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#AnythingButSoft: Coaching Your Players on Personal Brand

We believe that softball is more than a sport - it makes players #AnythingButSoft on and off the field. This season, we'll be sharing tips and insights from leading coaches, nutritionists, and parents alike and talking about how softball makes athletes #AnythingButSoft.

“Branding myself??”

Your “personal brand” is how you present yourself to the world around you.

So when it comes to a student-athlete “branding” herself, it accounts for how she presents herself throughout the recruiting process – as a student, athlete, teammate, leader and community member. While it’s tempting to think that coaches simply recruit the best on-field talent that they can find, if you ask any college coach, and we have, they’ll emphasize the importance of recruiting the “whole player” (take a look at this post: “An Open Letter to the Athlete We Must Stop Recruiting” by Quinnipiac Women’s Rugby Coach Becky Carlson).

Headfirst Honor Roll Camps provide high potential softball players with a platform that allows them to interact with coaches and evaluators from the nation's best academic colleges and universities. Here are the tips they share with their athletes for you to use when talking with your own about the importance of personal brand:

“OK – what do I do?”

If your brand as a student-athlete is a holistic view of how you present yourself to college coaches and programs, then curating and creating your brand means accounting for all public outlets – in the classroom, on the field, social media, in the community and interactions with coaches over the phone, over email, or in person at a tournament or showcase. Sounds like a lot to manage…

Add Your Team on GameChanger

The crucial first step in creating your brand as a student-athlete is first to identify your final goal (for example, playing college softball at a great academic institution, walking away with a meaningful experience on the field with teammates and a diploma that will set you up for success). Once you have your goal set, then you’re simply acting with achieving this goal at the forefront of your mind, and allowing that outcome to filter and inform your decisions – “Will doing [x] help me accomplish my goal of [y]?”

The other important piece to creating your personal brand as a student-athlete is to identify your unique “points of differentiation” – what makes you unique, and what makes you stand out as a student-athlete? Managing your personal brand means more than simply not damaging your reputation, it means actively highlighting the qualities that make you stand out to a college coach and letting those qualities infuse and permeate everything that you do.

There are certain rules that all prospective college student-athletes should follow in creating their brand (a few examples: avoid negative social media posts, interact positively and intelligently with college coaches), but the great part about establishing your own personal student-athlete brand is that it helps you stand out and get recruited as an individual. You’ll stand out to coaches who identify with your brand or see something that fits well with their program and who will want to recruit you not just as a player but as someone who can add value not only to the team but also to the larger campus community. Give college coaches something in your brand that stands out and differentiates you from other prospective players in their program.

Branding yourself as a student-athlete isn’t just avoiding damage, it’s differentiating yourself in the recruiting process, and also finding schools that are a holistic fit. (PRO TIP: a lot of the aspects that you would ideally like to include in your personal brand are the types of things that stand out to college coaches and help you stand out at a showcase)

College “fit” encompasses on-field and off-field aspects of your personality meshing with a school’s “personality” – and simply going through the process of identifying the unique aspects of your personal brand will ultimately help you find a school that’s the right fit.

Be authentic to and manage your brand

It’s important when you’re crafting your brand as a student-athlete that you’re authentic to who you are as a person and as a player – if your game isn’t speed, don’t portray yourself as a base-stealer and hope that you shave a full second off your home-to-first time. If you’re interested in a specific charity cause or organization, then let that inform your social media presence and leadership in community engagement. By creating your brand, you’re identifying and speaking to your strengths and qualities, and you’re also creating certain expectations and promises to coaches that recruit you – so it’s crucial that these promises line up with your true attributes and reflect what you’ll deliver to a program, team and school when you’re there.

To manage your brand, you need to proactively engage and reflect your unique qualities across different platforms – from social media to email to in-person meetings and introductions. Consistency is important here – a mismatched perception confuses your brand, and doesn’t allow your unique attributes and qualities to stand out.

As we’ve mentioned before, coaches recruit more than just the on-the-field talent of a prospective student-athlete, because they’re not just getting an incoming freshman shortstop, they’re getting a young woman who will be representing herself, the team, athletic department, and student-body. Because of the depth of this connection and responsibility, coaches must “recruit the whole student-athlete” to ensure that the softball players they’re bringing in are a fit in every capacity. By creating your personal brand as a student-athlete, you’re highlighting unique qualities to make yourself stand out in the recruiting process, and also giving coaches insight into who you are so that they’re comfortable bringing you into their program.

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Softball, #AnythingButSoft