Day 21 – How To Get Great Recommendation Letters

This is the 21st day of our team’s virtual mid-season training camp. Each day, there will be a short assignment for you to do to continue your development. These assignments are mandatory for players and coaches. Parents are also encouraged to participate.

Recommendation letters from coaches and teachers can really help you stand out when you are being recruited. Here are some tips on how to ask for and get great recommendation letters.

How To Ask For A Recommendation Letter

  1. If possible, ask your coach or teacher in person. The next best thing would be to talk to them by phone. Use email as a last resort or as a reminder after you’ve made the initial request. Email is also a good way to provide additional information that your coach or teacher might want to include in their letter (for example, your Athletic Profile or your average grades from last year).

    Here is a script that you could modify and use:

Hi Coach Steve. How are you? I’m applying for a hockey scholarship at several Ontario universities. Would you be willing to write me a positive letter of recommendation that I could send to coaches and recruiters? I’m told that the more detail that you can provide in the letter the better. I can email you a copy of my Athletic Profile to assist you. Ideally, I’d like to append your letter to my Athletic Profile when I send it to coaches.”

  1. Make it as easy as possible for your coach or teacher. Let them know that there is no need to format the letter and that they can just send you an email if that is easier (you can always re-format it for them). Don’t ask them write the letter and mail it to coaches for you.
  1. Give them plenty of time to write their letter. You’ll likely want to start requesting letters in Grade 10 or sometimes sooner. That way, you’ll have them well in advance.
  1. Be sure to ask if they’d be willing to provide you with a “POSITIVE” letter of recommendation. You’ll be much more likely to get a good letter if you ask for a positive recommendation.
  1. Be sure to explain what the letter is for. They are more likely to talk about your relevant skills if they know specifically what you are looking for. A recommendation letter for a job may look very different than for a position on a varsity hockey team.
  1. Follow-up with your coach or teacher by emailing them a reminder with a copy of your Athletic Profile. This should only be done after they’ve agreed to write you the letter. The information in your Athletic Profile will help them write a letter that includes more specific information about you. They will usually include some of the highlights from your profile in the letter. Your coach might not know about your school accomplishments or teams. Once they do though, they’ll be able to portray you as a well-rounded student athlete as opposed to just a good hockey player.

Sample follow-up email:

SUBJECT: Recommendation letter for Veronica Smith

Hi Coach Steve.

How are you?

Thank you very much for agreeing to write me a positive recommendation letter that I can send to coaches and recruiters for a hockey scholarship at several Ontario universities.

Please include anything good that you can say particularly as it applies to my leadership skills, work ethic, hockey skill and passion for the game. I’ve been told that the more detail that you can provide in the letter the better. To help with that, I’ve attached a copy of my Athletic Profile for your review.

Don’t worry too much about the format of your letter. Ideally, I’d like to append your letter to my Athletic Profile when I send it to coaches. I can re-format it for you when I append it. When you’re finished, just email it back to me.

Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it.

  1. It’s okay to gently remind them about your letter. After your initial follow-up with your Athletic Profile, you should likely wait two or three weeks before following up again. The best way to do this is to provide them with some additional fact that they might want to include in your letter. Maybe, you could send them a link to your recruiting video.
  1. Be sure to thank them personally. It can take quite a bit of time to write a good recommendation letter.
  1. Some schools or programs (particularly in the U.S.) may ask you to have letters sent directly from the coach or program. In these cases, you would never see the letter. If you’ve asked for a recommendation letter from them in advance as described here, you’ll already have a copy of it. Now, you would simply ask them to send the letter to the school. In this case, the odds are that they’ll send the exact same letter or use the same wording when filling out a recommendation request form for you.
  1. When you get the letter, it is okay to ask your coach or teacher if they can make some changes or additions. It is quite common for them to not include their email or phone number. Politely, ask them if you can add them to the letter. If there is something specific you’d like them to correct or add to the letter, don’t be afraid to ask.
  1. You should ask multiple people to write you recommendation letters. Ideally, you’d like one really good one from a coach and one from a teacher.

Follow these steps and you’ll almost certainly get wonderful recommendation letters that will impress the coaches you send them to. Let me know if I can help.

Today’s Assignment:

For today…

  1. Complete today’s workout on the TeamBuildr app. Be sure to mark each exercise complete as you finish it.
  1. Modify the script that I’ve provided for an in-person request for a recommendation letter for your own use (see Point 1. above). Post your script to the team WhatsApp group.