions or take the conversation to a deeper point.  At the end of the call, you will be asked by family member, “What did he say?”, “What did you talk about?”.  The notes can help keep family members in the loop as well.

By planning questions out, when you receive a phone call from a coach, it allows you to be involved in the conversations, instead of just saying “Yes sir” one hundred times.  The questions don’t need to be in-depth or bring about earth shattering revelations.  The purpose of the first phone call is to establish a rapport between the coach and player.  If the player is active on the phone call, the coach will feel like the player has an interest level in him, the school, and the program.  The questions you design should broad in nature so you can use them with any coach that may call.

Making a Call to a Coach

Typically, if you are making a call to a coach, you have spoken with him in the past.  If you are looking to touch base for the first time, you may want to shoot him an email first. Coaches tend to log phone numbers into their phones and may not answer random numbers.  An email to setup a phone call may work better.

When you are looking to make a call to a coach, remember their schedule.  If it is during the spring, they may be on field for stretches in the afternoon.  I always liked to schedule the phone calls so I would make sure I was available for the recruit.  In that process, I would have prospects text me a time that works for them and we would set the phone call that way.

As you make the call, have a point to the call.  Small talk and checking in to see how the team is doing is fine, but work to have something that will help the coach in his recruiting process with you.  That something could include:

+ Game / Schedule changes
+ Pitching rotation
+ Availability for a visit (especially if a visit opportunity has been offered)
+ Updated grades and transcripts that are ready to be sent
+ Questions about the school or program
+ Questions about recruiting material you may have received

The phone calls do not need to be long but give yourself a window to talk because the coach may have some information or questions for you as well.

Leaving a Message

Occasionally, when a prospect would call, I may not be available.  I would try to put my phone down if I could have dinner with my family.  There were nights that during this time, I may miss 5 – 10 calls.  When you call and you don’t get the coach, it is acceptable to hang up and shoot him a text, saying you called and look forward to speaking soon.  I never had issue with that.  If a player decides to leave a message, be professional.  Your message should include:

+ Your name
+ Your school
+ Your phone number
+ A brief message

When a coach is receiving a high volume of phone calls, it can be difficult to track the caller ID and the voice mail.  Leave your name speaking clearly and slowly if necessary.  Leave your high school as it allows the coach to identify you from another player who may have the same name.  Leave your phone number, and again, speak slowly and clearly. 

The brief message should be something along the lines of:

“Coach Heisman, this is Brandon Hall from Millbrook Hgh School in Raleigh.  I am looking forward to speaking with you as we had an update to our spring break schedule for next week.  My number is 555-555-1212.  Again this is Brandon Hall from Millbrook and my number is 555-555-1212.”

You can see that I doubled up on my name, school, and phone number.  This allows the coach to double-check the information he is taking down.  As you are giving the information, remember that the coach may be writing, so take your time as you leave the information. 

As you are making a call, be prepared if you get a voice mail.  Have a plan, maybe even written down, that will allow you to sound clear and calm on the phone.

Recruiting is a Business to the Coach

Phone calls can be a great way for a coach to become more familiar with a player and his family.  For the coach, every phone call has a purpose.  The time on the phone can be relaxed, but even in a relaxed situation, the coach is still working and doing a job.  The player is still on an interview, but the player has the ability to flip the script and use the time to see if there is interest in the school and coaching staff.

Players and families should take time and prepare to be on the phone.  The more time the player spends, the better impression the player will make on the coaching staff.  First and foremost, talent matters, but all coaches want to fill their locker rooms with guys they can communicate with on a daily basis.

Prior to becoming the PBR North Carolina Scouting Director, Hall spent 18 years coaching at the Division I level in North Carolina. Raised in Raleigh, Hall coached 14 years at UNC Charlotte, including seven years as associate head coach and 11 seasons as the recruiting coordinator. Prior to joining the coaching staff at Charlotte, Hall spent four seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, UNC Wilmington, where he also worked with the pitchers. In his 18 seasons as an assistant at the two schools, Hall's teams have won eight regular-season championships and seven of his pitching staffs have been ranked nationally in ERA, including the top spot in the nation in 2007 (at 2.64). 

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