Let me share a little insider information. I spent over 30 years coaching at the college level and I will say I read or heard the title of this blog at least a thousand times.
Once upon a time we got letters from players that actually came in an envelope with a stamp on it. Quite often there were additional documents that came with the letter. Transcripts, schedules, statistics, photographs, video tapes, and letters of recommendation.
As we moved into the world of e-mail, paperwork was no longer included, but tabs and links replace the paper. All of the same items are often included, just an electronic version. Including the letters of recommendation.
Don’t get me wrong, we all like to hear people say nice things about us. It puts a smile on your face to hear someone you respect listing all the amazing things you have done or are capable of doing. When you ask someone to write a letter on your behalf, you usually find someone who knows you well, but also will emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
Here is the problem: Most people write a letter of recommendation knowing that you are likely to see it and read it. Who do you know that would be completely honest about you if they know you’ll see it or hear it and they’ll know you said it or wrote it?
Exactly!! No one!!
Unfortunately, this means that the glowing letter that makes you smile from ear to ear has very little, if any value to the college coach who reads it.
Statements like the title of this blog make college coaches laugh. Why? Simple, if it was true you wouldn’t need someone to write you a letter because you would already be recruited. And when someone makes a very outlandish statement, it casts serious doubt on anything else they say.
So when you feel the need to include a letter of recommendation please follow these guidelines:
Ask them to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.
Ask them to limit their observations to things they really know about you.
Ask them to speak to your character, temperament, attitude and maturity.
Ask them to avoid trying to predict what you are going to do. Instead, ask them to focus on what you’ve done.
Ask them to avoid discussing your family financial situation or parents’ traits.
A letter that meets these parameters is going to be way more helpful to you than the letter that wants the world to see you as some sort of super human. No one is perfect and a letter of recommendation that tries to make you out to be perfect is a perfect waste of time!!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.